Last May, my associate Katherine and I became esteemed graduates of Hickory Chair University. What is Hickory Chair University, you ask? For starters, it’s an inventive, inspiring three-day workshop hosted by the furniture company Hickory Chair in—you guessed it!—Hickory, N. C. Rather than spend their advertising/marketing budget on ads and mailings directed at people who might or might not see their message, Hickory Chair execs wisely invite designers into their world, giving us all a taste of what makes Hickory Chair a really exclusive and timeless company.

The adorable Susan Thayer, a true southern belle in her polished coif and fresh mani/pedi, served as our tour guide. We, along with several designers from all around the country, were about to learn the ins and outs of the high-end furniture company and why it should be our first choice for our clients.

Our first taste of Hickory Chair gloriousness was its exquisite showroom that just about took our breath away. The color schemes (think silky oxblood red paired with soothing robin’s egg blue), the fine attention to detail (perfectly placed nailhead trim in places we didn’t even know it could go!), and of course, the spectacular, well-crafted furniture all made me want to run home to my clients and fill their homes with all things Hickory Chair! Fear not, new clients, I’ve since calmed down a bit.

Our next stop was the warehouse, where we observed each phase in the making of a piece of Hickory Chair furniture. From unloading the lumber to assembling the pieces to painting the gold leaf trim on a coffee table, each step is done by a real live human being. Imagine that! Employees are encouraged to find ways to improve the company’s processes, and many have done just that. Every employee, no matter how big or small his or her job, is a valued part of the team and treated as member of the Hickory Chair family. Want proof? Check out the company’s “Our Loving Hands” video: (under “Our Timeless Furniture”).

And then there’s Bessie. Aside from being the cutest darn southern gal around, she is solely responsible for adding that gorgeous staining detail you see on Hickory Chair furniture. She studies each piece of wood before hand-staining the furniture in a way that accentuates the wood’s “personality,” a job that allows her creativity to soar. How cool is that?

These are just a few highlights of what turned out to be a really fabulous weekend away (and no, I had NO problem at all leaving my brood for a weekend getaway!). Hickory Chair remains a classy company creating classic, timeless furniture. Maybe they’ll have me back for a graduate course…?

Next post: my favorite Hickory Chair designers!


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Renae Keller is an award-winning, ASID certified interior designer in Minneapolis-St. Paul, specializing in new construction and large remodels. Trusted by homebuilders, architects and homebuyers alike, Renae is known for creating an overall design vision that blends functionality and aesthetics, while keeping the details intertwined, and her customer's style in clear focus.