Decor & Inspiration

Professor Rue: Heritage Furniture

The story behind two of America's oldest furniture manufacturing companies.

The rise of the mass manufacturing and particle board. Not just the internet or fax machines, but landlines. Two World Wars. The Great Depression.  The invention of the airplane. Baker Furniture and Hickory Chair Furniture Co. have weathered all of these and retain the excellence they represented over a hundred years ago.

Baker Furniture begun not as a furniture manufacturer, but as Cook & Baker, producer of doors, sashes and window blinds in 1890. Owned by Dutch immigrant Siebe Baker and Henry Cook, within three years Cook & Baker crafted their first furniture item: a combination bookcase and desk in the popular wood of the time, golden oak. This quickly led to buffets, china cabinets, and an expanding furniture line for the company now called “Baker & Company.” Siebe Baker became the sole owner in 1915, the first of three generations of Bakers at the helm of Baker Furniture, which is now owned by Kohler. Originally a manufacturer of affordable oak products, during the 1930’s Baker transited to high-end, European inspired furniture, helping the company weather the Great Depression and setting course for its legacy of superior craftsmanship today.

The Hickory Chair Furniture Co. also started in the furniture manufacturing business with one piece, their signature chair. Founded when the Surry Chair Company was purchased by investors and moved to Hickory, NC, the company recently celebrated their centennial with the release of their 1911 collection, named after the year of their founding. The collection draws inspiration from specific archive pieces as well as from artisanal techniques and traditional executions passed down by generations of craftspeople. Over the years, Hickory Chair has expanded their product line and in the 1930’s became the first company to manufacture reproductions in North Carolina. Today Hickory Chair Company is owned by Furniture Brands International, the largest furniture corporation in the world. They continue to specialize in 18th century reproductions but offer a wide range of high-quality casegoods including updated versions of their original designs.

Both companies have adapted their original designs to meet a range of aesthetic preferences, but superior craftsmanship remain. These heritage pieces help ground a room, whether the decor is traditional or modern. Have you incorporated any heritage furniture pieces into your home?

*Read more Professor Rue stories over here!

  • Susan Tonini

    I used to be such a fan..UNTIL..we discovered our beautiful dining room table from Hickory Chair had a patch on the edge of the table top.

    Less than three years after purchase and still in pristine condition we discovered they sold us a damaged good. The beautiful wood table has an crack on the corner edge that was undetectable. Obviously the wood glue and patching they did in production was to go unnoticed.

    Never will invest in Hickor Chair again.

  • http://www.gothiccabinetcraft.com/ Gothic Cabinet Craft

    Particleboard furniture only lasts so long. They are temporary furnishings that usually end up getting trashed after a few years of use. At least with real wood furniture, you know that it is durable and will last as long as you need it to.