Form Meets Function
The handmade, custom work of these six accomplished Hudson Valley furniture makers blurs the distinction between fine art and craftsmanship
(page 5 of 6)
Stained furniture: Granfors enjoys building Arts & Crafts cabinets because they lend themselves to stained glass panels, which he also designs and creates
Laughing Loon Custom Furniture
One year in textbook publishing was enough to convince Mark Granfors that he was in the wrong business. “I was spending too much time at the computer. I needed something more tactile, something with physical results at the end of the day,” he says. “I always enjoyed working with my hands, and I came across an ad in the newspaper for a job with a furniture maker in Vermont. I hesitated, but my wife encouraged me to apply.” He did, and he got the job.
“It was a 180-degree career change, and a long commute, but I was willing to make it,” says Granfors, 35, a Dutchess County native who was living in the Capital District at the time. For the next eight years, he apprenticed with master craftsman Dan Mosheim, who taught him not just fine woodworking skills but the fundamentals of good design.
In 2004, Granfors’ wife, Laura Conner, who works for the New York State Parks Department, was transferred to the Hudson Valley, and with a Wallkill-to-Vermont commute out of the question, Granfors decided to launch his company, Laughing Loon. “Nature is a source of inspiration for me, and I named it that because I wanted something that would stick in people’s minds,” he says. “It’s a reference to my favorite author, Henry David Thoreau.”
Japanese accent: A graceful, Asian-style console table incorporates a river stone, held in place by the tension of the rail beneath the apron. “I like to incorporate elements from nature — it’s a source of inspiration for me,” Granfors says
Custom-made designs include traditional classics, like a cherry game table with a milk-painted top; graceful, Asian-influenced consoles; and Arts and Crafts-style cabinets with stained glass panels that Granfors creates himself. “A gentleman in Vermont, a man in his 80s who was a talented stained-glass artist, asked me to make some frames for his pieces, and I took lessons in lieu of payment,” he explains. “Arts and Crafts is definitely an influence. I like it because it incorporates different techniques, and the joinery is sometimes exposed so you can see the craftsmanship. Lately, though, I’m starting to explore more clean-lined Scandinavian pieces, which is my heritage.”
Granfors uses nontoxic glues and finishes, and locally sourced wood when possible. “I also like to work with recycled wood, although it tends to be more expensive. It’s informal, but it’s pretty hard to duplicate the character. I love when you can see the nail holes with black iron marks on something that had been a floor for 150 years.”
Because it adds value to their homes, many people today commission built-in pieces, Granfors notes. “But furniture — if you move, you take that with you.”