While it may seem like a magic wand invented by the auto industry, Lean Manufacturing is a process that encompasses a variety of practices depending on the trade. “Our business is particularly well-suited to Lean principles,” Gat explained. “With a piece of solid lumber I can make a bed, or a table or a dresser. Unlike a car manufacturer that is dealing with thousands of parts to source and manage.” Lean works for both industries, but for Gat Creek the complexity is vastly reduced.
“Really it’s as simple as listening to our customer and focusing on the things she cares about,” Gat said. “And our customers care about the finest material and craftsmanship.”
Almost 25 years ago, Gat Caperton bought the Tom Seely furniture factory in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. It had operated since the 1950s and was struggling to compete with brands that had moved their production to low-wage factories in China.
The Gat Creek story appeared in this 2018 Washington Post story. It’s an excellent portrait of Gat and the company. If you saw the story when it was first published, it is worth revisiting for the reader comments!
It seems there are two kinds of people in the world when it comes to owning beautifully made furniture. Those who want it to forever look like it just arrived from the workshop, and the rest of us.
We’re only slightly kidding. The truth is that all things in life will show wear and tear when used — leather goods, household appliances, even a diamond can be scratched by another diamond. But when we’re talking about your new Gat Creek dining table we know that seeing the first little scratch can be stressful.
It is the passion of woodworkers, darling of interior designers, bane to horses and a legend among hardwoods. Walnut — specifically American Black Walnut — enjoys a well-earned reputation as the premier lumber for crafting fine furniture. Gat Creek is proud to now offer it as a material option. No other wood possesses its unique stability and hardness, its remarkable graining and coloration. You simply can’t fake walnut’s aesthetic appeal. (More on the horses later.)
Gat Caperton doesn’t mince words when it comes to safety: “It’s who we are. Indoor air quality, the safety of our environment and sustainably managed forests, the health and safety of our workers and our community. Of course furniture stability is going to be important to us.”
So important that the company has taken the voluntary steps and made the investment in on-site lab and testing processes to assure consumers that Gat Creek furniture is Product Stability Verified. The designation, developed by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) and global safety science company UL, helps consumers identify products that meet its standard for tip-over safety.
If only we all aged as beautifully as cherry wood.
Time and the elements aren’t necessarily charitable to all things: that Oldsmobile sitting on cinder blocks in a field, the Persian rug in uneven light beneath a bay window, the sun-worshipper in his golden years. But cherry wood is an exception. The way it improves with age is why furniture made of solid cherry may be the most prized in America.
Some 40 years ago, printmaker Jan Heath and her husband, painter Jonathan Heath, left Washington, DC to build their home and studios in Berkeley Springs. “It was the beauty and richness of the environment that drew us here,” Jan says. “There were quite a few artists and craftspeople in the area already and it was such a welcoming community. It’s a good place for artists to live.”
Her ability to capture the essence of the natural world around Berkeley Springs drew us to her work. Jan's art has been chosen for several Gat Creek catalogs and a new print will appear on the 2020 catalog cover.
Gat Creek is fortunate to be located in the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by the beautiful forests that supply our workshop. It’s a source of pride that, through sustainable management, these forests hold more trees today than they did a century ago. Environmentally and economically, our local forests are healthy and thriving. And there is even more good news when it comes to the healthy advantages of our handcrafted solid wood furniture.
If you’re confused by what is solid wood and what isn’t, we’re not surprised. The meaning has been stretched so many ways some would have you believe any furniture that isn’t hollow is solid wood.
However, the distinction matters. For so many reasons — beauty, longevity, value, the health of your family — real solid wood is the superior choice.
To say that Chris Miller was born to be a prototype builder at Gat Creek might be a stretch. But it is safe to say he is a natural for the job.
The Baltimore native comes from a family of makers. His father, uncles and both grandfathers made their livings in residential construction — renovations and additions — and Chris himself joined the family business soon after high school. “I wouldn’t say I came into the family business kicking and screaming,” Chris recalled, “but I did try a couple other careers before deciding they were not for me.”