By Thomas Russell Henredon Furniture Inds. has broadened its custom approach with a finishing program aimed at giving customers choices beyond its standard options. The program now offers 16 painted finishes available in three levels of distressing. Options such as gold or silver leaf also can be requested. Four workers in the company's Marion, N.C. finishing operation hand-apply the new finishes on bedroom and dining room pieces. Because the imported pieces are already finished, they often have to be disassembled and put back together once the new finishes have been applied. The first step involves cleaning the piece with a solvent, then sanding it to remove as much of the original finish and residue as possible. This process is repeated before the new finish is applied. After the new finish is applied, a lacquer coat is sprayed on as a protective layer. "It's hand-done from beginning to end," said Dan Bradley, president of parent company Furniture Brands International's Designer Group of brands, including Henredon, Hickory Chair, Laneventure and Maitland-Smith. Launched in October, the expanded finish program has turned out goods that have begun to hit the sales floor in the past three to four months, Bradley said. He said the program is largely directed at the interior design business, as well as retailers whose customers appreciate the custom approach. "It gives them the option of a completely different look than the original piece," he said. "The execution and level of detail by these artisans is very difficult to get overseas now." One Henredon retailer taking advantage of the new custom options is Birmingham Wholesale Furniture in Birmingham, Ala. "It is one of the best things they have done in years," said Linda Thomas, store manager. "To offer those options to customers has been very successful with us." In particular, she likes the antiqued applications on finishes such as Irish cream, cashew and ivory. "I am real excited about it," Thomas said. "The biggest question that people ask is, ‘Can I change the finish?' They want that special piece. It is for the customer who wants something different. They want to say, ‘I did that - I picked those finishes.' The more custom options in their price range, the better. Not everybody wants dark mahogany." Another fan of the finish program is Linda Banes, merchandise manger of Hurwitz-Mintz in Metairie, La. "In our case, when we can give our customers choices, it makes it easier for us to make the sale," Banes said, noting that 25% of her store's business consists of custom orders. "We find the process of the customer creating their own finish on their furniture is very appealing to them." Bradley said that added demand could allow Henredon to bring in some unfinished whitewood pieces for finishing here. That also could allow the addition of more painted and stained finishes and could require more workers to handle the custom orders. While he declined to speculate on when that might happen he remains optimistic about the program's potential. "We have been pleased with the response so far," he said.
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