There are several key reasons why this company continues to attract prospective buyers from all across the world: expert craftsmanship, top quality woods, traditionally beautiful finishing methods and last but certainly not least, the appreciation they show to their customers. If you have ever purchased anything at Windsor Chairmakers, your name is up on the “customer wall,” along with over 4,000 names over the past 19 years. Simply stated, not many manufacturers can even come close to the quality of their Windsor chairs, Shaker furniture, and customized pieces that are synonymous with Windsor Chairmakers.
Jim Brown spent his early life focused on furniture. He received an advanced degree in furniture design and spent 15 years designing furniture in North Carolina for major companies. Still, something was missing. He wanted to design and build heirloom quality, traditional American pieces that could not be found in your average furniture store. He and his wife, Nance, found the place where he could bring his vision to fruition; Lincolnville, Maine.
“Never open the barn doors, or everyone will pull off the road to talk with you!” This was the advice that Jim and Nance received when they took a look at a five-acre historic farmstead that was up for sale. They considered this advice from the "cranky Yankee" to be a great selling point and bought it. This spot officially became Windsor Chairmakers in 1987.
Nance officially joined the team in 1996 with a focus on sales and production management, and Jim finally got his wish; designing amazing traditional furniture with an updated twist. While Windsor Chairmakers is rightfully famous for their Windsor chairs, they also make beds, tables, buffets, Shaker furniture, stools, desks, cherry highboys, and other custom pieces.
Today, guests are invited to walk into the barn workshop and see the six craftsmen hard at work, and if you are lucky, catch a glimpse of the “ghost” which supposedly lurks there, too. They, the craftsmen not the ghosts, are happy to share a quick, impromptu demonstration during your visit. This shop is divided into four areas: the chair shop, the table-bed-casepiece shop, the finish area, and the rub-out and pack area.
In combination with modern woodworking tools, the talented craftsmen at Windsor Chairmakers also use hand tools that were used more than 200 years ago. That’s the only way to ensure that the handmade furniture gets that timeless one-of-a-kind look the savvy furniture customer wants. Unless otherwise requested, they hand-plane every table top using a small, low-angle block plane. They hand-soften the edges of all tables, chairs, beds, and case pieces. Before the furniture pieces are ready for the customers, their team makes certain that that every surface of every piece is planed, sanded, or polished about ten times in different stages. This is what makes the signature Windsor Chairmakers pieces so… signature.
Windsor Chairmakers has two showrooms, taking up two entire houses. As you might imagine, the star of the showrooms are the Windsor chairs. These chairs initially started in England but came to America very early in our history. They were seen as luxurious comfortable chairs, built with a wooden seat and a high-spoked back. A crossbar connects the outward-slanting legs. They are made from solid wood, often steamed and/or bent and are guaranteed, structurally, for life.
In addition to these chairs, the showroom features tables, dressers, and highboys, as well as the Shaker style furniture, like styled chairs, benches, and stools. All pieces are made to order, using local wood. These choices include tiger maple (named for its pattern), black walnut, and wild black cherry.
The color is stunning for all the pieces, and Windsor Chairmakers actually mixes their own dyes. They say that the grain of the wood raises up to capture the color. They finish up the furniture with three of coats of shellac and rub it with beeswax for that final gorgeous finish.
If you want custom furniture, you’ll work directly with the staff to bring your vision to fruition. You will guide the team, picking your own size, color (including the paints, dyes, and glazes) and overall look of your finished piece. You can even customize your table leg style (taper, spoon foot) if that’s what you are ordering. And everything you order can be shipped to your home or office. And while Windsor Chairmakers offers a lifetime guarantee on all its products, only three people have taken them up on this offer after a quarter-century.
Windsor Chairmakers encourages all Lincolnville guests to stop by, watch the chairs being made and talk to the talented Windsors. They are open June through October, seven days a week from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Monday – Friday during the November – May season.
Be sure to visit their website for detailed product information and photos, including ordering information. And, finally, keep an eye out for the Windsor Chairmakers feature in a special edition of Early American Life Magazine, Summer 2014. Lincolnville-based photographer Joseph Corrado said, “I always find great things and new ways to shoot their amazing work.” If you can’t wait until press time and prefer VIP access instead, head right to the shop for a front-row seat!
2596 Atlantic Highway on US Route 1
Lincolnville, Maine 04849