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Restoring history with Kanuga Lake Inn furniture

06.30.2016 - Conference & Retreat, Groups, Inn Renovation
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When the newly-renovated Kanuga Lake Inn opens this summer, the updates and fresh architectural elements will take center stage. While the beauty of the inn is undeniable, we encourage you to look beyond the façade and take a second look at the arts and crafts furniture within.

Designed especially for Kanuga, the furniture is a mix of old and new. However, you may not be able to tell the original pieces from those newly built. Kanuga’s leadership isn’t worried, however. It was all part of a plan to honor the past while creating a place filled with comfort and beauty.

The story began with the discovery of some lovely, but neglected, craftsman-style furniture from the early 1900s. Original to the historic inn, the pieces were made using hydroelectric power generated from the Kanuga Lake dam and wood felled from trees on property.

The pieces salvaged included desk chairs, Morris chairs, and sofas. Melanie McNamara, the owner of Absolute Style Furniture in High Point, NC, and a member of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, was selected for the daunting task of refurbishing the existing pieces and crafting new ones in time for the inn’s opening.

“We picked up over 60 chairs and were able to salvage and refurbish 40 chairs. We had to craft another 45 to complete the set,” said Melanie. “We also picked up 11 Morris chairs and reproduced an additional one that would match the character and style exactly. There were also sofas that needed refurbishing and replication. Plus, we made six game tables and two benches for the lounges and reception areas.”

While the refurbished pieces were a start at furnishing the inn, there was still a need for additional furniture. After working meticulously with the historical furniture, Melanie had no shortage of inspiration when the time came to create the new pieces.

“The additional items needed for this project had to match the ones we refurbished and replicated in our factory. The new items also needed to be in the craftsman style. We provided shop drawings and sent them to Kanuga for approval. Kanuga was pleased that we were able to comprehend their direction for style on the first try,” said Melanie.

The collection Melanie’s company manufactured included 108 beds with headboards and a platform base featuring soft-close drawers, 82 desks, armoires, and nightstands.

With a production time of just five months, the project required ample teamwork among Melanie’s crew and the furniture community within High Point. Absolute Style Furniture used 21 employees on the project and reached out to other local vendors as well. In fact, the order allowed some businesses to hire more employees.

“I used several finishers in town, and they all had to hire additional employees to complete this order,” said Melanie.

While the project began as a way to honor Kanuga’s history, it had a ripple effect of creating jobs within North Carolina. At a time when so many furniture workers struggle to find employment, many benefitted from the venture.

Now that the project has been completed. Melanie looks back on the work with pride. “It was a great project to see the furniture as living pieces that tell a wonderful history,” said Melanie.