The Home By Design Furniture

An interview with Doug Green

Doug Green is the founder of Green Design Furniture, a Portland, Maine-based furniture company renowned for its handmade, master-crafted artisan engineering. Green's furniture marries gorgeous design with a unique mortise-and-tenon joinery style that eschews traditional fastening devices for greater strength and longevity. Green's design methodology is so groundbreaking, in fact, that he was granted a patent for his fastener-less furniture construction in 1993. Doug Green's amazing furniture is featured throughout architect Sarah Susanka's Home by Design Showhouse. Connected Home Magazine recently sat down with Doug to discuss his company, his products, and his work with Home by Design.

CH: Tell us a bit about Green Design Furniture.

Doug: Green Design Furniture is about 10 years old. It started as an outgrowth of a patent I received for manufacturing furniture. It's really unusual, and uses the latest technologies to make furniture simpler and stronger. We're using a wonderful new generation of machinery to engineer the joinery right into the wood. The pieces are shipped unassembled via Fed Ex and require no tools, no glue, and no fasteners. The components are wonderfully engineered and precisely fitted, and lock into a solid structure on arrival.

Originally, I was an industrial designer with a traditional woodworking background. I was trying to figure out a way to bring traditional craftsmanship and tradition into the 21st century. Unfortunately, there's a huge gap between the manufacturing world and the handcrafted world. I thought this idea would be a no-brainer.

CH: Did you contact traditional furniture companies about this process?

Doug: Yes, originally I set out to license the technology to big furniture manufacturers and thought it had a huge potential to be transformational for the industry. For the first time, it was possible to produce high-end, highly crafted furniture, with Fed Ex as the delivery system. It was the best of both worlds.

CH: What happened?

Doug: None of them took me up on it. When I was awarded the patent in 1993, I received a lot of attention. I was even in Time Magazine's Best of 1993 issue, and I was on the cover of Furniture Design magazine. It wasn't for lack of trying. So I returned to Maine, which has wonderful craftsmen. I had gone to college up here, and it's where my woodworking career began as well.

CH: How do you categorize the furniture you make?

Doug: I call it artisan manufacturing. It's very hands-on. One person takes the pieces from raw lumber to the final product. Because we don't own the technologies the process is designed for, we had to figure out how to use the available machinery in our class range to reach the same degree of accuracy. This requires more processes and setups on different machines.

CH: What are you contributing to the Home By Design Showhouse project?

Doug: We've provided 20 pieces of furniture, some of which are for home-electronics use. There's a new series of pieces designed for contemporary home-entertainment needs. We started out with the Media Armoire, which was scaled around a large-format TV, the Sony WEGA. We then set out to make a more modest-scale piece. Lots of the pieces in the market were just barns designed to hide TVs. So we did some research and incorporated some interesting improvements and new functionality in our piece. The back has removable panels, for example, so you can install components and do the wiring and then slide the whole thing back. It does a lot to improve wire management inside the cabinet. Also, the shelves for components are vented, to permit air flow beneath them. Each has a sliding bar that lets you give components of different depths solid footing on the shelves. We do make solid shelves available as an option too.

For large-format TVs, such as widescreen plasma displays, we offer a new Media Credenza. You can use the cabinet as a platform, and have components inside underneath. It features glass doors with water glass, for a unique ripple effect that pleasantly distorts the image inside but still lets the remote controls work. It includes the same back and shelving as the Media Armoire. Both were featured at CES.

We also just introduced a smaller new piece that's not yet in the catalog. It's a Media Armoire for a 27" TV, like you might have in a bedroom. It's similar, but scaled down appropriately for that size TV.

We also did a dining room set and a variety of other pieces for the home office, including a small computer desk that continues the lines of the media furniture. These pieces are really in demand because they're highly functional. There just isn't a lot of well-crafted furniture for the home office.

CH: How do you sell your products?

Doug: We have a showroom in Portland, Maine, that's open 7 days a week and is open to the public. There's also our Web site. Right now, the turnaround on orders depends on the piece. We're adding manpower, but currently it takes 8 to 12 weeks, on average. We even have a few pieces held to the spring. But we're whittling down that time. Normally, it's 12 weeks on the outside. We hope to be back to that point within a year.

CH: Looking over your pieces, the most striking aspect is their design. These are beautiful pieces of furniture.

Doug: Thanks. The style of the pieces is definitely part of a tradition. People look at them and they see contemporary furniture but with different flavors of arts and crafts, and Japanese design. We're trying to be contemporary-classic, modern while still maintaining a good sense of the past. We're not in outer space. We use solid wood as the material, and the warmth of that, the human scale, pays attention to the needs of the people in the space. That's why we're sympathetic with Susan's philosophy. There's also the idea of using technology to make things simpler, not complicating your life or making it more confusing, but actually having it reflect something more personalized and humanized.

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