Timeless Styles for Your Home
Orvis Distinctive Home Stories
A Quest for the Ultimate Lawn Chair
Our story begins in 1903 with a gentleman by the name of Thomas Lee. Lee had a beautiful summer place up in Westport, NY right on Lake Champlain, but he also had a bit of a problem. It wasn’t the house, or the view of the lake; the problem was that he didn’t have one decent piece of outdoor furniture. Now, as we all know, standing up while viewing a summer sunset is nice, but watching that sunset while comfortably seated with a cocktail at hand is always nicer. So Lee set out to build his family the ultimate lawn chair. But he didn’t want to make just any old chair. This chair needed to be comfortable and durable, have as solid surface to rest a glass, and above all, be sturdy when placed on the sloping terrain of the Adirondack region. Lee tried out several different designs and, using his family members as “test sitters,” eventually settled on a chair constructed from eleven pieces of wood all cut from one single plank. It was a low-slung, spacious design with a high back and extra-wide armrests for that all-important summer beverage.
Now, things would have been just fine for the Lee family if the story ended here. They were comfortable, they were relaxed, and most importantly, they were off the ground. It was summer and life was good. But things were about to get interesting.
A Tale of Two Friends—And One Patent
One fine afternoon that summer, as Lee was relaxing by the lake in one of his new chairs, his good friend and hunting buddy Harry Bunnell stopped by to chat. Bunnell, who was a carpenter by trade, took an immediate liking to Lee’s new chair design. As the two men talked, Bunnell suggested he could build Lee’s chairs at his wood shop in the off-season. Bunnell could make a few extra dollars during those cold Adirondack winters; Lee’s chairs would get sold. It was a win-win. “Why not?” thought Lee. Bunnell was a stand-up guy, trustworthy, and above all, he was a friend. So Lee lent the plans to Bunnell and, with nothing more than a handshake and a smile to seal the deal, Bunnell set to work cranking out Lee’s chairs. That winter, Bunnell toiled away, building Lee’s chairs out of hemlock or basswood and staining them in green or medium dark brown. As soon as the Westport residents saw the new chairs, they snapped them up. Bunnell realized he had a huge seller on his hands and had to act fast. In early April of 1904 (and without asking for Lee’s permission) Bunnell filed for a patent (No. 794,777) on “his” new chair design naming it the Westport Plank Chair. We’re not sure how this affected his relationship with Lee, but we can guess Bunnell no longer stopped by to chat with his old hunting buddy. Harry Bunnell manufactured the Westport Plank Chair for the next twenty years putting his signature on each one. Today, original signed Bunnell chairs are extremely sought after, and can fetch thousands at auction.
The Classic American Summer Chair
Over the years, artists, carpenters, and weekend craftsmen have all created their own interpretations of this classic design and over time, these slant-back, low-seated, wide arm-rested chairs became officially known as “ Adirondack” chairs. Nowadays, you can get them in all sorts of configurations. You’ll find them down at the beach, up in the mountains and everywhere else in between. Like baseball, fireworks, and trips to the shore, this chair is American summer.
Orvis Adirondack Chairs: Variety, Style and Comfort
Orvis pays homage to the original Westport Plank Chair with our exclusive line of unique, Adirondack furniture. They’re all here, and now when you look at each one, you’ll be reminded of how one man during one hot summer in 1903 created the perfect way to relax. So the next time you’re comfortably installed in an Adirondack chair gazing off at the surf, the sea, the mountains, or the next-door neighbor, remember to raise a glass to Mr. Lee and Mr. Bunnell. Because without them, summer wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable.
Barn Board/Reclaimed Furniture
Barns: Part of Our American Heritage
The silhouette of a lone, weathered barn standing deserted in a rural pasture inspires profound sentiments for America’s rich history, the distinctive heritage of a once-flourishing agricultural lifestyle.
Throughout the last several hundred years, people all over this country were on the move. The settlement of our vast country spread increasingly westward as people sought less crowded spaces. Folks flocked to the cities during the industrial revolution in search of better jobs and easier lives. The hardship of the depression, and the ensuing mass migration from failed farms during the Dust Bowl years, left scores of barns and farmhouses empty and abandoned to the elements.
Singular Beauty Created By Nature
Over the decades, the harsh conditions of wind, rain, snow, and sun etched the wood with deep patina and natural signs of distress, stripping away old paint and varnish, revealing the inner grain and texture, bringing to light the singular beauty of each piece.
Recently, craftsmen began discovering these old structures—not just barns, and farmhouses, but vacant factories, warehouses, and old mills. Many of these antique buildings were constructed using first-growth trees, centuries old when they were harvested. Prized for their strength, these colossal old trees were hewed into massive support beams for the large edifices they held up for generations. Drawn by its natural beauty and distinctive character,the salvaged lumber from these old buildings has become a highly sought-after commodity among furniture builders and craftsmen throughout the country.
The Well-Kept Secret of Reclaimed Barn Board
Consumers are beginning to recognize the wonderful value and history in furnishings made from reclaimed old wood. Each piece is unique—due to the natural differences in each piece of wood used in the construction, no two tables, chairs, benches, or cabinets will ever be exactly the same. Each heirloom-quality piece tells its own inimitable story while helping to preserve America’s rich past. Plus, our customers know they are making socially responsible buying choices, and getting a piece of furniture that will last for years to come.
The earliest braided rugs of colonial America were first made out of necessity, since carpets from Europe and Asia were unaffordable to the colonialists. Braided rugs were not just a practical floor covering, but often made of colorful scraps of cloth from old clothes and blankets in unique, artful designs. Braided rugs proved highly durable and resistant to foot traffic.
As time passed and necessity gave way more to the art and craft, more creative, bold, and fun patterns emerged. Today, braided rugs remain one of the first choices for area rugs needed to protect flooring in high traffic areas, while adding a modest, country charm top any living space.
Our braided rugs come woven in both a durable, easily washed, cotton blend and in a colorfast polypropylene, which resists mildew, stain, soils, and sunlight, and handles high traffic and weather for use both indoors and out.
Orvis has a wide variety of braided rugs in various colors, patterns and sizes, in both the classic oval and square rugs.
Fatwood fuels efforts of conservation and economic recovery in Honduras.
Orvis Fatwood is more than a pretty pile of sticks. Besides being a great gift for any household, a gift rooted in traditions of the Old South as well as the North, Fatwood continues to light the way for the Orvis company, providing a shining example for employees and customers alike of our commitment to quality and sustainable business practices.
"Fatwood" is what folks in Florida and Georgia call kindling collected from the stumps of the gulf region's pine trees, particularly longleaf pines. In other areas it's called "lighterwood," "fatlighter" and "heart pine." But, as Orvis Chairman, Leigh Perkins says, "whatever it's called, it sure as hell works!" Leigh thought there might be a few takers for the product, especially since, "my parents' guests from the North would always want to take a box of it home with them."
Originally, Fatwood was harvested from the stumps left over from logging operations of the past. Pine pitch, which has many uses including in the making of turpentine, is natural resin that lights quickly, stays lit for a while, and smells great. It's found in highest concentration in stumps of mature long-leaf pines.
Using cross-cut saws, early loggers left a tall stump behind and generally had no notion of sustainable harvesting practice. Leigh Perkins "found some old pulp and timber cutters who knew the woods and would go back into the forest and salvage the old fatwood stumps."
Since its introduction in 1969, Orvis Fatwood has been a catalog favorite. The success of Fatwood surprised everyone. As a result, supplies of leftover stumps that could be harvested in a low-impact manner were quickly used up.
The challenge was put to our buyers to find a supply of fatwood that was of similar quality and was harvested in a sustainable, low-impact manner in keeping with Orvis' environmental mission.
Orvis is committed to the environment through our business practices, the conservation projects we support, and the practices of our suppliers. Our 100% natural Fatwood is no exception. We work solely with the most environmentally responsible companies in the industry-our Fatwood suppliers are SmartWood/FSC-certified, which means that their business practices are held to the highest, most environmentally responsible standards. Our Fatwood, a by-product of the sustainable timber industry, primarily in Central America, is never taken from living trees, and does not come from rainforest areas. After a section of managed forest has been harvested, our contractors remove the resin-rich Fatwood from the remaining pine stumps. The forest floor is renewed, which aids reforestation and reduces the risk of forest fires.
In addition to being ecologically beneficial, responsible harvesting of Fatwood helps the local economy, too. Employment prospects in Central America have been severely hurt by a dramatic decrease in the price paid for coffee beans. Since Fatwood is one of the few raw wood products that holds nearly all of its value in the labor required to harvest, cut, and package it, jobs are created and people are given an ongoing opportunity to earn a living.
When you buy Orvis Fatwood, you’re buying an all-natural product harvested in an ecologically, socially, and economically responsible manner. That’s why we say our safe, non-toxic, clean-burning Fatwood is the best in the world.
Orvis is proud to offer our earth-friendly Fatwood.
What is flannel?
A plush, warm fabric of various weights and fineness, flannel is a plain-weave cloth that has been heavily brushed or carded for a soft napped finish. The brushing process creates insulating air pockets in the interlocking fibers that enhance its luxurious warmth. Cotton flannel is a favorite choice for pajamas and robes, cold-weather apparel, and bedding. A medium-weight fabric, wool flannel is a soft twilled fabric with a loose texture and napped surface to conceal the weave. Wool flannel is used mainly for suits and business attire.
History of flannel
Derived from the Welsh word for wool, gwlanen, flannel was being woven in Wales as early as the 16 th century. The French were using flanelle by the late 17th century, and a German word for the fabric, flannell, can be traced back to the early 1800s, indicating the use of this soft, warm material for clothing and bed linens during harsh German winters.
Flannel bed sheets
A favorite during the winter months for many, flannel sheet sets come in varying degrees of softness and density. Flannel can be napped on one side (good for sleeping in flannel pajamas) or on both for softness and comfort (great for duvet covers). An important indicator of quality for flannel sheeting is the measure in ounces per square yard. A weight of 4 oz. or better is the mark of a good quality flannel.
Most flannel sheet sets come from three sources: England, Portugal, and Germany. English flannel sheeting tends to be very dense and heavy (usually weighing approximately 6 ounces or more), with only a slight nap. Legendary for its durability (said to “ wear like iron”), English flannel sheets are remarkably warm and can be used all year long. Renowned for its ability to hold color saturation and prints, Portuguese flannel usually has a lower weight and looser weave, making it ideal for use with rich colors and patterns. Sumptuous German flannel is celebrated as the softest and most luxurious, generally weighing approximately 5 ounces per square yard.
The earliest hooked rugs of colonial America were first made out of necessity, since carpets from Europe and Asia were unaffordable to the colonialists. Hooked rugs were not just a practical floor covering, but often made of colorful scraps of cloth in unique, artful designs that depicted domestic scenes. In the mid-1800s, Jute burlap, used in shipping in the mid-1800s, became widely used for the backing of rugs. Women of the house used metal or whale bone hooks to pull the scraps through the burlap. A blend of rugged and fine cloth scraps created varied texture and coloration. The “rugs” were actually first used as bed coverings and blankets to keep people warm on the cold New England nights.
By the late 18th century, hooked rugs had become extremely popular as a craft in rural New England. Throughout the years, the hooked rug has continued to be a favorite style of floor covering.
All of our wool hooked rugs are still completely handhooked for an authentic texture, character, feel and coloration. Each depicts a domestic scene that continues the 200 year old tradition of hooked rugs. Our synthetic rugs are fantastic for use in high traffic areas. Machine hooked, they handle abuse well, resist soil and water, and are completely machine washable. And they each display a charming domestic scene.
Orvis has a wide variety of hooked rugs in various colors, patterns and sizes, in round, oval and rectangular rugs.
Today they hang as masterpieces of American art in prestigious museums such as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. They are revered the world over for their composition, creativity, and color. But the quilt’s origins are neither American nor particularly prestigious.
The Origins of "Quilt"
A quilt, by definition, is simply two layers of cloth stitched together with a soft filling. Though mainly known today as bedcoverings, the word quilt is thought to come from the Latin culcita, meaning literally a "stuffed sack," or mattress.
The Early History of Quilts
Fabrics are fragile by nature and thus tracing their origins can be an inexact art. Some claim that quilted fabrics have been around since the first Egyptian dynasty (as clothing, not bedding). However, references to these fabled fabrics as bedcovers do not appear with regular frequency until the Middle Ages.
Quilts may have made their way to Europe on the return trips of the Crusaders. But whatever their route, by the 17th century quilted clothing and quilted bedcovers had become popular in Europe and the tradition naturally immigrated to America. It was there that the tradition of quilting was raised to an art form with the quilting explosion of the mid 1800s. Perhaps no group of quilters epitomized the quilting revolution more than Amish.
The Amish and Quilting
Considering their separatist nature, it is not surprising that most Amish came to quilting later than other American women. But what we may find surprising is that this conservative group pioneered the use of vibrant, sometimes shocking color combinations. And it was the Amish, when quilting waned in the years following World War II, who helped keep the tradition alive.
Quilting fit quite naturally into the Amish life—self sufficient, family-oriented, and skillful handwork. It was an occasion for Amish women to gather together, work as a community, and pass on their traditions.
The of their quilts naturally followed the of their clothing, combining somber and drab colors with more vivid ones. This juxtaposition of colors, especially when played out in simple geometric designs, created quilts of amazing energy.
Because they approach change gradually, Amish quilters have helped keep alive some of America’s most beloved and traditional patterns, including Sunshine and Shadow, Around the World, Diamond in the Square, and the multi-hued Roman Stripe.
Seersucker Bed Covers
Summer or Winter: A Classic Bedcover
Our classic bedcovers can transform a bedroom stuck in a winter rut. To lighten up, just exchange that heavy comforter for a cool, breathable all-cotton. We like them so much that we use them year-round; we simply add a wool or fleece blanket underneath when the snow starts to fly.
Origins of Seersucker Bedspreads
Seersucker’s texture of flat stripes alternating with puckered ones is woven into the fabric by re-adjusting the tension of the yarn in the loom. Once the finished textile is removed from the loom, the slack bands of fabric pucker up, resulting in the trademark seersucker look. The alternating weave also makes the fabric more breathable, and therefore comfortable in even the hottest weather. Seersucker was first widely used in America in the 1930s, because the fabric was cool, didn’t show wrinkles as easily as linen does, and could be washed. Today, it is one of the iconic American summer fabrics.
Durable and Versatile for Long-Wearing Comfort
Great for summer camp, in the guest room, at the lake house, in a dorm room, or for a beach house, these lightweight are easy to wash, transport, and won’t ever look wrinkled – well any more than their stripes are supposed to! Our spreads are made of the finest Turkish yarn-dyed cotton and are sewn with mitered corners. Extremely durable, our affordable seersucker bedspreads are a sound investment and are a good value in the long run. Seersucker is difficult to tear due to the weave, and is long-wearing.
Weather or not, leave this wicker patio furniture outside.
Purportedly, the country’s first wicker furniture industry sprung from Massachusetts when a frugal Yankee merchant seized upon a way to re-use the rattan shipping containers he received from the Orient. In that spirit, wicker furniture's popularity today springs from several endearing qualities: It’s comfortable and it has a casual relaxed feel while preserving its traditional, slightly exotic flavor. But most importantly, wicker furniture is exceedingly practical. Willowemoc can be left outdoors where it won’t chip, fade, deteriorate or need to be repainted or stained. In your sunroom, on your porch, or in the backyard, this wicker patio furniture will last and last – an appealing prospect to frugal New Englanders or anyone else, for that matter!
The history of wicker furniture
Wicker dates back to the Egyptian Empire in 3000 BC and likely existed before that. The timeless, classic story of Moses relates that, when a baby, he glided down the Nile in a wicker basket. Wicker furniture, with its Middle- and Far-Eastern origins, has become quintessentially American: as American as summer evenings on the front porch and backyard barbecues. Americans began importing wicker furniture from the Orient in the mid 1800’s, but the real heyday for wicker came at the end of the century when the British Empire was at its zenith and things Oriental were all the rage.
America began to manufacturer wicker furniture by hand from rattan and willow imported from China and Southeast Asia. Fashionable sun porches, solariums, and gardens were not complete without the delicate tracery of looped and coiled reeds amid airy ferns and plump cushions. From seaside cottages to lakeside bungalows, the images of casual elegance we associate with warm summer breezes and carefree days include the unmistakable beauty of white, hunter green or classic brown wicker.
The durability of outdoor wicker patio furniture makes it a good investment
Willowemo outdoor wicker is constructed of a lightweight, UV-protected polyresin fiber woven around an extraordinarily strong aluminum frame. Despite the decidedly man-made aspect to the fiber, the appearance and comfort of the pieces constructed from this remarkable fiber are as appealing today as rattan was to Americans in the Victorian era.
Wherever you place it in your home, wicker furniture evokes a time when leisure and family time were essential parts of a full life. Willowemoc Wicker furniture will last generations in you family’s backyard.