Cubism – the art of getting organized with Cubes and cubbies

With all the papers, books, games, toys, and electronics that float around our houses, its a wonder that we can ever find anything. We loosely group things together and store them in piles which quickly turns into chaotic clutter.

DSC00515      The Cube… a classic shape that can be adapted to fit any style and space. Its straight clean lines can provide a sharp modern accent to a room or perhaps soften the space with rounded edges and a light color stain.

Organization and efficiency are high priorities in this age of technology but no app can keep your house in order; all it takes is a simple wooden cube or a collection of them. Cubes can be utilized in any part of the house to store just about anything.  A single cube can organize your Xbox games while a pyramid of cubes can store an entire library of books. Need a maintainable way to organize clothes? With cubes you can sort clothing into style, color, season, or any desirable category.

Get creative:

  • Build a wall of cubes for maximum storage space:
    • stackable
    • mountable
  • Place a single cube.
  • Use cubes as drawers for cubbies.
  • Use inserts to transform a cube into a wine rack.
  • Great in:
      • craft rooms
      • mud rooms
      • kids rooms

    Transform your space into an architectural masterpiece (and be able to find your stuff)!



Think before you Pick it up

Consider the following proposition:

  • Proposition: If it is raining or snowing then people will come to pick up unfinished furniture.

Though this is a bit tongue in cheek, we have found that people tend to come and pick up finished furniture in bad weather. Unfinished furniture is unfinished! This means that if it gets wet, then there will probably be some kind of discoloration or mark that will show up once the piece is stained. So if it is raining outside when you come to pick up your furniture, it will probably get wet and as a result won’t finish as nicely. So for the sake of your furniture and investment, don’t come to pick up furniture in bad weather!

Another unfortunate trend is that people don’t tend to bring any blankets, cardboard, or even string when they come to pick up their furniture. If the furniture is finished, then it needs to be wrapped in a blanket when it is being moved. We use a high quality finish, but wooden furniture is not metal and will still scratch and dent if it is not protected. The furniture you buy is your investment, if you don’t treat it with care while moving it, it will look like you moved it in a cheese grater instead of a moving van. Also if you don’t tie it down then it could fall over (dents) or grate against the sides of the vehicle or other furniture you are moving (scratches). Simply bringing some tie down straps or string will will prevent this. But don’t forget the blankets or cardboard because string or straps can scratch finishes too!

So take a little time (and perhaps expense) and bring some string, blankets or cardboard when you come to pick up your furniture. Damage that you cause while moving it is not the responsibility of the manufacture or retailer but is yours alone! It will cost much more to repair a damaged piece than to move it safely. So please for the sake of your investment and sanity, think before you pick it up.

Wires – don’t forget them when you buy an entertainment center

In our life as a unfinished furniture store, we build a lot of media/ entertainment centers for people. One thing that a lot of people don’t think about is wires. Once i get my TV into this great piece of furniture, how do i run the wires. When we deliver something we don’t always have the tools to cut those holes with us. This means that either you have to get someone else to cut them or reschedule another day for us to come back. This costs us time and means that you can’t use your furniture the way you were hoping when it is delivered.

So what’s the solution? A little forethought! Now that you know about the problem, try to think out what need to run wires and where do they need to go. You may need holes cut in the inside of the piece so that wires can be run from one section to the other. Or perhaps you just need a few holes cut in the back.

Below are a list of questions to help you think about wires:

  • What components need access to electrical power and where can they get it?
  • What components need to run wires to other components (speaks, TVs, Blue-ray…)
  • Are their any light switches that i might cover up? Do i want to cut a hole for them?
  • If my furniture goes where i want to put it, I’m i going to cover up any electrical outlets or light switches and if so is that a problem? Do i still need access to them?

Asking yourself a few of these questions when you design your furniture and place your order can save you hours/ days of waiting for holes  to be cut after the fact. Also if we know about them before hand they may be able to be cut in the shop before your piece is finished so they will be cleaner and neater than we can do if we have to do them on delivery.

About Seeing and Having Something to Say « Annika Ruohonen Photography

About Seeing and Having Something to Say « Annika Ruohonen Photography. I was initially attracted to this post because i have to write about our products at Durham Bookcases and I thought the author might have some interesting tips that might make my life easier. It turns out that he didn’t, at least not for work. What he said though resonates with me. As I work for Durham Bookcases (my family’s furniture store), I’m finishing my master’s in linguistics (na-na-shla-zI anyone?) and so i envy Ruohonen’s ability to speak many languages. I also know exactly what she means about something only sounding right in the original language. That’s kind of why i want to be a translator.

In some real ways writing about furniture, taking photos, marketing, and managing a website is about seeing what you see and having something to say. This blog for instance is a chance to see how our industry works, how our company works, and finding something to say about it. Not just anything, but something that helps people better understand the furniture they buy. There’s an art to taking a good product photo. I’m basically just an amateur, but i’ve found that getting the perfect lighting and backdrop for a shot is basically impossible in our building. Even if i do get good lighting and backgrounds, when i see the photo on my computer, i don’t like it and edit it anyway. Maybe i’m just too picky.

Having something to say. That’s an interesting concept in the furniture industry. Our company is a family business built in Durham, NC. We’re local and small, but we have to compete with larger companies and even with international companies that are selling into our market. It’s tough but we do it. When that’s your situation, you have something to say. You have to be able to justify why you cost more and what advantage they’re going to get by buying it from you instead of getting any-old-thing at the cheapest price possible.

So thank you Ruohonen for giving me pause to think about what i do and what my family’s company does. I hope i can think more deeply in the future about what my photos are saying and i hope i can translate that into what i write about the furniture.

It’s a matter of time – Meditations on Custom Furniture


One of the interesting things about making custom unfinished furniture and selling both standard and custom furniture is that its easy to overwhelm people. Most of the time when a person comes in, they are looking for something that suites their needs that they can take with them. It’s great when we have it, but the more functionality you need, the more likely you’re going to need something built. That is totally OK. It just might require a bit of patience.

At Durham Bookcases and similar stores, we can built what you need with the features you want. This kitchen island [1], for example, was ordered by one of our wholesale accounts in Washington, DC. We don’t keep these in stock because we don’t get that much call for them. But we built it and it turned out beautiful (at least to me!). The customer got a slat-shelf and utensil drawer. The drawer has a beadboard bottom which gives it an extra touch of charm. The slat-shelf means that water from fresh produce won’t pool and that air can circulate through what is store on it (not to mention in looks cool). This piece offers things that you might not find ready-made in a store.

It’s basically a table that has been raised and built with a drawer and shelf. So it’s similar to things we keep in stock, but required a bit of modification. We love doing that. It keeps retail and manufacturing interesting and lets customers get what their looking for.

So what does this all mean? Three things:

  1. Don’t be afraid to get what you want. You may have to look for something similar to use as a starting point and then see what modifications are available to get the features you need.
  2. Don’t be scared to let the staff make suggestions. They know their products and can probably help you get exactly what you want. When i help someone i try to keep in mind ways to get them what they want and save them money.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be patient. This is the hard one in our instantly downloadable world, but unfortunately quality and precision take time. The more features you want, the more time it might take, but in the end you get the benefits you wanted.


Why i love pine furniture

Have you ever seen something that brought back something from your childhood or just made you think of home? I’m from North Carolina, born in Raleigh, and pine trees and pine furniture does that for me. We call them Carolina Pines, those flimsy, retched little trees that grow like weeds in this state, but we love them. I have some wooden furniture made by my grandfather that he built out of pine. It’s lovely stuff really. So because of the family and state associations I love pine furniture. There’s something warm about the grain and the knots. Perhaps its a picture of how life is not perfect, but has its dark spots. whatever the reason. I love the way it looks.

My family’s unfinished furniture company, Durham Bookcases, used to build pine furniture. When we went into Afghanistan, the price for furniture-grade pine went up so high we had to look for an alternative (for some reason people did not want to pay oak or maple prices for pine furniture). In the past six months the cost for good pine materials has come down. So we’ve started building pine furniture again. This makes me happy. It’s great because it has a great price and it’s still good quality that sturdy and will last. Our pine products are available with just about as many options and customizations as the birch or oak/ maple line that you can get most anything you need in that down-home, warm pine grain.

This is why i love pine furniture. It’s simple, unassuming, and makes me think of home and family.I hope you like it too.

Unfinished for small spaces – why unfinished furniture is great for small rooms

Even though houses are larger than they were 50 years ago, we still have small rooms that can be hard to decorate. Designing a small rooms is a balance of style and utility. Unfinished furniture is great for small spaces for the following reasons:

  1. You control the interaction between color [1] , space [2], and psychology.
  2. You can find furniture that fits your space and not have to make the space fit the furniture
  3. You can get the features you need in one piece and possibly create multipurpose furniture thus saving space.
  4. You can get what you need without having to buy something bigger just because smaller sizes are not popular on the market.

For a small space, nothing gives you options like unfinished furniture. Check out your local unfinished furniture store and manufacturer to see what’s available and if you happen to be near Durham, NC come check us out at Durham Bookcases (



Unfinished by design – Why Unfinished furniture supports your style

Claim:Unfinished Furniture fits your home like nothing else can.

If this sounds like a strong claim, it is meant to be, but I think I can prove it. Unfinished furniture is just that: unfinished. This offes you three advantages.

  1. You can focus on natural grain pattern,
  2. you focus on the shape of the piece without being distracted by color, and
  3. you can choose the color that goes with your style.

That’s the argument in bullet points.

Pictures form Apex computer 014.jpg

Grain: If you buy a piece in a store, then you get to see the grain of the wood before its stained or painted. You can see what characteristics it has and how it fits your style. If you want knots go for pine, if you want a heavy grain then check out oak, if you want a smooth finish then try birch or maple.

CafeTable_GBPBG_ProductPage.jpgShape: Unfinished furnitue stores usually have a good selection in store to choose from in a wide varity of styles. Most likely you’ll be able to find piece that have the shape you are looking for whether you style is cottage, traditional, or mid-century modern. Because the pieces are unfinished you don’t have to worry about finding the perfect peice in the wrong color. Also you’re not likely to miss the perfect shape/style just because the owner of the store thought seseme-chicken orange was going to be the new style for side tables.

Color: Once you find that perfect shape, you can finish it any way you like. Pick any color you want. If you can find it in a hardware store’s paint section you can probably put in on your furntiure. You’re not limited in how the colors are applied when you buy unfinished furniture. If you want it distressed, take a chain to it, paint/stain it, and then sand the edges a bit to make the piece look worn. If you want a glaze, put on your base color an then add the glaze to your hearts content (check out Show & Tell‘s post on how to glaze furniture). If you don’t want to tackle the finsh yourself, most unfinished furniture stores have a finishing service.

Conclusion: Unfinished furniture supports your style like nothing else can because it lets you choose the grain pattern, shape of the furniture, and color in ways that prefinished furniture can’t. You already know your style and with unfinished furniture you can make your furniture reflect who you are and what you want your space to be.

Flickr : , , : , ,

How to choose your style

Recently I answered a question on Yahoo Answers about choosing a color scheme. This got me thinking about how to choose a style. Here are some tips that emerged from my thinking.

Defining an overall style

style Logo
  • Buy some design magazines – My dad (an interior designer) tells his clients to buy some home/ design magazines with covers they like.
  • Make a “Love it or Hate it” – sit in the room your working on and make a list of what’s in there. Group it by what you really like and don’t like.
  • Make a Budget – This will help you figure out where to shop and what kind of changes you can afford to make. Not that you shouldn’t dream, but this will keep you realistic.

Picking colors for your style

  • Read Kathy McCleary of HGTV’s article (click here) – she offers 8 great tips on how to choose a color scheme.
  • Check out – This site lets you search for a color and see what others have grouped with it.
  • Check your “Love it” list – Look for colors that go with the things on your “Love it” list. Avoid colors from the “Hate it” list (if color is the reason you hate it).

Choosing pieces for your style

  • Choose functional pieces – Will the piece do what you want it to? If it’s for your flat screen TV will it hold your DVD player, gaming consoles, and other components?
  • Choose shapes and colors you like – Look for pieces that have shapes and colors that match your overall style definition.
  • Choose quality pieces – Will what you buy last? Cheap furniture may break and not be able to be repaired. Quality pieces mean that your style won’t fall apart on you. They also have higher resale value if you decide to change your style and sell the piece later.

Green Bookcases – why buy quality? (part II)

Thesis 2: Quality furniture is green.

Premise 1: Efficiently manufactured furniture is green.

Durham Bookcases uses similar principles when we manufacture furniture. When we cut parts we try to get as much out of a single piece of wood as we can. This is simply good business. But it’s also Green Design. By maximizing the use of natural resources we can provide quality products that consume less to produce. (Check out our page on Green Bookcases for more).

Premise 2: Furniture that uses less oil and other synthetic based products is green.

When we finish a piece of furniture, we use a water-based poly acrylic finish and water based stains. This means that unlike the oil-based stains and finishes of the past, the finish does not require paint or lacquer thinner to clean up. Water works fine. It also is not near as noxious for our finishing staff. Hendrickson et. al. note “For most consumers, energy efficiency and recyclability are less important product attributes, which means that designers cannot compromise other product attributes in becoming green.” [1] Because the technology behind water-based finishes has improved so much, with our products you don’t have to sacrifice a strong finish to save the environment.

Premise 3: Durable furniture is green.

If something is durable it does not have to be replaced. This removes the problem of it rotting in a dump. It also means that you don’t have to pay to replace it. Also quality durable furniture can probably be repaired or refinished unlike laminated MDF. So if your bookcase gets a scratch in it, it can most likely be fixed. If a piece of molding gets damaged, it can be repaired. Also durable furniture is furniture that will last. This means that when your son or daughter gets their first place and needs a shelf or table, you can pass the piece on to them. They don’t have to buy anything, which reduces consumption of natural resources and energy.


So here the logic. Cheap furniture does not care about the environment because it is more prone to breaking, so it can’t be repaired, and it ends up in a landfill. Quality furniture cares about the environment because:

  • efficiently manufactured furniture is green
  • furniture that minimizes the use of oil and other synthetic material is green
  • durable furniture is green.

Try to buy furniture that meets these criteria. Check out local shops instead of big box stores. And if you’re having trouble finding one check us out at So next time your driving your hybrid car to the store to shop for furniture ask yourself if what you’re going to buy matches the car you drive.

[1] Hendrickson, Chris, Noellette Conway-Schempf, Lester Lave, and Francis McMichael. 2012. “Introduction to Green Design.” Green Design Institute. Accessed January 11.

%d bloggers like this: