A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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Meant for Memories

By Stacy Milbouer

This time of year, furniture takes on special importance. Holiday feasts, family gatherings, maybe even a discussion or two about politics all center around the family table.

“Our dining room table is the hub of our house,” said Justin Dunn, who hand crafts the custom furniture at the Vintage Wren in Goffstown. “It may sound corny, but when people bring their whole family to give input into the design of what will be their family gathering place, I feel honored.”

The farm-to-table lifestyle is more than the food families eat. It’s also about the actual furniture where those meals and family are enjoyed.

“It’s a way of living life and conducting business. Believing in the importance of a local, sustainable economy,” wrote Jen Dunn on the Vintage Wren’s website.

This is a family business. Jen handles a lot of the marketing and business end of the business; her husband, Justin, hand crafts heirloom-quality dining tables in Shaker, farmhouse and modern industrial designs; and 15-year-old son, Ian, also makes furniture by hand, unplugged – without the use of power tools. He recently gave a demonstration of wood working at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth.

And it’s all as local as it gets.

“We use local lumber (Eastern white pine and a variety of hardwoods) the majority of which is harvested within 20 miles from here in Goffstown,” said Justin. “We know the sawyers, and I personally bring the lumber to a local kiln to have it dried to our specs.

Each piece of furniture made at the company is crafted to the specific wishes and plans of the customer who commissions them. The tables are made with traditional wood joinery. Each tenon is hand fit within its corresponding mortise and finished with a hardwood peg. Each board on the table top is hand selected, studied and weighed for beauty and flow.

Most importantly to the Dunns, is that the furniture becomes family heirlooms, which will last 100 years or more.

“We want it to be passed down through the generations,” said Justin.

Part of what makes a piece of furniture an heirloom are the personal stories brought to each custom order, said Jen.

Young couples have ordered custom furnishings to celebrate their marriage. Jen said families have also ordered tables with an inheritance they received as a way to honor the loved one who passed away.

There’s a lot discussion, planning and storytelling when the makers meet with the customers in person and by phone. And discussion isn’t just limited to appearance, but also to a client’s needs.

“Right now, I’m working on a table for a family of very tall people,” said Justin. “They asked for a slightly taller table with a lower profile apron, so they can pull their chairs up and not hit their knees. The customer has the ability to use their own creativity and have input in their own design.”

Each piece of furniture made at the Vintage Wren is hand signed and has a label with the customer’s family name on it.

“It’s an equally personal experience for us as it is for them,” said Jen. “We know each client by name,” said Jen.

For more information go to avwcustomfurniture.com