Sunday, May 22, 2011

Behind The Scenes at William Switzer Headquarters: Part 2 of a series

Our visit to William Switzer in Vancouver started off here with the more glamorous side of the company’s headquarters, their showroom. Now we visit the less inviting, but more intriguing side of their business…the factory where it all begins.

Most of the furniture manufactured for the William Switzer Collection has some hand carved element, if not the entire piece. I learned on my visit that theses pieces are manufactured in factories in either Italy or Spain through relationships built by the company’s namesake William Switzer decades ago. The hand carved pieces, which include anything from mirror frames and chairs to beds and breakfronts are then sent to William Switzer headquarters as natural wood and then finished by artisans in the Vancouver location.

Having specialized in wood and cabinetry throughout my career as a designer, I was most fascinated by the finishing process. The pieces I saw in process included exotic veneers, gold and silver leaf preparation and chemical distressing. There were even a couple of amazing prototypes that had yet to be unveiled to the public.

I must once again thank Mr. Dean MacCracken from our local San Francisco showroom, as well as my William Switzer host, Mr. Adam Switzer-Bellas.

Here is some of what I saw at the factory:

My host and tour guide, Mr. Adam Switzer-Bellas.

Furniture that had been returned and would be sold in a once-yearly sale.

Unfinished English Georgian style mirror frames.

Storage for large unfinished furniture pieces.

Various unfinished hand carved chairs waiting to be finished.

An unfinished Curraghmore table next to solid wood sideboard.

Unfinished furniture pieces in exotic veneers.

Detail of unfinished desk with burl Walnut and Zebra wood veneers.

Poster spotted in the factory publicizing a 1993 summit in Vancouver with President Clinton and Boris Yeltsin where William Switzer furniture was used.

A William Switzer artisan applies and undercoat for a gold leaf finish.

An overview showing how the colors in the undercoat change with the detail of the hand carved mirror frame.

Preparing a solid wood, hand carved sideboard to be finished.

One of the finishing department spaces with console tables lined ready to be completed.

The Upholstery department working on a variety of pieces.

A prototype of a new table top finish.

The next installment will feature William Switzer furniture in context at my Vancouver hotel.

David J. Hansen

Top photo shows a Palazzo Capponi Center table that has been chemically distressed.

* All photos copyright by David J. Hansen for Ashfield Hansen Design Inc.

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