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.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Behind The Scenes at William Switzer Headquarters: Part 1 of a Series

While visiting Vancouver last September I had the privilege of visiting the headquarters of the renowned William Switzer furniture line (my apologies in taking so long to present this). While I was there I got to see their Vancouver showroom located at 611 Alexander Street. I was also able to tour their adjacent manufacturing, finishing, upholstery and shipping operations. Special thanks must be given to Mr. Dean MacCracken of our local William Switzer showroom for putting me in touch with Mr. Adam Switzer-Bellas the grandson of William Switzer who, along with his family operates the company in Vancouver, BC Canada.

William Switzer started his namesake company in 1952 as an Interior Design firm, and in 1978 became a business strictly for the manufacture and distribution of handmade furniture, many which were used by Mr. Switzer throughout his career.

Coming up in later installments will be photos from the warehouse etc. along with some William Switzer furniture that adorned the hotel where I was stayed while visiting Vancouver.

The Showroom. This installment shows photos of the William Switzer showroom in Vancouver, which is in an adjacent location to their manufacturing facility. I’m sure the showroom has changed since I was there, but these illustrate how much William Switzer product they are able to show in one place. William Switzer also manufactures and distributes the Lucien Rollin Collection, originally conceived by another noted Interior Designer, and now made exclusively by their company. The great thing about the showroom is that they are able to show nearly all their pieces and finish options in one place. All pieces are made to order and custom finishes are available.

The building at 611 Alexander Street Vancouver.

The courtyard leading to the showroom entrance.

The door to the William Switzer showroom.

An English Chippendale style mirror in White finish on mirrored wall.

A vignette with large Wing Back style Louis XV chair and matching ottoman.

A vignette with multiple chairs and Zebra wood Art Nouveau buffet.

Austrian Biedermeier secretary and matching chairs.

Large Louis XVI Transitional mirror with reflection.

Vignette showing Mid 20th Century Berger arm chair and matching ottoman.

A room showing different options for Dining rooms.

English oval Birds mirror with ginger jar and matching urns.

Vitrine in Silver finish with gold accents.

Hand carved mirror with bedroom vignette in reflection.

Two Swag Back side chairs.

A new annex to the showroom that was just being finished and arranged.

David J. Hansen


The top photograph is from the William Switzer web site.

All additional photographs are by David J. Hansen for Ashfield Hansen Design Inc. All photographs were taken in early September 2010.