About Kowalski Furniture Design

Here's Robert's story and how our New American Craftsmanship Furniture came into being.

Robert was born and raised in Northern Virginia. The Washington, D.C. area architecture inspired his interest in design.  He served eight years of apprenticeships, then attended professional studies in woodworking before he  opened his own traditional furniture shop.

Robert's first apprenticeship, from 1974 to 1976, was in Richmond, Virginia, at a traditional cabinet shop. From 1976 to 1979 Robert studied architectural woodworking in the Washington, D.C. area. By 1977 he had met and married his wife, Darcey. In 1979, while Darcey was studying business administration, they decided to move to the Boston area to continue Robert's furniture career academically. While in Boston his apprenticeships included furniture restoration, traditional furniture making, and design. Robert was enrolled in the professional crafts studies at the Worcester Crafts Center Design School between 1980 and 1982.

In 1984 Robert opened his own traditional furniture shop in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1987 Robert received the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) award in restaurant design for the Babinga bar at New Heights a restaurant in  Washington, D.C.  In Worcester, he was building and designing one of a kind pieces of furniture, collaborating with architects and designers in both residential and business settings.

In the year 2000, by now a master furniture maker, Robert moved Kowalski Furniture Design to Spencer, Massachusetts. This marked the official beginning of his New American Craftsmanship line of furniture.  By 2004 they were able to purchase this 15,000-square-foot old mill building that they once made corn brooms in and before that it was a cobbler shop. We are slowly filling up these three floors with a woodworking and finishing shop, metalworking shop, photography area, an office and a show room with current examples of our work.

New American Craftsmanship Furniture represents a culmination of Robert's 30 years experience in designing and building furniture.  He believes that furniture can be made better, faster, and more durably now than at any other time in  history, using modern technology and products.  Although he was trained in traditional woodworking methods, Robert recognizes the exciting new possibilities of modern technical developments.

During his career Robert has seen glues and wood finishes improve a hundred fold.  As one example, for centuries hot hide glue was used to glue the joints of fine furniture.  However, over time hide glue hardens and crystallizes.  As expansion and contraction occur, the glue breaks down and the joints weaken and loosen.  Today's glues are more pliable; they actually penetrate the wood, creating a bond that is stronger than the wood itself.

Similar advances have been made in the development of new varnishes.  Robert uses a conversion varnish that is superior to older products, providing a high-quality, low-maintenance finish.  See care of furniture for more on the finish.


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