Amish-Made Furniture Inspired by Famous Paintings
Holmes County’s Homestead Furniture collaborates with The Met in New York City to create collector pieces shaped by works of art from the museum’s collection.
Less than 500 miles of road separate New York City and Mount Hope, Ohio, but the two locales occupy different worlds in some ways. That distance was bridged this spring by way of elegant furniture — seven unique pieces that each interpret a painting from the massive collection of one of the world’s most famous museums.
Homestead Furniture crafts beautiful, Amish-made furnishings in the countryside of Holmes County, and its Abner Henry line’s collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City takes what the business does to a new level.
Each of the seven pieces in The Met Collection have a limited edition of 70. Ranging in price from $54,428 to $144,200, the furniture falls squarely within the realm of collectors, but it also reflects the people who craft it and the old-world techniques they use. It’s a merger of two worlds — one that is as surprising as it is beautiful.
Ernest Hershberger, the founder of Homestead Furniture and Abner Henry, invited us to see the works and shared how each piece also reflects the faith at the center of his life.
“It gave me the opportunity to literally speak spiritual, Gospel things on a global platform ...” he says of the collaboration with The Met, “to [talk to] editors across the globe about the spiritual story of what it means to myself as a person and to us as a family.”
Pirouette Console Table | Inspired by Edgar Degas’ “The Dance Class”
Edgar Degas is famous for his art featuring ballerinas, and this 1874 work, “The Dance Class,” includes 24 figures on its canvas. To communicate the energy and texture of Degas’ work, Abner Henry’s designers worked to combine the interplay of two-tone color, wood, metal and glass to create a light and elegant look that reflected the wave of a ballerina’s tutu. The use of metal keeps the Pirouette Console Table grounded, while the amazing 126-inch glass top in the shape of a ballerina’s slipper gives it reach.
From a spiritual perspective, Hershberger says the piece serves as a tangible representation of remaining grounded and living focused on today rather than worrying about what is to happen in the future. To him, it communicates doing your best while also staying focused on what really matters.
“In the evening, I’m going to put my head on my pillow, read my Bible. I know I’ve done the best I can in my heart, and I’m done for the day,” Hershberger says. “If God wakes me up the next morning, I’m going to do it again.”
Ventana Standing Mirror | Inspired by Diego Velázquez's portrait of Juan de Pareja
Diego Velázquez painted this portrait of his enslaved assistant in Rome around 1650, presenting the man in a manner that belied his station in life. Even more amazing is the fact that after completing the portrait and receiving wide acclaim for its quality, Velázquez released Juan de Pareja, who himself become a painter.
“Here was a master that painted his slave in such a regal setting,” Hershberger says. “It’s a great perspective of how we should treat the people who work with us and for us.”
The Ventana Standing Mirror is made with the highest-quality brass that has been polished by hand to create its reflective-but-still-imperfect look — what Hershberger sees as a metaphor for the realities humans encounter when we are faced with getting honest about who we are and how we’re living.
“I have had a couple people in my life tell me, ‘Just go to the mirror, look in the eyes, and look into the heart and see if you like what you see,’ ” he says. “... We need to be able to peer into our hearts and [determine] if we really like what we see.”
Verlang Cocktail Table | Inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”
Vincent van Gogh made four still life paintings of sunflowers during the summer of 1887. The one at The Met is among two smaller canvases once owned by fellow artist of the era Paul Gauguin. He hung the two paintings his friend had created above the bed in his Paris apartment before later selling them to help finance a South Seas voyage.
The Verlang Cocktail Table takes the form of a sunflower with its metal base bent upward and inward, while the table’s textured brass interior seems to glow when illuminated from above. To Hershberger, the varied interior of the piece represents all the days of our lives and our constant quest to better ourselves and our faith.
“It’s a clear look through, into the days of our life, and I think it’s just a great illustration of that,” Hershberger says. “In the end, it probably won’t be perfect, but it’s the challenge, it’s the moving forward, it’s the stretch, it’s the keep going, that we still are responsible for.”
Severine Console Table | Inspired by Georges Seurat’s “Circus Sideshow (Parade de Cirque)”
Artist Georges Seurat’s 1888 painting “Circus Sideshow” illustrates a type of entertainment offered outside the main circus tents of his day to entice spectators to purchase a ticket to the main event. These forms of public entertainment were often attended by people of different social levels because they were free.
Abner Henry used this idea of a diversity of people from different backgrounds and makeups gathering as the inspiration for the Severine Console Table. It is made up of various wood blocks in different shades that create a subtle pixelated effect that is a nod to Seurat’s style of pointillism in which tiny dots make up the whole of the composition. The legs of the table are brass to represent the slide of the trombone the entertainer on stage is holding in Seurat’s painting.
Hershberger says the furniture piece also communicates the fact that we are all different — even when we are from the same family — and that it is important that acceptance, understanding and love be at the core of how we approach one another.
“Let’s just coexist peacefully,” he says. “We all know we’re different ... yet let’s just show love and get along. That’s what that says to me, and I think it’s a powerful piece.”
Serena Bar Cabinet | Inspired by Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Serena Pulitzer Lederer
Serena Pulitzer Lederer was part of Viennese high society around the turn of the 19th century. Her husband, industrialist August Lederer, commissioned this portrait of her, which artist Gustav Klimt painted in 1899.
Looking at the tall and elegant Serena Bar Cabinet that drew on the portrait for inspiration, it’s easy to see the connection between the shapes in the painting and the piece of furniture. Amazingly, the rounded form of the cabinet is one continuous piece of wood, and the translucent nature of the woman’s gown is reflected in the sandblasted glass of the cabinet doors.
But there is more at play in the symbolism of the piece. Hershberger explains the bottom of the cabinet is wavy and tight before loosening as it moves upward, communicating the progression through life and faith and how who we are and where we are going becomes easier to see.
“Keep growing in wisdom, go deeper into spirit, and, as you get older, the picture will get clearer and clearer,” Hershberger says. “Be satisfied with who you are. You can’t be somebody else. We can improve, but you can’t be somebody else. Be comfortable with how God created you and do the best that you can.”
Duet Nesting Tables | Inspired by Edouard Manet’s “The Monet Family in Their Garden in Argenteuil”
The Duet Nesting Tables give the feeling of connection present in Edouard Manet’s 1874 painting “The Monet Family in Their Garden in Argenteuil.” During the summer of that year, Manet vacationed at his family’s house in Gennevilliers, France, which sat across the river from that of Claude Monet and his family.
Hershberger says the large table represents the father and the smaller table the mother, while the legs represent children. The platinum and 24-karat gold used in the piece reflect the preciousness of that bond. One of the most striking features is how the metals are inlaid in the grain of the wood, which shines when light interplays with it.
“I walked down and looked at it, I said, ‘Perfect,’ ” Hershberger recalls. “From a spiritual side, if we stand in the light in Christ, we shine and glisten and we’re a light. ... [The piece] represents both sides. If you stand in the light, you see the glisten. If you stand in the dark, you see the darkness of it.”
Coralie Cocktail Table | Inspired by Auguste Renoir’s “By the Seashore”
Based on Auguste Renoir’s 1883 painting “By the Seashore,” the brilliant blue glass of the Coralie Cocktail Table seems to hum with the intensity of rolling waves. The base of the table is wrapped steel overlaid with brass and is inspired by the wicker chair in which the subject of the painting sits, but it represents more than that.
“Father, Son, Holy Spirit is a rope of three — that’s what that says to me,” Hershberger shares as he points out how the strands combine in the center of the table.
The tabletop is made of a thick glass that is brilliant and transparent in the center, but then becomes opaque and darkens as one looks out toward its edges.
“What we’ve got here, is to me, part of what I think Creation would have looked like — moving together and then out of that — the whole Godhead ... the order that he brought out of that,” Hershberger says. “It’s just the start of the whole collection, it has lots of stuff going on with it, and it just explodes in color and beauty and handcraftsmanship.”
For more information about this limited-edition collection, visit abnerhenry.com.
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