Hartley Magazine

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Greenhouse Furniture – How to Find What You Need

Custom rustic furniture brings together a variety of plantings.

Let’s say you’ve got your greenhouse. Now, let’s figure out the furnishings. Much depends on how you plan to use it. Is this the space where you will start your early vegetables? Is it going to be home to happy houseplants and your tender tropicals in the winter? Is it a light and bright extension of your interior—a homey place to curl up and read while winter rages outside? Or a combination of all?

Thoughtful furniture choices will make your greenhouse life more functional and satisfying. You may be able to purchase plant shelving with built-in lights for your seed starting. Or additional potting tables may come with your greenhouse. But you might not want to settle for worn house chairs or ordinary off-the-shelf furniture. Look no farther than your local artisans and woodworkers to give you something special and unique for your sunny room.

Elegant potting benches may be your greenhouse choice.

This month, I’m talking to one of those artisans. Vanca Lumsden is the designer, fabricator, and co-owner of Albe Rustics. She and her husband Joe run their popular twenty-year-old garden accessory business on Whidbey Island, near Seattle. They offer charming furniture fashioned out of salvaged cedar or redwood fence boards and clippings of curly willow. “Our most popular pieces are the willow-backed benches,” Vanca says. “They usually sell out.”

But Vanca wasn’t always a wood worker. She used to own an aquatic plant nursery in Medford, Oregon. On the property next door, a man was making rustic furniture. He showed Vanca the techniques. “He had equipment and tools,” she says. “I learned to use an air compressor, a chop saw, and a staple gun.”

This romantic willow- canopy bench invites vines to be grown overhead. (courtesy Albe Rustics).

Long staples are a vital item because most rustic furniture is made with green wood. If it twists as it dries, the staples hold on. Vanca jokes, “When the world was formed, God probably had an air compressor and a staple gun.”

She discovered she liked the process of furniture making. And so did the buying public. She notes, “I made more money cutting up sticks than I had with my intensive world-wide knowledge of aquatic plants.”

In a pivot to Whidbey Island, she and her husband Joe went into business together. Vanca cites two factors in their success. “We had a business plan from the beginning, so we knew how much to pay ourselves,” she says. “And there’s an appeal to this furniture.” She reports that buyers often say, “I just have to have this—I don’t know why.”

The naturalistic willow-back bench, a plant carrier, and a small stool furnish this Hartley Greenhouse. (Courtesy Albe Rustics).

Although Vanca rarely ships a piece out of her region, she has some advice for those seeking greenhouse furniture in other parts of the country. If you need something special, look locally. Ask around. Hunt for small businesses online near you. Check out neighborhood nurseries, craft fairs, and pop-up plant sales. Somewhere, closer than you think, someone is probably already constructing your perfect piece. “And the advantage,” Vanca notes, “you can have it made exactly to your specifications. When you work with a craftsperson, you get what you want.”