Founded in 1889 by John Mathias Bernhardt, Bernhardt Furniture Company’s history originates from humble roots, evolving into one of the largest family-owned furniture manufacturers in the U.S. today.

The story begins 133 years ago, when Bernhardt found work as a logger in rural North Carolina after being orphaned at the young age of 13. A few years later, he furthered his career in the lumber business by purchasing his own sawmill. Bernhardt went on to construct a local railroad to transport timber, as well as a 20-mile log flume acknowledged as the longest ever built in America.

It didn’t take long for Bernhardt to recognize an opportunity to use his timber for the production of furniture. He honed the talents of local craftsmen and invested in the purchase of a veneer mill, lumber yard, and numerous kilns in Lenoir, North Carolina. His efforts resulted in what is now known as the Bernhardt Furniture Company, with 12 facilities and 1500 skilled employees.

In 1981, Bernhardt Furniture expanded into the contract marketplace, selling commercial-grade furniture. The new company, Bernhardt Design, served the international architectural and design communities with products appropriate for offices, hotel lobbies, and restaurants.

The company took a bold turn in 1985 under the leadership of Bernhardt Design’s first President, Anne Bernhardt. She enlisted renowned brand specialist Michael Vanderbyl to reinvent the company’s image and products. They created landmark showrooms and a graphic vocabulary that elevated Bernhardt Design to a leadership position in the industry. Anne hired some of the most acclaimed designers of the period to create unique products that became industry icons. In 1989, she launched a new brand, Bernhardt Textiles specializing in upholstery fabric.

Over the past 30 years, Bernhardt Design President Jerry Helling has assembled an extraordinary creative team with a roster of talent that includes: Ross Lovegrove (London), Arik Levy (Paris), Jaime Hayon (Valencia), Luca Nichetto (Venice), Ini Archibong (Neuchâtel), Patrick Jouin (Paris), Fabien Baron (New York), Monica Förster (Stockholm), CuldeSac (Valencia), Claudio Bellini (Milan), Chrissa Amuah (London), Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance (Paris), Raleigh Denim (Raleigh), Farg & Blanche (Stockholm), Charles Pollock (New York), Claudia and Harry Washington (San Salvador), Anabela Chan (London), Océane Delain (Paris), Joe Gebbia (San Francisco), Cory Grosser (Pasadena), and Terry Crews (Los Angeles).

Setting a precedent for leadership within the corporate community, Bernhardt Design founded and annually sponsors an interdisciplinary course with the world-renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, challenging students to create world-class designs for mass production. The company also sponsors the ICFF Studio, a scholarship program that provides emerging design talent exposure to manufacturers, retailers, and media from around the world.

American Design Honors, an annual award to recognize the most noteworthy American designers, was established by Bernhardt Design in 2010. Internationally, Bernhardt Design supports young designers through their sponsorship of the annual Contempo program conceived to advance the design profession in El Salvador, and America Made Me, a program to promote new brands and young American design talent abroad.

As a founding member of Be Original, Bernhardt Design is committed to the importance of preserving original design through education and informational programming.

Social Responsibility

As a family-owned and operated business since 1889, Bernhardt believes in the principles that govern any functional and supportive family: integrity, pursuit of excellence, and concern for others. Corporate responsibility is based on these ideals and guides all of the business, social and environmental aspects of the enterprise. Bernhardt respects the dignity of employees in the workplace and works to ensure employees‘ rights to personal security; a safe, clean and healthful workplace; and freedom from harassment or abuse of any kind.


Social Responsibility

We adhere to all applicable laws, regulations, and other employment standards and will not tolerate illegal or unethical behavior from employees or suppliers.

Bernhardt complies with the laws concerning discrimination and equal opportunity to ensure that individual differences such as age, race, gender, religion, and disability are not factors in hiring, firing, promotion decisions, or work assignments. Diversity in the workforce and with vendors adds value to our operations and to our products.

Bernhardt employees must ensure that personal financial interests do not create conflicts with the company and are required to complete an annual report on any potential conflict of interest. Falsifying this report could lead to dismissal.

Bernhardt rigorously enforces high safety standards. Employees are required to follow all safety rules and to complete safety training classes in the appropriate area. A process to immediately report accidents and unsafe conditions is in place throughout the company. Annual safety targets are assigned to each facility, with monthly updates and investigations of incidences.


Health and the general welfare of all employees is a primary concern at Bernhardt. Good health practices are promoted through a corporate wellness program which includes periodic health assessments, company-paid annual physical examinations, and free use of nearby health facilities.

Bernhardt continues to reduce the environmental impact of our business through the Design for the Environment program; annual reductions of energy, water, solid waste, and greenhouse gases; recycling efforts; and working with vendors to increase sustainable practices. A more complete statement is found on our website’s environmental section.

Since the company‘s beginnings in 1889, Bernhardt has been dedicated to helping communities where employees reside. A set percentage of corporate profits is donated annually to charitable causes. Through the Communities in Schools mentor program, in which employees leave work to mentor poorly performing students, school dropouts are diminished. The company also supports the local community college and scholarships at the nearest university.

We encourage our partners, suppliers, contractors, and vendors to support these policies, and we place substantial value on working with others who share our commitment to human rights.