In 1889, John Mathias Bernhardt founded the first industrial venture in rural Lenoir, North Carolina, which would later become the Bernhardt Furniture Company. Leveraging the region’s natural resources and local woodworking skills to strengthen the local economy, he opened his factory with vast ambitions and twenty-five employees.
In the twelve decades since, Bernhardt has mastered and refined its craft to become a leading diversified global furniture manufacturer. Unique by today’s standards, Bernhardt remains a family-owned business deeply committed to the welfare of the local community.
To mark this occasion, Bernhardt Design honors the company’s heritage with a new collection of products that underscore this artistry. Designers Ross Lovegrove, Jephson Robb and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance draw inspiration from three different traditional furniture archetypes and recreate them for today’s world. New York artist Frederick McSwain completes the celebration by paying tribute to generations of craftsmen with a series of original artwork.
“In the collective French memory, one vision of America is the view of a rocking chair sitting on an open porch. For me, designing a new rocking chair is the ideal way to celebrate the heritage, imagination, and craftsmanship of Bernhardt Design. The Windsor rocking chair, whose complexity and refinement are remarkable, served as my inspiration. I wanted to take essential elements of the Windsor rocker and put them together in a new and different manner. All the segments in the Harper chair are integrated in a more aerodynamic way, which is appropriate for a chair that is about motion. The goal was to create harmony between the various elements, to form an unbroken line.” Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance
“When thinking about this project and how to consider Bernhardt Design’s wood heritage, my starting point was the American court house chair, which is such a visible part of the American landscape. I have worked with many different materials in my career and used various new technologies, but I have never designed a wood chair. One of the interesting things about working in wood is that it is a truly organic material and full of surprises. This makes every piece unique. As in all my work, the Anne chair is about sculpting a material, creating something that has a human dimension and looks interesting from any view.” Ross Lovegrove
“For me, Bernhardt Design’s history is not only a story of fine woodworking, but also a respect for quality sewing and upholstery. To capture these elements in one new product, it appeared the obvious place to look for inspiration was the Chesterfield sofa. A typical Chesterfield sofa conveys opulence and elegance, which is achieved through the visual complexity of generous rolled arms, buttons and tufting. My entire design process for the Alex sofa was about reduction and simplification – to express elegance in a modern way with clean lines and precise details.” Jephson Robb
“In New York’s Museum of Natural History, you will find the Hall of North American Forests. Filled with nostalgic dioramas the gallery’s main attraction is an irregular-shaped cross section of a 1400-year-old Giant Sequoia. I remember being hypnotized while attempting to count the concentric growth rings – one by one. When contemplating an appropriate tribute to the craftsmen who carry on the tradition of fine woodworking, this memorable visual inspired me. I created six unique wall sculptures in homage to the people, places, and things shaping Bernhardt’s 125-year history. The simple forms are derived from hand drawn circles, each a nod to the organic and intimate relationship between woodworker and raw material.” Frederick McSwain
The Bernhardt family, shown left to right: Alex Bernhardt, Sr., Chairman; William Collett, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Residential Casegoods; Anne Bernhardt, Vice Chairman; Rountree Collett, Chief Operations Officer and President, Bernhardt Ventures (Design and Hospitality); Alex Bernhardt, Jr., Chief Executive Officer and President.