Kindel: Art of the Craft
Finding the right piece to complement your home or office can be a challenging feat. You want functional, yes – but also something more. Something that provides elevated design and also meets the highest standards of quality. Kindel, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., has a host of elegant solutions.
“We are one of the last all-American made, high-end furniture manufacturers,” explained Jim Fisher, Chairman of Kindel (pictured below at right). The quality of Kindel’s products has contributed to the company’s longevity. “All of our pieces are bench-made and require a lot of carving, hand-assembly and decorating. Additionally, most of our pieces are custom sizes,” he said. In 2012, Kindel received a special 100th Anniversary Award from Made in America, a not-for-profit education organization that honors companies annually which contribute to the American enterprise system.
A familiarity with private aviation led Fisher to Jet Linx. “My dad was a private pilot, as am I. He flew his own twin engine airplane until he was 92 and was a firm believer in using company aircraft to improve travel efficiency and use of key employees’ time. I feel the same way,” he explained. A move from Indiana to North Carolina three years ago led Fisher to explore Jet Linx’s services at the recommendation of a colleague, and he’s used the jet card program since.
“I can’t fly my light sport airplane efficiently from Pinehurst, N.C. to Grand Rapids, Mich., but with Jet Linx I can be on site in less than two hours, even with a quick stop in Indiana to pick up our Chief Operating Officer,” Fisher said. He explained that the effectiveness and speed of traveling with Jet Linx far outmatched any of his other travel options. “Driving would take 12 to 13 hours – one way – in the best of weather, plus two more nights of hotels. Today’s constantly shrinking commercial jet options & poor service make it a lackluster option at best. With Jet Linx we also have the option to take employees to visit potential acquisitions or even bring important customers to see our factory,” he said. “The Jet Linx advantage is all about time, which after all is our most precious commodity.”
Kindel has been producing American-made hand-crafted furniture since 1901, and manufacturing in Grand Rapids since 1912. From the turn of the last century to as recently as 1960, Grand Rapids was known as The Furniture City with over 150 manufacturers. “Today, Kindel is the only residential furniture maker still producing here. All others have gone out of business, moved operations South or ceased manufacturing to outsource offshore,” said Amy Wolbert, Kindel’s Vice President of Marketing.
Fisher’s family purchased Kindel in 1964. “Being family owned is a tremendous gift. The Fisher family believes in American furniture manufacturing and has supported us through our mission for over 50 years,” Wolbert said. “Today, Kindel is made 100% in Grand Rapids. Without the support of the Fishers, this would not have been possible all these years.”
Kindel holds a special place among furniture manufacturers. “Our niche is our bench-made process that allows us to create custom furniture or modify our own designs, choices of finish, fabric and options: at Kindel we make dimensional changes, changes to functionality, and even build your own original design,” Wolbert explained. Just because a piece is custom-made doesn’t mean it has to be one of a kind, she continued. “Kindel has the flexibility to make 1 or 500, which is rare in our industry.”
The company has grown and evolved over time, and has made smart business decisions in order to adapt and prosper. The 2010 acquisition of a wood products manufacturer in Grand Rapids moved production to a new facility. “This move allowed the hundred-year-old brand to gain access to computerized machinery for creating components. Kindel has retained the hand-craftsmanship necessary to produce beautiful carvings and inlay work, but the move has allowed us to gain needed efficiencies,” Wolbert said. “Kindel has grown in important ways with the changing times, retaining the values that matter most to our customers.”
Kindel acquired Karges and Councill, other furniture manufacturers who operated in the high-end custom furniture space. “The combined companies of Kindel, Karges and Councill now reflect the best of the best in American craftsmanship, quality and timeless design,” Fisher stated. Wolbert looks to the recent growth as a sign of a renaissance in The Furniture City. “I like to think that with the Councill acquisition, Kindel is single-handedly returning luxury furniture manufacturing back to Grand Rapids,” she said. “Combining the strengths of these three brands allows each of us to move forward and continue producing beautiful furniture in Grand Rapids.”
Traditional manufacturing methods retain the artistry of the furniture. “Kindel resonates with a consumer who appreciates luxury products and attention to details. Having a piece of Kindel furniture in your home means having something special, apart from the ordinary. The construction, the design, the finish are all meticulously executed, and to those who seek beauty in craft, Kindel is special,” Wolbert noted.
Kindel is indeed special – all the more so because customers are able to customize orders to their specifications. “Kindel is made-to-order so designers, in particular, love Kindel because they can modify any of our furniture to fit client needs,” Wolbert explained. “Consumers at our level seek to have homes that are designed with their tastes and personalities in mind. Kindel can create something new every day for those who seek originality.” Kindel’s website features a ‘Hot on the Dock’ section showcasing several of the company’s most fascinating orders each month. Clients are able to truly customize a Kindel piece, selecting from a variety of wood finishes, paint colors, changing dimensions, or adding functionality as they wish.
Great design from a variety of eras influence Kindel’s creations. Winterthur, the childhood home of Henry Francis du Pont, is now the premier museum of American decorative arts. “Some of the most important American furniture in our history exists in this collection,” Wolbert said.
After being awarded the Winterthur license in 1983, Kindel reproduces ‘best-of-kind’ examples of Queen Anne, Chippendale Federal and Empire furniture to the exacting standards of the original artisans. “This partnership in the early 80’s set a standard for excellence that we still adhere to today. Building furniture to pass the ‘eye’ of the curators at Winterthur has required Kindel to work to a skill level that is unsurpassed in our industry,” she continued.
Partnerships with existing museums and brand houses bring the Kindel name to a new audience. “Our most recent partnership is with the world renowned New York design firm, Robert A.M. Stern. These partnerships combine the strengths of both organizations to design and market to a particular consumer,” Wolbert explained. “We have aligned ourselves with organizations that attract similar interests. In the case of RAMSA, we work with their designers to collaborate on Kindel for the interiors of their international projects.”
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of SOAR. Read it online here.