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High Point, North Carolina: The Furniture Capital of the World

Furniture History | 10.28.23 | Derek Brewster

High Point, North Carolina: The Furniture Capital of the World

If you’re a furniture and home decor fan, the city of High Point, North Carolina, probably rings a bell. Known as the ‘Furniture Capital of the World,’ High Point boasts an exciting history, one that’s interwoven with the story of the American furniture industry itself.

Early Beginnings

High Point’s unique geography placed it at the heart of the Piedmont region’s transport networks, including railroads, which led to its initial growth in the late 19th century. The High Point Furniture Manufacturing Company’s first furniture factory was established in 1889. However, in the 20th century, the furniture industry began flourishing, transforming the city into a hub of furniture design and manufacturing.

The Boom of the 20th Century

By the 1920s, High Point was home to the most significant furniture factory in the world, the Tomlinson Chair Manufacturing Co. This period saw a substantial expansion in the industry, bolstered by both innovation and migration. Skilled workers and craftspeople across the country were attracted to High Point, bringing diverse styles and techniques.

Another crucial catalyst for growth was the establishment of the Southern Furniture Exposition in 1909, which later became the renowned High Point Market. The event provided a platform for local manufacturers to showcase their designs, attracting buyers nationwide. Today, the High Point Market is the world’s largest furnishings industry trade show, attracting over 75,000 people every six months.

The Challenges and Rebirth

However, the latter half of the 20th century was challenging for High Point’s furniture industry. Cheap imports, primarily from Asia, severely impacted the American furniture industry. High Point manufacturers, with their higher overheads, struggled to compete with the lower prices of these imported goods.

Despite this, the city reinvented itself by focusing on quality, innovation, and niche markets. In the face of global competition, High Point began to specialize in higher-end, custom furniture and prioritize craftsmanship over mass production. Many manufacturers also diversified their portfolios to include various styles and materials, which broadened their appeal to a larger market.

High Point Today

In the 21st century, High Point continues to serve as a vital center for the furniture industry. In addition to the High Point Market, the city is also home to High Point University’s Home Furnishings Program, one of the few programs of its kind in the nation, which prepares the next generation of industry leaders.

High Point’s journey is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the American furniture industry. Despite changing economic landscapes and global competition, the city has remained a significant player in the industry. This, in turn, reflects the quality, craftsmanship, and innovation for which High Point’s furniture is renowned.

From its humble beginnings in the late 19th century to its rise as the world’s furniture capital, High Point’s history mirrors the evolution of the American furniture industry. The city has remained a beacon of resilience, innovation, and quality through the highs and lows. Its rich history continues to inspire, making High Point a must-visit destination for furniture enthusiasts worldwide.

High Point Brands

High Point, North Carolina, indeed hosts a broad range of renowned furniture companies. Here’s a glimpse at some of the most notable:

Bassett Furniture:

Established in 1902, Bassett Furniture is one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in High Point. They offer various furniture, including living room, dining room, and bedroom furnishings.

Bernhardt Furniture:

Founded in 1889, Bernhardt Furniture Company is one of the largest family-owned furniture companies in the US. They offer various furniture and design styles, from classic to contemporary.

Universal Furniture:

Universal Furniture is undoubtedly known for creating quality furnishings for the whole home with a focus on function and lifestyle. They specifically blend design, style, and affordability in their collections.

Stanley Furniture:

Founded in 1924, Stanley Furniture is a design, marketing, and overseas sourcing resource in the upscale segment of the residential wood market. They generally design and produce furniture for all areas of the home.

Klaussner Home Furnishings:

Established in 1963, Klaussner focuses on residential furniture, offering various designs and styles. They provide products for the living room, bedroom, dining room, and more.

Hickory White:

Hickory White, formerly known as the White Furniture Company, has been in operation since 1881. They are particularly known for their craftsmanship and produce a range of high-quality home furnishings.

Maitland-Smith:

Maitland-Smith is renowned for its high-quality home furnishings and decorative accessories inspired by travels and world cultures. They offer an especially eclectic array of products, from traditional to transitional, contemporary to casual.

Thomasville Furniture:

While the parent company of Thomasville filed for bankruptcy in 2018, Thomasville is still recognized as one of High Point’s most famous brands. Today, their furniture is produced and sold by various manufacturers under license.

Broyhill Furniture:

Founded in 1926, Broyhill became one of the world’s largest and most recognized furniture brands. After various changes in ownership, Authentic Brands Group acquired the brand and continues to produce Broyhill furniture today.

High Point is Still Important to the American Furniture Story

The history of High Point, North Carolina, retains its importance in the furniture industry today for several reasons:

High Point Market:

The High Point Market, held twice yearly, is the world’s largest furnishings industry trade show. It draws around 75,000 attendees from more than 100 countries, including buyers, interior designers, architects, and others involved in the home furnishings industry. The market is an essential platform for manufacturers to showcase new products, discover trends, and establish industry connections.

Craftsmanship and Quality:

High Point manufacturers have distinguished themselves through superior craftsmanship and high-quality products. Over time, the city has developed a reputation for fine furniture that stands the test of time. Likewise, many manufacturers have specialized in producing higher-end, custom furniture that caters to specific consumer demands. In effect, this focus on quality over quantity has helped High Point maintain its significant role in the furniture industry.

Design and Innovation:

The furniture industry in High Point isn’t stuck in the past. On the contrary, manufacturers continually innovate, adopting new materials, technologies, and design trends. Certainly, this commitment to innovation keeps High Point’s furniture industry relevant and competitive, even as tastes and technologies evolve.

Educational Institutions:

High Point is home to educational institutions like High Point University, offering specialized furniture manufacturing, design, and marketing programs. Of course, these programs educate the next generation of furniture industry professionals and stimulate innovation and new ideas.

Industry Clustering:

High Point and its surrounding regions have a high concentration of furniture manufacturers, retailers, and associated industries, including textiles and logistics. To that end, this clustering effect allows for efficient production and distribution chains, collaborative innovation, and a competitive business environment, collectively contributing to the city’s continued relevance.

Cultural and Historical Significance:

The city’s rich furniture industry history attracts domestic and international visitors. The High Point Museum, for instance, chronicles the city’s record as a furniture manufacturing hub. This cultural significance adds an extra dimension to High Point’s role in the industry.

In summary, while global competition and market dynamics continually change the furniture industry’s landscape, High Point’s strategic role remains substantial due to its historical significance, commitment to quality and innovation, industry-focused education, and status as a global trade show destination.

 

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