The war between England and France gave a huge kick-start to the development of the square timber trade in Canada. Soon, other uses were found for the smooth straight-grained wood of the majestic White Pine.

Not surprisingly, house builders and furniture makers in England began to prize this resource, which they suddenly found to be plentiful. Many an English house, built during the nineteenth century, has a pine panelled library built with wood from the forests of Canada.

A giant pine, suitable for the square timber trade was often as much as 140 feet tall, and at six feet above the ground, had a trunk measuring six feet in diameter. The lower limbs of these giants die back as the tree grows, leaving a full grown tree with no branches for sixty five feet up the trunk — producing distinctively clear, beautiful, mottled pine boards.

In the nineteenth century, timber limits were clear cut. Nowadays, select, furniture grade wood is limited in supply. Often, only a single mature tree finds its way to the sawmill. The lumber from the knot-free timber is prized by cabinetmakers everywhere.

Any growth in trunk girth, after the limbs have fallen off, is free of knots. This knot free wood is straight grained, easy to work, and has a particularly delightful characteristic; the resins in the wood give a wonderfully warm tone to furniture as it ages.

Soon, lumber was being sawn into boards 3" thick and shipped to England in loads called 'deals'. Deals were measured by the cubic foot to determine the quantity of sawn boards in a bundle. Hence the phrase "What's the deal?".


Two hundred years ago, decades before the age of steam, ships plying the oceans of the world were powered by the wind. Ships carried acres of sails, suspended on a forest of wooden masts and spars.

Without sufficient sail, a ship was dead in the water. Without sufficient masts and spars, sails puddled uselessly on the deck.

Sailing the oceans wore ships out quickly. The endless pressure of howling winds tearing ceaselessly in the rigging is unimaginable. Salt and sun, rotted masts, canvas, and rope. Sailing barnacled hulls against the wearing resistance of waves and currents, required enormous supplies of sails, masts, and spars.

In 1806 war broke out between France and England. France had her own forests. England traditionally bought timber from the Baltic and from her colonies in New England. The American Revolution disrupted the supply of timber from New England while Napoleon Bonaparte ordered a blockade of the Baltic.

The Royal Navy found a ready supply of masts in the forests in what remained of their colonies in British North America. Navy masts were tall; between 75 and 100 feet! Two feet around at the base, and octagonal.

From this early demand by the Royal Navy, there began an enterprise which dwarfed any other in North America at the time.


A piece of furniture destined to become a prized possession must be well made. This begins with carefully selected and prepared lumber.

Drying removes naturally occurring moisture, and lumber can be kiln-dried or air-dried. Usually wood is dried in a kiln, as this is a much faster process. Kilns are temperature and humidity controlled environments.

Most wood species are dried to a very stable 8% moisture content. And lumber must be stable if it's going to be made into a piece of furniture. Reclaimed wood — from old factories, barns, and warehouses — is sure to be dry. This old wood is prized by furniture makers for its wide, old-growth boards, delightfully mellow colour, and naturally weathered character. Wood, distressed by time and circumstance, provides new furniture with natural characteristics of age.

Before timber is sent to the kiln, it must be downed and transported to a sawmill. After trees are selected for harvest, the next step is logging — felling, limbing all the branches, and bucking the logs to length.

Limbing removes the visible branches from the trunk. Portions of branches within the trunk appear as knots once the logs are cut into boards.

Logs are taken by logging truck, rail or a log-drive to the sawmill. The logs are evaluated by a scaler who determines the volume and quality of the wood before it is cut.

Logs are scaled, either on the way to the mill or upon arrival, where the bark is removed in a process named, aptly, de-barking. Next, the logs are decked, the process for sorting by species, size and end-use. For example; lumber, plywood or wood chips.

A sawmill's basic operation has remained the same for many years: a log enters in one end, and dimensional lumber exits the other. The head saw, head rig or primary saw, breaks the log into cants (unfinished logs) to be further processed and flitches (unfinished planks) with a smooth edge.

Depending upon the species and quality of the log, the cants are broken down further by a re-saw or gang-edger into multiple flitches or boards. Next, flitches are squared by an edging process and trimmed to length. Planing smooths the surface of the lumber leaving a uniform width and thickness.

Shipping transports the finished, dried lumber to market.


It is our intention to use our blog to inform. Information tends to change behaviour, ideally for the better.

We hope to persuade readers that there is a better way to approach furnishing their homes than the usual way. Few people buy furniture often enough to think differently about how furniture is generally sold or bought.

We expect to enlighten readers about decorating and designing: from how high to hang a chandelier (30" above the table, generally, but it depends!), to why some paint colours are depressing.

We will endeavour to provide answers to questions which shoppers in our store have asked over the years; practical questions like: what to look for in a "good" sofa; why prices can differ so much among different manufacturers, for what looks to be the same thing; or why designers should look back to ancient Greece for design guidance, and why understanding this heritage is relevant today.

Perhaps too, some posts will be quirky, or amusing, or entertaining, or reveal odd facts not immediately practical, but informative in some way.

For example, some believe that wood from pine trees today is softer than it was one hundred years ago. I have had people say to me that their grandmother's table was pine, that "The wood in her table was hard, not like pine today."; "The colour was gorgeous!".

Wood, before it can be used to make furniture, must be dried. The wood from deciduous trees such as oak, maple, cherry, and birch, have a high moisture content, but these species do not contain resins.

The wood from coniferous trees such as White Pine, Red Pine, Ponderosa Pine, and Longleaf Pine, have a high moisture content and a high resin content. Whether air dried, or kiln dried, the resins do not dry out quickly.

Resins harden over time. The moisture present in the wood dries out gradually when air-dried, and quickly when kiln-dried, but the resins take much longer to harden. Long after furniture made from pine is brought home, the resins continue to harden.

Think amber; the hard orange stuff insects get trapped in. The insects get trapped in the resin when it drips from a place where a branch has broken off and onto a spider or fly. As anyone knows who has ever climbed a pine tree knows, the resin is very sticky. Once hard, the sticky resin is called amber.

It is the resins which cause pine to turn the colour of amber. Any good, well made furniture bought today, that is made from properly dried lumber, will take on all the attributes of the most prized antiques.

So welcome to this space and please don't be shy. E-mail us here at with any questions, observations, challenges to conventional wisdom, or decorating challenges you may have.

Let us help you to, make your house a home.


We'll be closed for a few days over the holidays. Online shop is open as always!

Here are our Holiday Hours:

December 24, 25, 26 — Closed

December 27 — 10 to 5:30

December 28 — 10 to 5:30

December 29 — Noon to 5

December 30 — 10 to 5:30

December 31 — Closed

January 1 — Closed

Wishing you and yours all the best for the holidays and new year!


We've made a list, and checked it twice - here it is, your Holiday 2013 gift guide. We've chosen twelve of our favourite gift ideas for him, for her, (for you). Available online or in our shop, and starting from just $15.

Natural Cedar Scents

These cedar goodies are grown, harvested, and distilled in small batches just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Choose from our selection of incense, soaps, and satchets for the perfect stocking stuffer, or create your own custom collection. Starting from just $15. In store only.

Braided Rugs

We love these braided rugs for their quality, their lasting appeal and their heritage of resourcefulness and austerity. A warm addition for any room and so comfortable under foot.  In a great selection of colours to suit any decor, and the perfect size for your kitchen, foyer, bedside, hallway, or bathroom. Choose from a variety of sizes, materials and colours. Starting from just $39. In store only.

Shafley Canoe Prints

These simple prints by Ontarian Greg Shafley capture the quintessential Canadian summer - a welcome reminder any time of year. Professionally framed and matted, and at 12.25" W x 8.25" T, the perfect addition to a bookcase, hallway, breakfast nook, or office. Choose one of three variations, or hang them together in a grouping. Available online and in store, $85 each.

Pewter Oil Lamps

These exquisite Pewter Oil Lamps are handmade in Canada. Lovely on a mantle, side table, or as part of your tablescape. Choose your favourite or mix and match a trio of different shapes and sizes.  Starting from $100. Online and in store.

Decorative Toss Cushions

We have a great selection of toss cushions for your home, cottage, or chalet - like this 18" square hand-hooked 'Skier' pillow. Made with pure New Zealand wool, with a zippered velveteen backing and poly-fill pillow insert. A few of our seasonal favourites are available online here. Starting from $105.

Handwoven Indian Baskets

One of our favourite finds from this year's Santa Fe Indian Market, these one-of-a-kind woven baskets have found their way into every room and vignette in our showroom. Beautiful on its own as a decorative item,  or as an artful catch-all in the kitchen, entryway, or on the coffee table.  Multiple sizes, patterns, and colours available. Starting from $110. In store only.

Authentic Pendleton Trade Blankets

Pendleton Woolen Mills has been weaving these heritage Trade Blankets for more than 150 years. They are the ultimate in cozy, beautiful, high quality, and a welcome addition to any sofa, bed or chair. Each unique design tells a story.Online and in store, starting from $250.

Cottage Collection Three Cube Cubby in Red

An adorable and handy bench, handmade in Canada from solid pine.  Great in an entranceway for tidy storage of winter's accoutrements, or in a child's room for books and toys. 43"W x 13"D x 21"T. Available for purchase online or in store, $199.

Canadian Masters Stretched Canvas Prints

Timeless images from Canada’s most beloved historical artists, recreated directly on canvas.  Bring home your own piece of Canadiana from masters Tom Thomson, Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, Clarence Gagnon, A.Y. Jackson,Frederick Varley, and A.J. Casson.  Stretched and ready to hang. In multiple sizes, starting from $205. In store only.

Stone Mountain Collection Pottery Lamps

Warm, beautiful, interesting rooms are filled with light. On end tables, sofa tables, sideboards, bookcases, and beside a favourite reading chair - there is always room for another lamp.  These versatile pottery lamps will be a great addition to any room.  Choose from multiple shapes, sizes, and colours from our selectiononline or in store, starting from $255.

Champlain Collection Wolf Ear Rocking Chair

Everybody loves a great rocking chair.  Classic design and crafstmanship, handmade in Canada, and destined to be the most coveted seat by the fire. Available in time for Christmas in an Ivory painted finish, with diamond point seagrass seat, for $565. See the full details online, or come rock out in our store.

Early Settlement Collection Dovetail Blanket Box

Meticulously handcrafted in Canada, this blanket box is an heirloom piece. Traditionally found at the foot of the bed for extra storage and seating, and equally welcome in a living room, rec room, or playroom. Built with solid pine with dovetail fastening in each of the four corners. Available in time for christmas in our classic Williams Pine finish, as shown above. Online and in store, for $639.



Imagine a beautifully made, incredibly comfortable new chair or sofa. Imagine a slipcover, so well tailored it looks fully upholstered and so easy to remove you can swap it out in moments. Imagine one great sofa with two great outfits. Announcing our fitted slipcover upholstery event. 

Grade 1-10, Save 25%.

Chairs, Love Seats, Demis, Sofas, Sectionals

Sale Ends Sunday December 15

Demi Sofa Example:

Slipcover demi sofa, grade 1 fabric:   regular $2,545.    sale $1,899.
Additional slipcover, grade 1 fabric:   regular $920.   sale $690.
One great sofa, two great looks:   regular $3,465.   sale $2,589.

Chair Example:

Slipcover glide swivel chair, grade 1 fabric:   regular $1,335.   sale $999.
Additional slipcover, grade 1 fabric:   regular $745.   sale $558.
One great chair, two great looks:   regular $2,080.   sale $1,557.

Included With Purchase

• Two feather toss cushions with love seat, demi sofa, sofa, sectional
• Choose any fabric for toss cushions, regardless of grade
• Optional contrast welt, choose any fabric regardless of grade
• Hardwood frames
• Top quality spring system
• Foam core, feather wrapped seat cushions, with baffles
• Baffled feather blend back cushions

Dozens of Frames and Hundreds of Fabrics

Our fitted slipcover upholstery collection features dozens of frames and hundreds of beautiful fabrics. At any one time, we have 8-12 pieces in the store and the complete range of fabric selections. For a closer look, we've photographed two pieces — the spectacularly comfortable Juliana Gilder Swivel Chair and the classic Mariposa Demi Sofa — and added them to this website. These items are available to order online, and in a number of sizes. We have both pieces on display in our Ottawa showroom now. If you'd like to try them out or review the fabric selections, we encourage you to drop by.

Here's How the Slipcover Works

Your slipcovered sofa frame will arrive fully upholstered in white muslin. This tailored base-layer keeps the upholstering underneath firmly in place and is securely fit with heavy duty velcro strips. Similarly, seat and back cushions will arrive in individual baffled muslin casings. Of course, you won't see any of this. Your sofa will arrive with its slipcover fit snugly in place and secured with the extra-sturdy velcro strips. If you've ordered an additional slipcover, you'll find it neatly folded along with the included toss cushions. If you prefer not to have a slipcover, no problem. Most items in our slipcover collection are available fully upholstered at no additional cost.

Imagine Redecorating in Nine Minutes

Additional slipcovers are available for as little as $690. (for a sofa and including two toss cushion covers). In design terms, this buys you a second sofa — to say nothing of the increased longevity. On account of their visual mass, upholstered pieces are foundational in most design schemes. Swap out your summer for your winter slipcover, and re-decorate in minutes. Imagine, a cool floral for summer and a rich red for winter. Or maybe something staid and conservative for one slipcover and something a little less restrained for the other. We hear from our customers how satisfying and fun this is.

Watch This Short Video to See a Slipcover in Action:

Juliana Large Swivel Glider
It's usually best to avoid superlatives, but if we've heard it from one customer, we've heard it from hundreds: this actually is the most comfortable chair ... ever. In a chair, comfort is all about the float: the relative pitch of the seat as compared to the back. And the float in this chair is spot-on. Add to that, the feather-wrapped seat cushion and the feather-blend back cushion — you won't want to get up! Topped off with a silky smooth (and sturdy) swivel-glide mechanism, this chair is simply wonderful.

Fabric Grades Explained
The Juliana is also available on a stationary base, in a smaller size and in fabrics grade 1-10. As you may imagine, each fabric grade is a different price. In this case, grade 1 is the most affordable and grade 10 is the most costly. It's a bit counter-intuitive, but a grade 10 is not necessarily a better fabric than a grade 1. A bold design with a large repeat will produce more waste when the fabric is cut and the pattern matched. This would be a higher grade fabric, as more material is required to create the final product. Or linen, as another example, is typically more expensive than cotton, but often not more durable. Dozens of factors, even the type of dye, contribute to the cost of a fabric. We offer beautiful, durable fabrics at every grade. Shown here: grade 4, Sierra Cocoa.

Mariposa Demi Sofa
This classic frame, with its rolled arm and box-back cushions, is an enduring favourite. The arm sits at a nice height – just right for an arm rest, and not too high for naps or stretched out reading. The tailored cotton slipcover is a casual look, and in warm red with tan piping, produces a striking effect. With a generous seat depth, this frame is well suited for curled up reading, dozing off or watching movies. The Mariposa is available in a full compliment of sizes, including a sofa, demi and love seat, where they're differentiated only by their lengths. Be sure to select the correct length for your space. All other aspects of the design remain consistent.

Helpful Tip
It takes no time at all to get a slipcover on and off. And here's a helpful tip: if you take one off to wash it, don't let it dry completely before putting it back on. Obviously you don't want to soak the sofa, but with about 5% moisture left in the slipcover, it'll go on with far fewer wrinkles. Just be careful not to stretch it.

By The way
A slipcovered piece has a number of practical benefits. For one, most of the fabrics in our slipcovered program are 100% cotton and therefore, washable. We recommend a measured approach, so always test-wash the smallest cushion cover first, and always on the most gentle of gentle cycles (cold water, hang to dry, no dryer of course). This way, if something goes wrong, it's an easier fix. Also, a slipcover is removable, of course. So it's always easy to have a new one made. We can order one for you from our hundreds of fabrics, or just take your slipcover — not the entire sofa — to any upholsterer and they can simply measure the pattern and sew a new one.


The braided rug was a staple in early North American culture. Settlers used scraps of clothing and excess materials to make floor coverings that would provide warmth and comfort in a home. Even with the braids commercially available today, they're often made from the waste material of other textile products. This is the sort of resourcefulness and austerity that so characterized colonial life and remains today, a great source of pride and meaning. Similar to quilt making, rug weaving remains an heirloom tradition.

Many guests in the store share memories of learning the tradition at a parent or grandparent's side. We've sold Capel braided rugs for years and years and the feedback has always been positive. Not once, have we had a rug returned for lack of quality.

Braided rugs by Capel

Established in 1917, Capel is a third generation family business, and today, is recognized as America's oldest and largest manufacturer and importer of area rugs. After Henry Ford invented the tractor, Leon Capel fashioned the raw material from his plough line company into braids and sewed them into spirals to make reversible braided rugs. Mules and the plough lines used to steer them were obsolete, but as sales grew Leon realized that nearly every family could use a braided rug.

Today Capel employees 400 people and does its own dyeing, spinning, braiding and sewing, in its Troy, North Carolina factory. At The Emporium, we love Capel rugs for their quality, their lasting appeal and their heritage of resourcefulness and austerity. Ourselves, a family business, we love the Capel story. It reminds us that working together, a family can build something substantial and can make a real contribution.

Braided rugs by Capel


Apparently, a popular option in Japan is to have the movers do the packing up as well as the moving house. Embarrassingly, I find the efficiency and specialty packing supplies riveting.

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