A PLACE IN TIME

One Penn­syl­va­nia cou­ple em­braces the mind­ful life—craft­ing home goods with care and con­sid­er­ing their own eco-foot­print with ev­ery step.

Martha Stewart Living - - October 2016 - PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY HE­LEN NOR­MAN TEXT BY CATHER­INE HONG

The act of sav­ing string might sound like a throw­back to the Great De­pres­sion or the tac­tic of a con­tes­tant on Sur­vivor. But for Jan Hoff­man and David Wood­ward, a mar­ried cou­ple liv­ing in the ru­ral town of East Ber­lin, Penn­syl­va­nia, the fru­gal habit is a way of life. “We have a fa­vorite say­ing,” says Hoff­man. “No string is too short to save!” Adds her hus­band, “Why would you throw it out? You can use it to tie up a tomato plant, lash pick­ets on a fence, or wind it around a han­dle for a bet­ter grip.”

Over the past two decades, the cou­ple, both ar­ti­sans long be­fore they met, have been hon­ing their craft as mak­ers of fur­ni­ture and home goods, of­ten en­list­ing tech­niques that date back to the 18th cen­tury. They sell their stu­diously sim­ple pieces—from stools and daybeds to plates and ap­ple pick­ers—at the store­front in their home, and can count de­sign con­nois­seurs like Bunny Wil­liams and Carolyne Roehm among their ad­mir­ers. They’re also reg­u­lar ven­dors at the pres­ti­gious Trade Se­crets gar­den and an­tiques show in Sharon, Con­necti­cut. But the sin­gu­lar way in which they live day to day may be their most re­mark­able achieve­ment of all.

Their lov­ingly pre­served 1790 stone home has no air con­di­tion­ing, so in the sum­mer they sleep in an open-sided shed on com­fort­able linen cots they built. They ir­ri­gate their kitchen gar­den with rain­wa­ter. They save seeds and raise chick­ens. They spend their evenings not watch­ing Net­flix but tin­ker­ing in the wood­shop—and they get around on vin­tage bikes. When the han­dle re­cently fell off their fa­vorite glass pitcher, Wood­ward, a skilled met­al­worker as well as car­pen­ter, made a new one out of old tin. “When some­thing breaks, we don’t dis­card it; we fix it,” Hoff­man says. “It’s what my grand­par­ents called ‘mak­ing do.’”

While their de­vo­tion to self-re­liance and re­duc­ing waste may seem ex­treme, it’s sec­ond na­ture to them. “We’ve built our life around not need­ing a lot of dol­lars to live,” says Wood­ward, adding that their fur­ni­ture busi­ness isn’t par­tic­u­larly prof­itable, con­sid­er­ing the hours that go into each piece. “There’s a sat­is­fac­tion and peace of mind that come from par­ing down.”

The cou­ple met 19 years ago in East Ber­lin, where Hoff­man had moved and opened a wood­shop. She grew up in Penn­syl­va­nia with par­ents who owned a poul­try hatch­ery, but never in­tended to be­come a poster child for sus­tain­abil­ity. “I stud­ied fash­ion de­sign in col­lege,” she says. “Then I dis­cov­ered I was more in­ter­ested in the mak­ing of the clothes than the fash­ion.” She met Wood­ward—who grew up in Bal­ti­more County, Mary­land, and be­gan restor­ing fur­ni­ture as a kid—when she needed some­one to build some draw­ers. “A friend said, ‘I’ll take you to a fel­low, Dove­tail Dave,’” she re­calls fondly. “He knew how to make ev­ery sin­gle kind of fur­ni­ture joint.”

Their shared love of early-Amer­i­can de­sign rules the aes­thetic of their home, a haven of pure forms and a pati­naed pal­ette, ac­cented with shades of robin’s-egg blue (a rare but much sought-af­ter color of Colo­nial-era fur­ni­ture). But it would be wrong to think that the two­some are liv­ing out a ye-olde fan­tasy. They’re fond of their tablet and lap­tops—they learned how to prop­a­gate cer­tain herbs from YouTube—and in so many ways are ahead of the curve. Says Hoff­man with pride, “We have a 1982 Mercedes that runs on veg­etable oil.”

Lo­cated in what was orig­i­nally the kitchen of Jan Hoff­man and David Wood­ward’s 18th- cen­tury house, the cou­ple’s store is a show­case for their metic­u­lously hand­made fur­ni­ture and fix­tures, in­clud­ing their cov­eted cop­per sinks, hard­wood stools, and...

In Jan Hoff­man and David Wood­ward’s 18th-cen­tury home, their desk is cov­ered with sketches for fu­ture projects.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.