Meet The Makers | Mar 23, 2023
Don’t let his traditional upbringing fool you—LaVern Hershberger has an eye for modern design. Though he’s been crafting heirloom-quality furnishings for his family’s furniture brands, Homestead Furniture and Abner Henry, since teenhood, his present-day pieces for the latter—a contemporary offshoot of the former—are brimming with contemporary appeal. “Fulfilling the brand’s mission to ‘serve with excellence’ requires innovation,” he tells Business of Home. “We constantly have to push the envelope.”
Growing up near the tiny rural town of Fredericksburg, Ohio, Hershberger was immersed in his family’s Craftsman-style furniture-making business. At 14, he began working at the company’s on-site manufacturing facility, where he learned how to do everything from cut lumber to hand-mix dyes and glazes. “I worked in every department at the factory and spent several years in the color development lab, before eventually being named president of the company [in 2022],” he says. When he started, the brand only offered six finishes; it now supplies more than 3,000 options, many of which were designed in collaboration with interior designers to meet the market’s ever-evolving needs.
Today, the brand offers an array of exquisite hand-made confections spanning four-poster hardwood beds, architectural brass-banded cocktail tables and black-silver-embossed consoles. Under Hershberger’s direction, the 100-year-old company has carved out a unique space in the industry, offering fully customizable furnishings that fuse centuries-old craft techniques—passed down from generations of Amish makers—with cutting-edge technology. “Our craftsmen have incredible talent in a wide range of areas—from technical skills to artisanal finish applications—which allows us to respond to each designer’s order and craft it to the level of quality our clients have come to expect,” he says.
Each and every item by Abner Henry is made in-house, with orders submitted via the company’s newly developed—and incredibly easy-to-navigate—online ordering system, which is managed by the brand’s internal IT team. After a designer has signed up for an account, they can customize each design down to the size, wood species, hardware and finishes. “Once an order has been processed, the designer can track the status, view completion photos and build their own portfolio for projects,” says Hershberger. “Our current lead time is approximately 10 to 12 weeks.”
To forge each distinct design, Hershberger and his team employ a medley of raw materials—including locally sourced, Midwest-native hardwoods—and old-school methods to ensure each piece is truly one of a kind. “We have processes that range from hand-applied stains to finishes that require up to 20 steps to achieve a specific look and feel,” he says. “We also have an on-site blacksmith shop that gives us the flexibility to utilize unique metal applications.”
Later this month, the brand will unveil its highly anticipated collaboration with The Met. The series spans seven limited-edition furniture designs inspired by some of the museum’s most iconic artworks, including Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers and The Dance Class by Edgar Degas. “Each piece is a work of art in and of itself,” he says.
Looking ahead, Hershberger says he and his team are currently hard at work on a fresh range of personalizable furnishings that, like all of the brand’s offerings, rely on age-old craftsmanship—not mainstream trends––to stand the test of time. “The goal is to cement Abner Henry’s place in the luxury furniture market,” he says. “If we continue to build on the customization and quality we are known for, we can keep elevating the brand with more refined artisanal designs.”
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