When I first bought a house in Buffalo, almost twenty years ago, I was lucky to have some mid-century modern furniture passed along from grandparents on both my mom’s and dad’s side. The pieces of furniture helped me to appreciate furniture design, which eventually incorporated a passion for lighting.
These days, walking into a generic furniture or lighting store, there appears to be nothing inspirational, just the same old bored designs that resurface year after year. Thankfully, over the years a few stores have opened that do carry more thoughtful home decor, but it’s still few and far between.
A new furniture and lighting boutique recently opened on Elmwood in Allentown, that has reinvigorated what it means to be an true artisan in a world of design clutter. The store is a partnership between Wrafterbuilt (custom furniture) and Emerson James (custom lighting). I stopped in to see Jacqulyn (Jackie) Wrafter, who is co-owner of Wrafterbuilt along with her husband/designer/builder Sean Wrafter. Jackie is curating the new storefront, styling the place, and is charge of business operations.
As I walked around, spying all of the wonderful furniture and lighting designs, Jackie told me how the whole enterprise meshed. “Sean and Andrew (Emerson) met at one of the HGTV filmings in Buffalo,” she explained. “They realized how much they had in common. Then they worked together on various design elements of Toutant (one of the city’s newest restaurants). Wrafterbuilt constructed the back bar and the bar, and Emerson James handled the lighting – most notably the impressive chandelier. The partnership was successful, and it was decided that we should all have a storefront to showcase our designs.”
Now the collaboration of the two designers has culminated in a stylish storefront that boasts everything from refurbished and painted axes (perfect for groomsmen) created by Emerson James, to unique, handcrafted, living edge reclaimed wood tables built by Wrafterbuilt. Together, these works assemble together and compose a showroom gallery that speaks to the collective aesthetic eye of all parties involved. The simplicity of the lighting balances with the streamlined angles of the tables upon which they rest.
Before they became showroom partners, each party spent years honing their respective crafts. Wrafterbuilt got its start when Jackie (photo right) and Sean moved into a large house and realized that it was going to cost a fortune to buy furniture. “So Sean began to make tables,” Jackie told me. “Then we started getting inquiries from friends who wanted pieces made for them. Eventually we began to sell at Ró on Elmwood, which is how we first tested the retail market. Essentially, our pieces are where “rustic meets modern”, with reclaimed wood and hand forged metal.”
As Jackie and I spoke, Andrew (photo left) walked in, so I asked him how he got his start in the lighting industry. “I worked in a retail showroom for ten years,” he explained. “I was fixing lights and talking to electricians – I learned on the job. Then I started tinkering with prefab parts, to make simple lights. I took an internship with a machinist and learned to weld and build my parts from scratch. I’ve been in the lighting industry for 13 years. I work with custom designs – the fun lies in the simplicity of the fixture.”
Along with all of the custom creations, the storefront will also sell a number of other home decor pieces, including upholstered furniture from EQ3. “Our price points are lower than what people might expect,” said Jackie. “We wanted to have Pottery Barn prices, but more stylish. We will continue to stock items that are readily available and fit our aesthetic and style. Eventually we want to be a full lifestyle branded store.”
This evening, the two design entities housed under one roof, are hosting an unveiling for Wrafterbuilt’s latest creation – a custom, hand fabricated bar cart (custom colors, wood, etc). Then they will have their official Grand Opening on July 11, 2o15.
It’s great to see more retail in Allentown. It’s also great that these are all custom made pieces, built by quality craftsmen right here in Buffalo. I can’t wait to see the various works that will be continually populating the storefront, along with other works commissioned by this city’s restaurant industry (Lloyd on Hertel next). Hopefully this is a trend that will continue for many years to come.
To learn more about these businesses, visit the following Facebook pages.