When Julian and Natalie Dion moved into their new home in Tappan seven years ago, it was right before Christmas and there wasn’t much left in the way of money to pay for new furniture. Julian, a master carpenter with experience in construction, set out to remedy that by building a dining room table, and soon added a bench here, a table there.
His handiwork caught the attention of their visitors.
“People would come to our house and they’d ask, ‘Where’d you buy this?’ And we were like, ‘No, we made it.’ ” Natalie said. “If I could design it and think of it, he could make it. He could make everything come to life.”
Thus the seed was planted that grew over the next five years into The Carpentry Shop Co., which the couple opened in 2020 on Oak Tree Road (naturally), a mile from their home.
The shop specializes in made-to-order pieces handcrafted in their shop from sustainably sourced wood. The home decor, furnishings, and outdoor pieces are fashioned from towering wooden slabs stored on the premises, which customers can browse before selecting the grain that suits their tastes.
The wood Julian and his team select is in its natural state, with the imperfections giving each piece a distinctive quality that’s absent in mass-produced products. In fact, The Carpentry Shop is a direct repudiation of the so-called “fast furniture” trend that entices buyers with cheaply made imports with a short shelf life.
“They’re not using real wood,” Julian said of the commercially manufactured goods. “The people that we’re targeting that are coming in are people that appreciate quality and understand.”
“We’re really trying to do things the right way,” Natalie added. “Yes, we could use veneer, but it’s not necessarily the right way and so we would rather not make it that way. We want to do things so we know they’re going to last.” The shop’s products are built to last for generations, “almost like an heirloom, something that can get passed down, something that holds a story,” she said.
The raw materials The Carpentry Shop works with include domestic species like maple and walnut and exotic imported varieties from South America and beyond, which are harvested without relying on clear-cutting or other environmentally damaging methods. The wood is kiln-dried to remove moisture and increase the finished product’s durability.
The Dions’ homegrown aesthetic extends beyond their own shop into their efforts to build a community of artisans among their suppliers and other carpenters, many of them fellow small business owners. A line of woven placemats and table runners featured on The Carpentry Shop’s website are handmade by Lenna Kashishian, a textile artist and designer from New City.
The couple’s ambitions extend beyond their local roots: They have remodeled The Sugar Maple Inn, located along the Deerfield River in West Dover, Vermont, for a planned 2023 opening.
Julian, who grew up in Maine among generations of woodworkers, and Natalie, who’s originally from Manhattan, met when they were students at Penn State. They have two daughters, Sofia and Alexandra.
The challenges of running a small business are outweighed by the satisfaction, according to the Dions. “Having control over your life, it feels empowering,” Natalie, a former US government analyst, says in a video on the shop’s website. “I’m doing something every day that I love, and when you typically open a small business, it’s to do something that you’re necessarily passionate about.”
- Visit thecarpentryshop.com for more information.
Robert Brum is a veteran journalist who has extensively covered the lower Hudson Valley.