|Building on a flair for
|Furniture maker from Woolwich wins national
WOOLWICH - When Paul Wanrooij's wife, Beth, gave
him a little advice, he listened. It was a decision that
changed his life.
Just a few years ago, Wanrooij was a
manager at a mail order business in North Carolina. There, he
sold — among other things — Cashmere sweaters. It was a
typical full-time job that got the bills paid with money left
over for life's extras. Today, he's left behind his
personnel-and-payroll life and financial security to become a
self-employed furniture maker.
"I think this is
fabulous; Paul's never been happier," said Beth of her
54-year-old husband's new vocation, even though the kitchen
and living room in the house they rent are used as a storage
facility for some of Paul's latest work. Large, shiny
bookcases and low, multicolored wood benches — furniture as
fine as it is unique — give a cluttered appearance to a home
that is otherwise sparsely furnished. In the midst of it all,
despite Paul's obvious artisanship and ambition, sits a simple
coffee table the couple purchased at a furniture
"It's a good table that you can buy at the store
very inexpensively," he said. "In my pieces, form is very
important. It's what makes my work stand out from the
The critics agree that Paul's work stands out.
Last month, for his "Sunrise Bench," he won a coveted 2005
Niche Award during The Buyer's Market of American Craft in
Philadelphia. The same bench won the "Excellence Award"
recently at the New Visions Gallery in Wisconsin, and his
"Oceana End Table" won "Best of Show" at the Will's Creek
Survey Exhibition in Maryland.
Wanrooij enjoys the
recognition, but he knows it won't sell his pieces. What does
sell his pieces is a certain person at a certain time at a
certain gallery falling in love.
"It happens in a
second, just like that," he said, snapping his fingers for
Showing his work in galleries throughout the
country has begun to yield results. Wanrooij has built and
sold more than 60 pieces, but as a business venture he's just
"I'm hopeful that I will make it one
day," he said. "My idea is to expand then increase
Wanrooij was born in The Netherlands. He
didn't complete his formal education, opting instead for
financial reasons to work for the family business. About 10
years ago, he came to the United States to visit a friend in
Iowa. That's where he met Beth. They've lived in several areas
of the country.
Woodworking became a part of their
relationship one year when she suggested he build a sailboat.
"She thought all Dutch people know how to build
boats," he said with a chuckle. "I finished it but I didn't
like sailing. I gave it to her brother-in-law."
she bought him a small lathe for his birthday. Then in August
2001, he started a two-year, furniture-making course at
Haywood Community College in North Carolina. An illness in the
family prevented him from finishing that course, but he
learned enough to start designing and building furniture. Now
he's working on spreading his name around.
distinguish yourself is very difficult," he said. "It's not
easy to sell this furniture."