Kittinger Company

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Kittinger Company
Family business
Industry Furniture
Founded Buffalo, New York, 1866
Headquarters Buffalo, New York, USA
Area served
Williamsville, NY
Products Residential and contract furniture
Owner Raymond Bialkowski, President/CEO
Number of employees
< 50
Website www.kittingerfurniture.com

The Kittinger Company is an American maker of traditional colonial reproduction furniture that was founded in 1866. Kittinger's primary showroom, Kittinger Gallery and Design Studio, is located in Williamsville, New York and today is known for the high-quality furniture it produces that is featured prominently in the White House.[1]

History[edit]

The Kittinger Company traces its origins to a paper manufacturer founded in 1866 in Buffalo, New York and trading as "Thompson, Colie & Co." The production of upholstered furniture by George and Oliver Colie, trading as "Colie & Son," followed in 1870, producing largely hand-made furniture for the Buffalo and New York City markets. The first factory, specializing at first in frames for upholstery, was erected in 1885 in Buffalo.[2] Advertising in 1904,[3] Colie and Son illustrated one of their armchairs, that showed they were still making furniture in the free Colonial Revival style for their "snappy, original styles in Parlor Suites, Odd Chairs, Divans, Easy Chairs etc." Reproductions more closely based on original American 18th-century pieces of furniture would come to characterize the firm's production under George Colie's son-in-law[4]

In 1913, Irvine J. Kittinger, who had been working for the firm, and his brother Ralph; they purchased the company from the Colie family and changed the company's name to the Kittinger Company. Under Kittinger’s control, the company’s primary focus was to produce the highest quality furniture possible. By 1929, the company was grossing $1,000,000 annually.[5] The Kittinger family controlled and remained involved with the Company until they sold their interests in 1966.

In 1990, after passing through a series of corporate owners, the company was acquired by USC Industry. The following years proved tough for the Kittinger Company under poor management, and the company filed for bankruptcy.

In 1996, Raymond Bialkowski, a former Kittinger cabinet maker, purchased the Kittinger name and production rights. Since coming under Bialkowski’s control, the company has returned to profitability and has expanded its workforce.

In September 2012, Kittinger expanded into Japan with the opening of a showroom at the Sala Azabu store in Tokyo.[6]

Design studio and showrooms[edit]

Kittinger furniture is available through several showrooms across the country. Kittinger's primary showroom, Kittinger Gallery and Design Studio, is located in Williamsville, New York. Showrooms in Texas, Washington D.C., Illinois, Ohio, and many other states represent and carry the Kittinger lines. Most pieces are built-to-order to customers specifications and needs.

Special projects[edit]

The White House[edit]

Nixon's Cabinet with Kittinger furniture

A number of Kittinger reproductions can still be found in the West Wing office area of the White House in Washington, D.C. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation interior designers were commissioned by President Richard Nixon in 1970 to redo the interior design of the President's offices. Kittinger Company furniture was used extensively in the redesign since this company was the sole licensee of furniture for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's famous program to produce exact reproductions of 18th century antiques.[7] Included in the redesign was a new conference table and chairs for the cabinet room. President Nixon wrote a personal check to pay for the new cabinet room table custom made by The Kittinger Company and donated it to the White House.

Along with furnishing areas of the White House, the Kittinger Company has also produced furniture for the inaugurations of former President George W. Bush and current President Barack Obama. In 2005, the White House commissioned six chairs from Kittinger for the second inauguration of former President George W. Bush. In 2009, the White House commissioned an additional two chairs and utility table for the inauguration of current President Barack Obama.[8] The White House reused the pieces crafted by Kittinger again for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2013.[1]

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation[edit]

In 1937 the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation selected the Kittinger Company as the exclusive licensed reproducer of furniture at Colonial Williamsburg[9] Kittinger reproductions were sold through the Williamsburg Reproductions program, the Craft House, established that year.[10] Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg could see Kittinger cabinetmakers in period costume at work in the workshop established in the Ayscough house.[11] Williamsburg reproductions came with a bill of sale detailing the history of the original piece and were branded with the Williamsburg stamp. Other reproductions by Kittinger were labeled with a letterpress label in the 18th-century style. Like their rivals Biggs Furniture of Richmond, Virginia, Kittinger served an upper middle class market in search of mostly mahogany, reproduction furniture with dovetailed oak drawer lining, frame-and-panel backs and other mark of quality comparable to the originals, in the Queen Anne, Chippendale and Hepplewhite styles. In 1990 the license expired and was granted to Baker Furniture Company.

Apart from the Williamsburg reproductions other series were marketed under names evoking the colonial period: Richmond hill Collection,[12] Old Dominion Collection[13] and the like.

Historic Newport[edit]

The success of Kittinger reproductions licensed by Colonial Williamsburg Foundation encouraged the Preservation Society of Newport County to license Kittinger to reproduce 18th-century pieces by the Goddard and Townsend families of cabinetmakers and other furniture made in colonial Newport, Rhode Island in the Society's possession. Paper labels on this series of furniture read "For the Preservation Society of Newport County".

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum[edit]

The Kittinger Company was commissioned to produce several of its pieces from the White House including fireside chairs, coffee table, pen book table, telephone table, council table and mahogany chairs with cane backs.[14] These pieces are on display in the replica Oval Office in the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Government[edit]

In the past, the Kittinger Company has been commissioned to craft furniture for the Capital Building, Supreme Court, and several government officials.[15] Kittinger also reproduced under license furniture for Independence Hall, Philadelphia, and Historic Savannah.[16]

White House Down (film)[edit]

Sony Pictures commissioned Kittinger to make reproductions of its furniture in the White House for its film White House Down, released in 2013. Kittinger crafted several sets of furniture for the production of the film.[17]

Competitors[edit]

Other high-end manufacturers of reproduction furniture, some by authorized license, include Baker Furniture, Kindel Furniture and Saybolt-Cleland furniture.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Buffalo Rising staff (February 3, 2016). "Kittinger chairs headed for the White House". Buffalo Rising. Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Design Journal:Kittinger Furniture, Inc.
  3. ^ The American Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer October 15, 1904, p. .
  4. ^ Kittinger Furniture Company: history
  5. ^ Design Journal: Kittinger Furniture, Inc.
  6. ^ Bertola, David (June 12, 2012). "Kittinger to receive 'Made in America' award". Buffalo Business First. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "Douglas W. Kenyon Biography". Hunton and Williams. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  8. ^ http://www.furnituretoday.com/article/162714-Kittinger_Vanguard_help_furnish_White_House.php
  9. ^ Pollard, Garland (2004-03-01). "Colonial Williamsburg, its history". brandchannel.com. Interbrand. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  10. ^ "Archives: Case Pieces". Americana Furniture and Interiors. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  11. ^ History of Colonial Williamsburg Kittinger Company reproductions, 1937-1990
  12. ^ Branded "Richmond Hill Collection by Kittinger" within a cartouche.
  13. ^ In collaboration with Biggs, Richmond, which became a subsidiary of Kittinger.
  14. ^ http://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/articles/Kittinger-Replicated-Furniture-for-George-W-Bush-Library-204539991.html#sthash.6ASZLzZR.dpbs
  15. ^ http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/stories/2009/01/19/daily2.html?page=all
  16. ^ Americana interiors: Kittinger Company
  17. ^ http://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/articles/Kittinger-Replicated-Furniture-for-George-W-Bush-Library-204539991.html#sthash.6ASZLzZR.dpbs

External links[edit]