Founded in 1889 by John Mathias Bernhardt, Bernhardt Furniture Company’s history originates from humble roots, evolving into one of the largest family-owned furniture manufacturers in the U.S. today.
The story begins 133 years ago, when Bernhardt found work as a logger in rural North Carolina after being orphaned at the young age of 13. A few years later, he furthered his career in the lumber business by purchasing his own sawmill. Bernhardt went on to construct a local railroad to transport timber, as well as a 20-mile log flume acknowledged as the longest ever built in America.
It didn’t take long for Bernhardt to recognize an opportunity to use his timber for the production of furniture. He honed the talents of local craftsmen and invested in the purchase of a veneer mill, lumber yard, and numerous kilns in Lenoir, North Carolina. His efforts resulted in what is now known as the Bernhardt Furniture Company, with 12 facilities and 1500 skilled employees.
In 1981, Bernhardt Furniture expanded into the commercial marketplace with two additional companies – Bernhardt Design and Bernhardt Textiles. Serving the international architectural and design communities, they quickly became industry leaders in furniture innovation and production.
Over the past 30 years, Bernhardt Design President Jerry Helling has assembled an extraordinary creative team with a roster of talent that includes: Ross Lovegrove (London), Arik Levy (Paris), Jaime Hayon (Valencia), Luca Nichetto (Venice), Ini Archibong (Neuchâtel), Patrick Jouin (Paris), Fabien Baron (New York), Monica Förster (Stockholm), CuldeSac (Valencia), Claudio Bellini (Milan), Chrissa Amuah (London), Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance (Paris), Raleigh Denim (Raleigh), Farg & Blanche (Stockholm), Charles Pollock (New York), Claudia and Harry Washington (San Salvador), Anabela Chan (London), Océane Delain (Paris), Joe Gebbia (San Francisco), Cory Grosser (Pasadena), and Terry Crews (Los Angeles).
Setting a precedent for leadership within the corporate community, Bernhardt Design founded and annually sponsors an interdisciplinary course with the world-renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, challenging students to create world-class designs for mass production. The company also sponsors the ICFF Studio, a scholarship program that provides emerging design talent exposure to manufacturers, retailers, and media from around the world.
American Design Honors, an annual award to recognize the most noteworthy American designers, was established by Bernhardt Design in 2010. Internationally, Bernhardt Design supports young designers through their sponsorship of the annual Contempo program conceived to advance the design profession in El Salvador, and America Made Me, a program to promote new brands and young American design talent abroad.
As a founding member of Be Original, Bernhardt Design is committed to the importance of preserving original design through education and informational programming.