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Customers Spreading Joy In Wood

 Richard Csenge's business sustained by word of mouth
by Mari Maxwell, Times Record Staff  
The Times Record,  Brunswick, Maine, Wednesday, July 28, 1999 

       Richard Csenge calls himself a self-educated student of period furniture design, primarily American and English styles.

      As the owner of Joy In Wood, Furnituremakers, he says his pieces are crafted with 20 years of on-the-job experience, a careful eye, loving hand and high quality joinery and materials.

    "There's a lot of value here. One of the challenges for a craftsman is to help educate the public as to where they can obtain real value." he said. "These are future antiques. They're an investment up front."

    Not so with a new car that lasts a few years before its owner has to reinvest is some new wheels, he says.

    Csenge hopes that a wider crossection of American consumers will begin to see the value of a well-crafted piece of handmade furniture built to last hundreds of years as compared to investing in the few years a new car will last. There is, he said, a certain joy to living with a piece which has been created by hand. While perhaps more costly than the off-the-shelf items many consumers are used to, craftsman-made furniture is durable and beautiful.

    "There's also the aspect of the pleasure of living and living with refinement and style" he says. "My furniture designs are from an era when grace and dignity, slower pace of life, appreciation for life and culture were more central to the lifestyle. I'd like to see that return and grow again in America."                              

      Joy In Wood, which is housed in the old Topsham Fire Station at 38 Main Street, has been in business for 20 years and is marking this year's anniversary by joining the local chamber of commerce. In that 20 years Csenge, 47, says his business has thrived by word of mouth with only yellow pages advertising.

    The first floor showroom is where Csenge showcases his finished pieces by appointment only. Along the walls of his second floor workshop saw blades, chisels and clamps are neatly stored.

    Downstairs where Csenge lives with his wife Debra, a set of weathered spruce cabinets he made adorns the kitchen-dining area of their newly remodeled living space. Soft lighting reveals hand-buffed finishing and finessed detailing on more than two dozen furniture pieces that Csenge has created. Items displaying a price tag are for sale in his front showroom: all others are their own which he invites potential customers to view to gage the quality and breadth of his workmanship.

    Not for sale is a blanket chest featuring gothic arched panels and made of aromatic cedar and chestnut, a present Csenge made for his wife Debra with her initials and the year 1989 incised into its front.

    Csenge signs and dates every item he is commissioned to create or has built to furnish his home because he feels its an important step to ensure that each piece becomes a valuable antique in the future.

    Csenge makes virtually anything; tables, chairs, desks, chests and accessories to order. In fact, he has two areas of specialization, the other being fine antique restoration.

    He likes working in several American furniture styles dating from 1680 to 1820. The reason ,he says, is because after the Victorian era furniture designs became less original and more a mix of previous styles. He works with all domestic woods including walnut, cherry, oak, maples and mahogany. 

    "My interest really lies in creating beautiful things of lasting value," he said. "What's important to me is the design and meeting my customer's expectations. I try to exceed those expectations."  
 Email: Joy In Wood