With a history spanning three centuries, Bernhardt Furniture is a truly American brand. Boasting neutral color schemes and top-notch quality, Bernhardt is approachable, yet luxe — quintessential, but not without a bit of spunk. Its furnishings are versatile and stripped down enough to fit most interiors, making for foundational pieces that are ideal for grounding an interior. If you aspire to achieve that timeless Bernhardt look, you’ve come to the right place! We asked Gregory Heller, Bernhardt’s VP of residential casegoods merchandising, to give us the inside scoop on what makes Bernhardt furniture just so special. Ahead, discover ways to decorate using Bernhardt Furniture!
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History of the Brand
As part of the great North Carolinian tradition of furniture making — alongside peers like Broyhill, Thomasville, and Drexel Heritage — Bernhardt has a rich history. John Mathias Bernhardt originally founded the company in 1889 to manufacture furniture out of native white oak. The Bernhardt name gradually became associated with affordable and sturdy tables and casegoods featuring intricate oak-grain finishes.
Post-WWII, Bernhardt filled the demand for furniture, which mushroomed as soldiers returned to the U.S. and purchased homes. The brand quickly made a name for itself, particularly for its upholstered furniture. Now led by the family’s fourth generation, Bernhardt holds itself to an ethos of “aspirational design with approachable prices,” Gregory says.
3 Traits of Bernhardt Furniture
One of the most lovable characteristics of Bernhardt Furniture is its large-and-in-charge silhouettes. The trait sprung out of the ’70s, most notably when the brand collaborated with famous furniture designer Milo Baughman. Together, they rolled out huge sectional sofas in cushy upholstery, befitting of a sizable living room or family room.
The brand’s beds are larger than standard California kings, and often have tightly tufted and upholstered headboards. Their style — whether it’s a fresh adaptation of the French Provincial style or a blend of modern and rustic aesthetics — makes them feel even grander. Thanks to their size and design, Bernhardt fittings can really fill an oversized space, whether that be a big bedroom or a family room.
The Lulu chair, an armless swivel chair, is another example of the brand’s penchant for sizable proportions. Although compact, the chair’s balloon-like silhouette makes it appear more imposing. Similarly, the brand’s Camino chair, also showcases ample sizing. Both chairs lend themselves well to glamorous, yet still grounded, interiors.
Don’t be fooled by Bernhardt’s neutral color schemes! The brand also has a playful side, paired with a couture-like eye for detail. For example, the Moderne sofa possesses a curvy, asymmetrical silhouette, blending the cheekiness of 70s era interior design with a classic 18th-century flair.
“Either in selection of materials, or the use of form, scale, or proportion, Bernhardt strives to make distinct, one-of-a-kind pieces,” Gregory says. Unique items, like an accent table that perpetually tilts and a dining table with a cylindrical base made of stainless-steel tubes, help exemplify Bernhardt’s fun-loving spirit.
With plenty of multi-purpose pieces, Bernhardt Furniture designs with versatility in mind. Gregory’s biggest tip to taking advantage of double-duty fittings? Get creative! He suggests reworking dining storage pieces into a home office and etageres as room dividers. He adds, “think about the need and then be creative in what you select.” Considering the brand’s timeless designs and easy-to-work-with silhouettes, sideboards, buffets, console tables, and side tables can all be interchanged, depending on the context.
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Photos courtesy of Bernhardt Furniture