Worthen Custom Iron & Brass Furniture seeks broader audience with expanded line

Company’s domestic manufacturing footprint aims to bring quality story beyond core bed assortment to other parts of the home

RICHMOND, Va. — For most of its nearly 50-year history, the company known as Brass Beds of Virginia has been associated with a line of high-quality, domestically made antique reproduction brass and metal beds bearing highly traditional designs.

Today, beds remain a core part of the luxury furniture line, which was renamed Worthen Custom Iron & Brass Furniture as part of a rebranding in late 2022/early 2023. The goal was to update its image and to highlight its presence in other product categories such as shelving, bedside tables, benches, etageres, cocktail and end tables, and ottomans.

Kane Corey, assistant plant manager, is seen doing assembly work on a bed frame.

With this expanded mix, the company seeks to reach a broader audience of both designers and retailers that can mix and match items with other pieces for the bedroom and living room, creating a look that adds metal as a core mixed media element in ways customers may not have previously envisioned.

Earlier this year, the company also brought on furniture industry veteran Doug Rozenboom as chief executive officer and a partner in the business. In this role, he will use his decades of experience to help further develop the product mix and also help further introduce the refreshed brand to his many contacts in the industry. Rozenboom got to work immediately, not only helping establish a showroom presence in High Point this past spring, but also developing several new occasional table collections that incorporate the company’s skills in metal furniture fabrication and finishing.

Patrick Williams, plant manager, is seen putting a cannonball cap on a headboard.

This work is done from a 40,000-square-foot operation in Richmond that does everything from the shaping of frames to the casting of decorative finials and rosettes for beds, benches, tables and display pieces. These are made to order, giving the customer a chance, for example, to design their own bed in the size and height they want and choose among more than 30 finishes, including some 20 colors and a half-dozen brass finishes plus stainless, brushed stainless and various natural steel tones.

Customers also can color match any order to complement the look of an individual room, be it a wall color or a finish on another piece of furniture.

“We will finish to order,” Rozenboom said of specific customer requests. “If they have an idea we will create it.”

And while the finishes include some traditional brass tones, they also have been updated to reflect fashion trends in the marketplace, offering powder-coating techniques for  more antiqued or distressed looks, not to mention more colorful, contemporary designs that are increasingly popular among consumers. Many of these are six- to eight-step finishes, that include hand applications, along with brushing and antiquing of multihued tones combined with processes such as sandblasting and baking the finished pieces in large ovens.   

At the heart of this artisan approach is a team of about 10 production workers, many of whom are graduates of the prestigious art program at Virginia Commonwealth University. While some may not have envisioned a career in furniture manufacturing, the artisan approach at Worthen helps them utilize skills they developed as part of their higher education.

As each piece is made one at a time, the customer is having a bed or table built to their specifications, a model that dates back to its beginnings in 1975. The difference today is that the line continues to evolve with new pieces and new finishes aimed at keeping it current with design trends in the marketplace.

Rob Sterling, marketing director, shows various finish samples on castings.

“We have a lot of heritage goods and we want to create new heritage goods,” Rozenboom said, likening the process to having a shoe made versus mass produced. “It’s a different kind of shoe,” he said of the custom-made product.

“It’s hand made, and it’s American-made,” echoed Rob Sterling, marketing director, adding that many raw materials are also sourced in states such as Virginia and Kentucky. He added that the company’s policy is to guarantee the product not just for the life of the owner, but also for the lifetime of the next generation of heirs who inherit the product.

And having a young and emerging work force educated locally has been a major asset, particularly in upholding the manufacturing traditions the company has used since the beginning ranging from the bending and welding of steel to the casting and finishing of decorative elements.

“We are looking for that next generation of craftspeople,” Rozenboom said of the need to retain and attract talent now and in the future. “Those are the people we want to attract. We are designing, developing and building it. Everything is done here.”

Another initiative moving forward is to reintroduce the line to the market, which has mostly known it as Brass Beds of Virginia since its inception. Today its beds retail from $3,000 for a cast iron version with a headboard and footboard, to $8,000 for a canopy bed. Companion pieces are priced accordingly, ranging from bed benches to nightstands, and a three-tier price schedule has been put in place to address various aspects of the market including retailers, designers and direct-to-consumer sales.

“People have come to us in the past for matching bedroom pieces,” Sterling said of newer categories. “But it hasn’t been something we really set out to do or sell as sets.”

Doug Rozenboom, chief executive officer, shows one of the new occasional table frames at the plant.

The company showcased these different product segments during the recent April High Point Market where it showed for the first time, occupying a small space in the Interhall section of the International Home Furnishings Center.

“The key is to reacquaint Worthen with the market — the brand and the new products that people have never seen before, ” Rozenboom said, noting that the company also can make upholstered seating products such as bar stools and dining chairs with iron frames. “My role in coming here is to connect with customers and to focus our efforts as a design leader.”

An industry veteran whose experience includes both design and executive level roles at Thomasville, Jonathan Charles, A.R.T. Furniture and Pottery Barn, Rozenboom said the company’s rich heritage in manufacturing combined with a talented and artisan-level workforce were key factors that led him to join the team.

“When I met all the people and linked my capabilities and my kind of passion and desire, it was a perfect fit,” he said. “I am coming in with new thoughts, but I also love to get my hands into everything — from the design process to the finishing process. There were so many untapped capabilities for us here and when I saw that I felt like I can really make something special out of this already special company.”

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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