"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
The first, and more logical company to take this step is Petrof, the Czech piano maker founded in 1864. Over the last year as the economic climate has worsened and the demand for hand made pianos has seen similar declines the company has begun to make furniture and furniture grade kitchen cabinetry (pictured above). Currently their factory's production is 50% pianos, and 50% casework. It's not the first time the company has produced other products as a way of surviving difficult economic times, in the 1930s it produced wooden railway sleeper cars and in times of war it made grenade boxes.
The second, is the venerable luxury car company, Bentley. Their skilled woodworkers in their factory in Crewe has long been making gleaming walnut Bentley dashboard and wood trim. After an extended holiday furlough, the Daily Telegraph reported that these same craftsmen, 140 in total, have started using walnut off-cuts to make cabinetry, occasional tables and reception area furniture. The company, a division of Volkswagen, plans to use the furniture in Bentley showrooms. If the demand for these pricy pieces of rolling art remains depressed and the furniture is well received there are rumors that Bentley might come out with a line for the public. The company has been offering humidors, jewelry chests, and similar items for the past few years as custom order items with 20+ week lead times.
A Bentley Executive with a piece of their select burled walnut.
The upside for both of these firms, beyond the bit of revenue they receive from these side projectes is that they can keep these very skilled artisans employed in their workshops, many of whom are second and third generation craftsmen with very specialized skills. The danger in this strategy is that the demand for furniture is also less than robust.