Arts, Dining & Entertainment, Featured

Middletown Springs maker crafts fine freestanding furniture 

By Brooke Geery

Good things take time. 

It’s some of the best advice anyone can get, especially in a place like Vermont, where things move a little slower than in cities. 

Jim Platteter knows this better than anyone, which is why a trip to the store to purchase wood for his pieces is a three-hour-minimum engagement. And depending on the piece he’s creating at that time, it can take a week, a month, or more. When he finally finishes a piece of his freestanding furniture, be it a Shaker sewing stand, a rocking chair or an elaborate inlaid apothecary case, he can then tell you, down to the minute, exactly how many hours he spent on it. With method and practice, Platteter has, arguably, perfected his craft.

By Brooke Geery
Jim Platteter demonstrates how light his rocking chair design is.

Although it has taken his whole life to learn, Platteter found his calling as a young child growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“When I was a young kid, my dad had a table saw and he used to build things, so I got interested in it that way. When I was in fifth grade I made a bookshelf for the nuns out of scraps,” Platteter said, reflecting on his “a-ha” moment. “I had wanted to go to Catholic school because my brother went and got to wear a uniform. Because I was so much younger, I was way behind academically. But, I was ahead artistically and in gym, so when I built that bookcase, it came to me that it was what I was going to be professionally.”

When he was 8 years old, Platteter’s family relocated to Henrietta, New York. Rather than sports, he spent his time in the wood shop, working alongside his father and learning to do things the right way — with Shaker, Chippendale and Hepplewhite methods passed through the generations. Already armed with saw and design skills, he attended Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, where he was designated “the most outstanding student.” Platteter graduated in 1981, with BFA honors in fine furniture and design. Following university, he worked in several fine furniture shops as the main maker and also specialized in antique restoration, which is how he realized he preferred to make antique reproductions rather than creating totally new and modern pieces. 

By Brooke Geery
This “Shaker spice box” is a reproduction of an antique piece. Platteter kept the dimensions the same, but used different wood and joinery to complete the finished product.

He finally made it to Vermont in 2005, and since then has homed in on his own personal slice of Vermont paradise and adopted the trade name, J.P. Fine Furniture. His current shop and showroom stand atop Coy Hill in Middletown Springs, a perfect Vermont setting surrounded by dandelion-dotted meadows and burled-out old trees just like the ones that create the natural wavy patterns present in many of his pieces. There, Platteter and his black Scottie dog, Millicent, are always hard at work creating — but they also love company. 

“You are warmly invited to visit my shop and will enjoy sharing the love for the beauty of wood and beautifully designed furniture,” Platteter says in his official literature, a one sheet flier he carries around in a binder full of his work. 

If he doesn’t already have the perfect piece built for you, Platteter is currently accepting commissions for freestanding furniture pieces, and can even recreate a lost family heirloom from a photo. For more information call him at 802-235-1525.

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