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Visit Furniture Library

April 16, 2018

The Bienenstock Furniture Library (BFL) is a research facility located in downtown High Point that houses endless information on design, furniture, interiors, architecture, textiles, finishes and construction. Scholars and students, alike, this gorgeous space is for everyone. Grab a cup of coffee and head on over to dive into the history of furniture. We had the pleasure of interviewing Executive Director, Karla Webb, to learn more about BFL.

Q: Tell us about BFL in about 10 words.

A. Largest design specialty library in the world with a rare book room collection of volumes since 1543.

Q: Why and how was it started and what was the vision?

A. The library opened in 1970 as a non-profit research library for the furniture and design industries. Sandy Bienenstock, owner of Furniture World Magazine, founded the library from a passion and vision he had of a research library for the furniture industry. The library began with his personal collection of books that he collected as his private library throughout his career in the industry. It was also his desire to invest in the education of students in the design industry. In 1984, Mr. Bienenstock began the Bienenstock Furniture Library Scholarship Program; which is still in place today. To date we have given over $450,000.00 in scholarship monies since the beginning of our program.

Q: What is one thing people would be interested to learn about BFL?

A. With over 350 books in our Rare Book Room dating back to 1543, it is our mission to promote book preservation in our collection. We invite and expect our users to don a pair of white gloves and use these fascinating publications, in many different languages, to inspire, direct and guide them to future designs and projects.  With actual usage of our Rare Book Room, it is detrimental that we keep the books in the best condition possible. Our Rare Book Room is a climate and humidity controlled environment that does help with maintaining the current condition of the books. However, with continued use does come the need for preservation and we long to have each book in our Rare Book Room preserved back to its original condition. This does require funding and we are always happy to discuss funding possibilities with anyone in our industry and community that has a passion for preservation as we do for our Rare Book Room.

Photography by Furniture Library

Q: What are the highlights and challenges of operating your non-profit organization?

A. With any non-profit, the need for funding to continue your programs and services is always a financial challenge. With book preservation, educational seminars, and the scholarship program there is a constant need for fund raising to maintain the goals, missions and standards of our founder’s vision.  Being able to deliver scholarship checks each year to our scholarship design competition winners is a highlight of my job. I feel I am carrying on Sandy’s dream of supporting and encouraging students to choose a career in an industry that has so many possibilities for the young creative minds that will guide the future of design, furniture, architecture and textiles.

Q: Why did the Bienenstocks choose to locate BFL in High Point?

A. Sandy and Bernice Bienenstock were heavily involved in the furniture industry with their magazine Furniture World. Upon each visit to High Point they gained more knowledge in the importance of this location and its proximity to market, manufacturing and design colleges in the area. They also made dear friends on every trip here. The Grayson family, who built this magnificent facility that we call home, became friends with the Bienenstock family. When the Grayson home became available the Bienenstocks felt it was the perfect location to house their curated collection of furniture, design, architecture, textile, decorative arts and furniture construction library. They purchased the home in 1968 and opened the doors to a world of furniture and design exploration in 1970.

Q: How has High Point Changed since BFL opened? 

A. There have been many changes in the furniture industry in and around High Point since 1970. The Library is excited about the change in attitude and work in making our city a great place to live, work and enjoy life.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

A. With any non-profit organization, funding is always a challenge. We are thankful for an endowment fund that Mr. Bienenstock left to meet daily needs of the building and maintenance. However, with our scholarship program, our preservation needs and educational programs we seek support from those in the industry with a love of design, research and the home furnishings industry. We strive daily to continue to reach out to the community and design industry to let them know of our resources and what wonderful publications are accessible to them through our 5000+ volume collection.

Q: How have the citizens and community of High Point supported you?  What about industry friends? And how is their support different?

A. We are proud of the support we receive from both the community and the design industry. The community has supported efforts like the addition of the Pat Plaxico Gardens and adding sculpture to our gardens in honor/memory of community individuals. The industry support comes through the love of books, our collection and what it means to research and the advancement of knowledge in our industry.  Industry workers and students alike know the importance of keeping this collection alive and available to anyone who is researching furniture, art, architecture, interior design, woodworking, decorative arts and textiles.

Q: If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out in High Point, What would it be?

A. Follow your dream with passion. If you truly are committed to your business or cause that will shine through to your customers. Be patient, promote yourself with confidence and get involved in your community.

Photography by Furniture Library

Q: What are you excited about for High Point’s future?

A. I believe High Point has a blank slate for possibilities for the future!! Expanding the knowledge and concept that we are a multi-faceted city full of designers, creative minds, craftsman, artists, entrepreneurs and business leaders we can join together to unite and promote a plan for greater community and culture in our town.

We are incredibly proud to share that Barbour Spangle Partner Christi Spangle is a Board Member of the Library and serves as the Chair of the Scholarship Committee.

We would like to give a special thanks to Karla at the Furniture Library for sharing your insight with us on your business and your view of High Point.

Discover our High Points,

The HP Discovered Team

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