Bienenstock Furniture Library: A Treasured Furniture Resource

Posted on | March 19, 2014 | No Comments

Just blocks from the High Point Furniture Market is a longtime and outstanding resource for those interested in learning more about the incredible history of furniture and interior design.  Open to everyone, The Bienenstock Furniture Library has long been a treasured resource for those in the design and furniture trade. North Carolina Design had the pleasure to speak with Library Director Karla Webb to find out more about the library’s history, and what it has to offer interior design and furniture professionals.

The Bienenstock Library began with founder Sandy Bienenstock’s passion for furniture design. “In the late 1920s, Sandy was hired by Furniture World Magazine as an accountant to straighten out their books,” explains Karla. “As he worked for them, Sandy fell in love with furniture design, and also with the furniture industry. He went on to buy the magazine and became its owner, editor and publisher.”

Sandy Bienenstock may have loved the furniture industry, but he knew little about it. So he set out to educate himself. “He started collecting books on everything related to the history of furniture and home furnishings,” Karla notes. “He really was trying to build a library of great old books – books that were rare, out of print and hard to come by. His collection grew and grew, and he really wanted to make it accessible to everyone.”

While Sandy lived in New York, he came to High Point twice a year for the Furniture Market. He knew and greatly appreciated the connection between North Carolina and the furniture-making industry. He bought a historic home on Main Street, where he and his wife Bernice founded the Bienenstock Furniture Library in 1970 with his personal collection, which totaled about 3,000 books.

Now containing over 5,000 books, the Bienenstock Furniture Library is the world’s largest collection of furniture design and history resources. It also goes far beyond furniture to include references on textiles, carpets, decorative arts and antiques. The library’s climate-controlled rare books room contains books from as far back as the late 1500s, including first editions of Hepplewhite, Chippendale and Sheraton, and a complete set of Diderot’s Encyclopedia. There’s even a bookstore where people can add to their company or personal collections.

People from all different disciplines visit the library, for a number of different reasons. “Our clientele is very broad,” Karla explains. “All types of people come in – interior designers working on historic homes, era scholars working on their doctorates – even people who just want to know more about their grandmother’s rocking chair.”

The library features a conference room, which is frequently used by design professionals, students and retailers. “The room is open for anyone to use for anything they want,” notes Karla. “Industry organizations use it for conferences, seminars and meetings. Colleges hold class in the room. During the High Point Furniture Market, some retailers will reserve the space to get away and have a private setting where they can mingle with clients or dealers.”

The library works hard to pursue Sandy Bienenstock’s vision of accessible education. “Sandy was passionate about investing in the education and future of the furniture-making industry,” says Karla. “He started a scholarship fund in 1984, and we have awarded over $400,000 to students. We are always doing our best to move forward and carry on Sandy’s legacy.”

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