The Beauty And Artistry Of Fine Craftsmanship Balanced With Sustainability In Western North Carolina

Posted on | June 27, 2014 | No Comments

There really are few things more wonderful than watching a skilled craftsman make something spectacular out of raw materials. Lang Hornthal fell into his career as a craftsman years ago, and never looked back. Today his company, Appalachian Designs, located in the Asheville area, is well known for making high-quality, beautifully hand-crafted wood furniture – and more – for homes throughout western North Carolina, and beyond.

Images Courtesy of Appalachian Designs ©

You name it, and Lang and his team can craft it – from railings, to log stairs, to dining room tables, case goods and outdoor architectural pieces – all in Lang’s signature earthy style – and all with sustainability in mind. North Carolina Design sat down to chat with Lang about how he got started, what motivates him, and why sustainable practices are so important.

Lang’s business started with a single piece of furniture. “After graduating college, I moved out West to Colorado with a friend,” Lang recounts. “We built a log bed and sold it at a flea market, then immediately got an order for another one. That’s how the business got started. In 1997, I realized that I needed to be in an area that catered to this furniture style, and I moved to Asheville full time.”

Lang’s niche does suit him well in western North Carolina, where mountain style is very popular. “Our clientele tends to have tastes that are a little more rustic,” Lang affirms. “We do a lot of work for log and timber frame homes in mountain or lake settings.”

A love of the woods and a passion for responsible forestry drives Lang’s lumber choices. “All of our products are made out of whole logs and twigs,” he notes. “We use what are known of as small-diameter trees – trees that are not more than 6 inches around. They are left on the forest floor by most companies because they’re considered not worth the time to process. But we ensure they don’t go to waste.”

Lang is deeply committed to supporting western North Carolina’s local forests. In fact, he started Root Cause, a regional initiative that helps raise awareness of the local forest products industry. “The forest is a renewable resource that has sustained many generations,” he explains. “If it’s managed properly it’s going to be around for many more. We have to educate people about responsible forest management, as well as the value in using local wood and supporting local mills, kilns and craftsmen.”

Lang uses native North Carolina woods like hickory, pine, rhododendron and black locust – an oft-overlooked hardwood that’s resilient, beautiful and highly sustainable. “Black locust in an excellent choice for outdoor furniture,” he notes. “It’s naturally pest-resistant. It’s rated for uncovered exterior application, without having to be pressure-treated. Also, the variation in its color and character is very unique – each piece is going to look vastly different from the last.”

Because of the type of wood and craftsmanship used, all of Appalachian Designs’ pieces feature a wonderful one-of-a-kind look. “Everything we build is made to order,” he notes. “We don’t wholesale, simply because it’s very hard to produce the same piece over and over again.”

Many craftsmen live for their craft, but for Lang, the excitement is in the ability to make each project a success. “I get a jolt out of working with the client to understand what it is they really want, and then coming up with creative solutions to problems. Sometimes I come to my team with a crazy idea sketched out on a sheet of paper. They have no idea how we’re going to make it work, but I just fly by the seat of my pants, and somehow we get it done. My attitude is always ‘yeah, we can do it!’”

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