He revels in restoration

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Intense involvement with a good project is Greg Guenther’s definition of satisfaction. Along with his overloaded repertoire of faithful renditions of American and European period-style furniture from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, Guenther also has successfully built a large clientele of museums, private individuals and dealers for furniture conservation.

The master craftsman founded Guenther Wood Group in 1980, a business for which he is committed to preserving the time-honored traditions of furniture making and traditional crafts. He and his skilled employees focus on an extensive range of styles from sleek modernism to Chippendale reproductions. Because the shop is situated in Savannah, Ga., a pristine and historic U.S. hub, location naturally influences Guenther’s desire to concentrate mainly on antique forms.

“I’m interested in all furniture. I’m interested in modern design and people that are doing those things, but in the Savannah area, historic furniture is our market,” says Guenther. “There’s the business side, and then there’s the art. The people who are interested in antiques tend to know one another. It’s all word of mouth. It’s been a practical decision to focus on antique furniture found in this coastal area full of house museums, collectors and a general interest in the past.”

The write stuff
Restoration accounts for about 60 percent of Guenther’s business. Recently; collectors of fine 20th century pieces — by designers such as Ruhlmann, Wright and Nakashima — have requested the careful restoration the studio is known for. The shop also receives commissions for strict replicas, loose reproductions and pieces inspired by a more modern twist.

GREG GUENTHER

Owner of: Guenther Wood Group
Location: Savannah, Ga.
Experience: More than 30 years • Shop size: 5,000 sq. ft.
Employees: Four
Annual gross sales: $250,000
About: Guenther Wood Group specializes in creating and restoring exceptional period and period-style furniture. Using traditional materials, historic methods and modern techniques, the highly skilled workers accommodate clients’ specific requirements on their commissions.
Quotable: “When you have correctly restored something that’s really just fallen apart and is no longer viable and you bring it back so that everyone else can see the quality that was there; that’s very satisfying.”

Guenther, 55, is able to rest on his laurels of working with period-style pieces for more than 30 years, but still refers to his in-shop library, museums and online databases to accurately follow the same designs and dimensions, and use the same materials as the original artisans did in their time. By continually brushing up on his knowledge of period-style pieces, he pays sharp attention to design and details.

“I think I was fortunate, along with my generation of woodworkers, [to have] the number of publications that are out there for education and exposure,” says Guenther, adding that “Fine Points of Furniture: Early American,” by Albert Sack, is a must-read for any period furniture maker. “I have a lot of books that deal with historic pieces and I think, as I’ve read them cover to cover, that the scholarship on pieces and individual makers is definitely higher than it ever was with the amount of research and scientific studies that go on.”

From dreams to reality
While Guenther is talented, his sharp aesthetic judgment and keen ability to approach a wide variety of restoration and fine furniture commissions are learned skills that didn’t come overnight.

Guenther moved from his home state of New Jersey to Atlanta after high school and took up pre-engineering at Georgia Tech. He then enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but went to work for an engineering company as a draftsman.