Growing up on a healthy diet of Popular Mechanics for Kids has left me with an appetite for learning how things are made. Needless to say, when I was asked to go on a tour of the Natart factory, home of Tulip and Leander, I jumped at the chance!
Leaving my jealous loves-to-build-Husband behind I set off on a 5 hour car ride into the wilds of Quebec with our fearless store manager Paisley. Passing Montreal we drove through the tunnel, alongside Granby Zoo, and then arrived at our destination- a small city in the Maple Region called Princeville.
We were greeted by the friendly staff who were keen to show off a gorgeously appointed training room complete with an authentic Espresso brewer! A quick tour through the showroom and a look at some prototypes made it clear that they’ve got some gorgeous new tricks up their sleeves!
Tony, one of the founding brothers, hosted our tour and was keen to show off their innovations as well as the time-honoured techniques that they brought with them from Italy in 1995. The state of the art machinery was impressive to say the least, but the skill with which the workers manoeuvred was undeniable! These same workers are both training and teaching at the nearby woodworking college that is run by Natart. This college has 170 people currently enrolled and is recognized by the Quebec ministry of education. Each year, the two highest graduates are hired into the Natart family. They truly believe that skilled workers are the solid foundation upon which their company is built.
Their attention to detail was evident as we passed by stations for shaping, sanding and creating the dovetailing on the drawers. A dovetailed drawer is particularly resistant to pulling apart- the edges include ridges that slot into each other, and even without glue I found it difficult to separate! This is because the exit end is larger than the entry, so once you’ve pushed the grooves together, they’re staying put.
The best way I can explain how advanced their machinery is would be to liken them to smart phones- it sounds overly simplistic, but it’s true!! Each piece used to create the beautiful cribs and dressers that you see on our sales floor carries a code, and each machines reacts to the code appropriately. My favourite of these machines was named Leonardo.
Leonardo is a painter, of course, and his artistic eye is impressive. A skilled painter (human, this time) holds Leonardo’s biometric hand for the first few tries at painting a new piece, and then he’s able to replicate this action over and over until it’s time for his nozzle to be cleaned. Leonardo is used for pieces with curve appeal- such as the Allegra.
Flat pieces are painted using a gravitational pull- they’re laid on a conveyor belt and pulled through a machine that sprays back and forth in even strokes. Natart is Eco-conscious and this was extremely evident when I noticed that they were recycling all of the over-spray left on the conveyor belt. They’re also testing immersion painting (where pieces are dipped into the varnish) to see if this produces less waste and a longer-lasting finish.
The wood Natart uses is local to the factory and the style of board used is created specifically for their pieces. The multilayer technique has each layer of wood stacked in an opposing grain- first long-grain, then cross-grain. It’s all formaldehyde free and uses a soy-based glue to eliminate off-gassing It all comes from a company called Columbia Forest Products. As Tony stated, “In order to create beautiful furniture, you need good quality primary materials.”
The family atmosphere and local sourcing really serve to create a dynamic product line. The attention given to each piece and the distinct love of craftsmanship are held up by four important legs- safety, durability, sustainability and style. The company is taking huge steps to protect who they believe are their most important clients- Your baby.
Meeting standards is not the Natart mentality- exceeding them is the name of the game! And they do this with simple, but important steps that include;
- All of the Insert nuts are glued and placed into a hole that is 1 mm thinner to ensure they don’t pop out.
- Lock washers are used so that once a screw is tightened, it won’t loosen overtime.
- Anti-tipping pieces come standard, pre-attached to the furniture and there are panels added to the back and base of each piece to increase stability.
- The drawer glides include locking mechanisms so that drawers cannot be pulled all the way out, changing the centre of gravity.
Throughout our tour we continually touched upon the idea of Green Guard certification. This fascinating process is a way of testing the off-gassing qualities of furniture. Natart, Tulip, Leander and Essentia mattresses are all certified under the Green Guard umbrella- in fact, they were the first juvenile furniture company to gain this certification. If you’re interested in learning more about the process, check out this great story from Good Morning America.
I could go on and on, but instead I’ll say- stop by 1244 Wellington Street West for a look at the beautiful (and well-crafted!) pieces that Natart has on offer, and ask our staff members to give you a personal tour around the safety features of each piece. Not only does Natart convert into larger beds to grow with your child, but they also ensure wholeheartedly that your child is doing that growing in a safe and healthy environment!