The former Nebraskan can be found in a Prescott gallery and workshop at 108 E. Hillside, Suite B. He has more than 31 years of experience, envisioning design concepts and then finding ways to make those visions become reality.
He takes great pride in the fact that no two pieces of furniture are ever the same, but even greater pride that he uses lumber that is salvaged, reclaimed or sustainably harvested. Through the years, he has built a circle of suppliers who know that he wants only wood that meets those requirements. He buys wood from a wide range of tree species, including pine, cedar, juniper, elm, aspen, Russian olive and walnut.
Arterburn opened his Prescott custom furniture business, IDEA Custom Furniture, in July 2015. Since then, he has been busy filling orders from a variety of customers from Arizona and beyond.
The name – IDEA – incorporates Arterburn’s first name, Dan, with initials from his daughters, Ellisa and Ande. Both are heavily involved in the business and are advocates of having customers work closely with their father in to find the furniture in the wood.
“I use only solid wood. Some of us grew up with disposable furniture made of particle board that lasted only a few years. I want to make furniture that will last forever,” he said. “The real artist in woodworking is Mother Nature. My job is to help Mother Nature turn the piece into something of lasting beauty, quality and functionality.”
For example, he used an eight-foot slab of walnut three inches thick for a headboard. That raw slab has live edges (wood not cleaned or shaved smooth) on each side.
“I labored for hours building the bedposts so they would ‘fit’ the edges of the slab as it was inserted into them. I spent dozens of hours hand-finishing the wood with natural oils so that the depth and the intensity of the grain would show through. It is unique, and the lady that ordered it was thrilled.”
Arterburn has not always been a furniture maker. He worked for contractors and built homes for several years, until 1985, when he moved to Phoenix. He then built custom homes in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert and other cites until he went back to Nebraska. He also had a cabinet shop, where he began creating his custom furniture.
“I think that’s when I discovered my passion for building really quality furniture. My daughters encouraged me to devote myself full-time to it. We discovered Prescott and liked the kind of ‘high end’ market that we discovered in the area. Of course, I liked the slower lifestyle and the quality of life in Prescott, too, after having been in Phoenix.”
Emphasizing that he prefers when clients are involved in the creation and design of the pieces, Arterburn said, “I want buyers to be fully engaged in the process so that I can personalize an order to their interests. Do they want to follow a design motif that they already like, or do they want to start their own family tradition? We’ll work together in looking at the raw wood and then use our imaginations to design and work with the wood, not at it.”
The largest piece Arterburn has created was an $8,000 conference table for a Houston client. The most complex – a $5,200 dresser with many drawers and dozens of hand-crafted box joints and wooden drawer guides. His most distant client lives in India. He built a wine rack and shipped it to him.
“I want to build furniture with a craftsmanship that will make it last forever.” QCBN
By Ray Newton, QCBN
To view a photo gallery of Arterburn’s furniture, visit ideacustomfurniture.com.
Photo by Ray Newton