Interview with John Long, owner of Montessori Woods.
The only Montessori furniture made in the USA for fully implemented Montessori Schools, Infant through Elementary. John Long hand-makes every piece of furniture using quality solid wood and all furniture comes completely assembled.
John is busy working in his Atlanta shop building the Fawn Meadow furniture.
I wanted to get to know John and his wife a bit better, so we had a short interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in woodworking?
I was working in the oil and gas industry domestically and overseas as a field engineer, I had just finished a project in Algeria, and came home for a break. While at home my father-in-law was becoming ill and he asked if my wife and I would help take care of him and his wife. My wife and I agreed. While home I took a local job and ended up with some extra time on my hands, and I built a small workshop in my back yard, and that is where I got my first taste of woodworking.
What inspired you to start making furniture for Montessori schools?
While I was home my wife purchased a Montessori school that she had worked at as a teacher, and before you knew it, she had started a new one in another town. One evening I came home from work, and she told me that she needed some shelving right away, you can see where this is going since I had a nice little work shop.
What is your process for designing and creating the furniture?
During my wife’s spare time of being a wife, mother, care giver, Montessori school teacher, and owner of 5 schools; she became a Montessori trainer. We got the inspiration for the design of our furniture from observations of the children in the classroom, adapting to their environment, and listening to the teachers. This is where we learned about the proper height of our tables and chairs, and the best size for shelving. We felt the key to proper sizing came from individual teachers instead of any one society.
How do you ensure that the furniture is safe and appropriate for children to use?
From the time that we started manufacturing commercially, a lot of time was spent researching children’s classroom furniture. One of the biggest questions was; “what is the proper size of tables, chairs, and shelving needed of the primary classrooms, because of the different age groups in the classroom environment.” We had to pick one size to fit all, and this came after many hours, and days of talking to administrators, teachers, and teachers’ helpers. There’re all kinds of information for proper sizing of single age classrooms, but nothing for multiple age.
What types of wood do you use for making Montessori classroom furniture, and why?
When we started manufacturing classroom furniture commercially, we chose Baltic Burch, which comes from Siberia. We were very impressed with the strength, durability, and weight. The thickness of the wood made the furniture perfect weight so the children could pick it up and move it about in their environment, our furniture is made and designed for the children.
What is your favorite piece of furniture you’ve made for a Montessori school?
It is very difficult for me to say what my favorite piece of furniture really would be. You see, we have designed each and every piece of furniture that we make with the help and inspiration from other Montessorians. Although there is one piece now that I think about it that we were asked to come up with for a local Montessori school that we dreamed up and that is the Toddler Bridge. I guess that would be the one item that we get a lot of pleasure manufacturing.
How do you incorporate feedback from the schools into your designs?
We are a small company, and that makes us very flexible as to manufacturing for the Montessori classroom needs. We realize that not every classroom is the same and has individual needs. We like the fact that we can meet those needs.
What sets your furniture apart from other options, and how do you see the role of furniture in a child’s development?
From day one of our Montessori furniture manufacturing, it has been about creating a safe and beautiful environment for the children, because once you step into their classroom, you have entered their world. We realize that everything in their classroom is designed to create an atmosphere for learning, for every child in that room. We feel that our furniture helps to create a flow that is pleasant to the child, the guide, the parents and anyone who enters the environment.
At Fawn Meadow Montessori School, we cannot wait to set the classrooms with the custom shelves, chairs, tables and more.
Stay tuned for photos of our beautiful new school in Leander, TX.