Ernest Thompson Furniture was founded on the values of artisanal woodworking. In New Mexico, this has been characterized by a constant evolution of function and style that constantly changes as we interact with our homes and offices in new and different ways. New Mexico style furniture is essentially the history of adapting to our natural environment and diverse cultural influences. Those influences varying from Native American roots, Spanish colonization, and the introduction of new styles with westward expansion and globalization. Ernest Thompson fine furniture and cabinet makers is a local New Mexican company of craftspeople doing what we’ve always done best: customizing our craft to the unique needs of every customer. We are proud that each piece of Ernest Thompson Furniture is Made in the USA, right here in our Albuquerque, New Mexico workshop.
We build each and every Ernest Thompson product “to order.” This means that, as a customer, you
can always choose one of our classic standard pieces, but you can just as easily work with our designers to conceive something completely new and completely you. From the style of your piece to the size and finish, our goal is to create impeccably designed original pieces that perfectly suit your home, style, and most importantly lifestyle. One that will last for years to come. Nearly half a century later, we are proud to continue building furniture and cabinetry by hand, on site, right here in our Albuquerque workshop, using traditional building methods to produce heirloom-quality furniture that lasts for generations.
The Early Years
Ernest Thompson began building authentic, New Mexican style furniture in his home garage over forty years ago. He sold his fine furnishings at local art shows and in galleries throughout the region, and soon opened his first workshop and showroom in Albuquerque’s south valley in the early 1970s. Classic Ernest Thompson furniture from this time period was constructed in ponderosa pine and featured durable construction drawing upon 400 years of New Mexico woodworking heritage, thoughtfully edited hand carved motifs, occasional painted accents, ET’s signature mortis and tenon joinery, white or gray washed finishes, and wood nails.
The response to Ernest’s furniture was astounding. ET customers were overjoyed to find that furniture, when crafted by hand using traditional techniques, has a durability that far surpasses mass-produced factory furnishings or import furniture Furthermore, Ernest Thompson’s unique brand of “New Mexico” style furniture retains a classic quality that remains current and beautiful, even when home styles change. In a time period when “Southwest Style” was hugely popular, and at times adorned with turquoise howling coyotes, ET fine furniture was restrained, timeless, and truly reflected the spirit of the Rio Grande.
This came naturally to us. Ernest Thompson Furniture is a workshop of craftspeople who, largely, have a family history of hand crafted furniture making. At times, we have employed fathers, sons, brothers, nephews, and cousins working hand in hand, building in the tradition passed on by grandfathers and great grandfathers. We think this comes through in our furniture. When you own a piece of Ernest Thompson Furniture, you are participating in a tradition of New Mexico craftsmanship that began hundreds of years ago. In 1990, Ernest sold the business to its current owners.
The Evolution of Ernest Thompson
Within the nineties, ET formed a partnership with local Santa Fe artist Hillary Riggs and artist Peter Gould. Out of these partnerships, Ernest Thompson Furniture expanded its collections to include our Sombraje collection of twig covered screens. Sombraje, translating literally as “branch covered screen,” is a centuries-old local tradition of creating window coverings from locally gathered twigs and branches. Functionally, Sombraje shutters blocked out light and heat, while still allowing cooling breezes to circulate air inside New Mexico’s adobe homes. Hillary transformed this traditional craft – which originated out of necessity – into functional yet extraordinarily beautiful home window coverings, room dividers, and furniture panels. Initially, Sombraje panels were constructed in a barn along the Rio Grande Bosque (“forest”). In 1995, Ernest Thompson Furniture purchased Sombraje, and the Sombraje workshop was moved to the ET workshop, which had now moved from its original South Valley location to a larger showroom and workshop in Albuquerque’s North Valley. Twigs continued to be hand gathered and delivered to our workshop, where our Sombraje master craftsmen could construct Sombraje panels and supervise the project from the selection of wood from our millshop, to the emergence of our Sombraje panels from our custom finish shop.
These moves were all a part of a larger shift within the business. In the mid 1990s and early 2000s, styles were changing once again. While our classic southwestern styles continued to flourish and remained popular, a demand for more European, contemporary, and traditionally American styles emerged. We continued to build in pine, but a desire for a harder wood with character led to a gradual shift towards using knotty alder as our standard wood for construction. Old World European styles drawing upon French and Tuscan style traditions, the clean lines of Mission furnishings, and mid-century modern, contemporary and transitional styles emerged from our workshop with increasing frequency. While the traditional white and gray washes remained popular, our customers began asking for a wider range of finishes. More natural, cherry mahogany, darker, multiple-glazed, and painted, scraped and glazed finishes emerged to complement our expanding style collections.
Ernest Thompson, Fine Cabinetmakers
All of these changes led, inevitably, to our emergence as a leader in custom cabinet making. The 1990s & early 2000s witnessed a huge surge of custom homebuilding in the Rio Grande valley. Our customers, aware of our tradition of high-quality solid wood custom furniture building, began to request our help in creating unique, furniture-quality custom kitchen cabinetry, kitchen islands, bathroom cabinets, entertainment & media room built-ins, outdoor kitchens, custom bar cabinetry, and home offices. We had been part-time cabinet makers for our design clients & customers for years, by request. In the early 2000s, we began to market our cabinetmaking to the public. Our cabinetry is now featured in some of the most luxurious homes in the southwest and across the nation, including many Parade of Enchantment homes.