Those proud Texans looking for the romance, charm and strength of traditional ranch lifestyle furniture have long cherished the work of W.R. Dallas Furniture and continue to pass down those pieces from generation to generation.
Founded in San Antonio in 1929, W.R. Dallas spoke-leg furniture is still authentically handcrafted from ponderosa pine to produce sturdy, ranchstyle tavern tables, trestle tables (complete with lazy Susan), living room and bedroom pieces.
“Everything is made of ponderosa pine, largely because of its expansion and contraction factor, so it’s suitable for any climate,” owner Leslie Collier says.
Collier searches out mature lumber from Oregon and Northern California, looking for a tight grain and straight lines. Often the company is asked by clients to match a piece from the 1930s or 1950s, and it’s had great success matching both the stain and the wood grain.
The furniture is so iconic that it’s a must-have among country music celebrities, such as George Strait and the late Hank Snow (the latter’s Nashville Rainbow Ranch is filled with W.R. Dallas furniture, including the iconic sled sofa with a not so traditional hot pink leather).
How often can furniture buyers say they have the same brand bedroom set or spoke-leg table and chair featured in the classic Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean movie Giant, furniture which is also now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.?
Collier, a former nightclub and restaurant owner in Austin, purchased W.R. Dallas in 2001. She says she loves serving as the curator of this well-established brand and has a responsibility to carry on this Texas tradition. Every piece of furniture tells a story, usually about the families who treasure its time-defying style—so much so that Collier is working on a book about the company’s history and its loyal customers, which is titled If This Table Could Talk.
Collier has heard all the stories about how families bought their collection, like the family who sold cattle to pay for their house full of W.R. Dallas furniture. Newcomers who buy ranches are often told by their neighbors that, “You can’t own a ranch without W.R. Dallas furniture.”
Collier says W.R. Dallas’ designs, the oversize chairs, tables, wagon wheel beds and even the famous roped-iron outdoor furniture, are all still handcrafted in its Hill Country workshop using the same patterns and notebooks created by Wylie R. Dallas himself. Inside the “W.R. Dallas Bible” the specs for all the pieces (and even the actual catalog itself) are the same as they were almost a century ago. And, because each piece starts from scratch, requests for “bespoke pieces” are also welcomed.
W.R. Dallas furniture is often found in commercial settings, such as hotels and banks, because of its style and sturdiness. Mi Tierra restaurant, in downtown San Antonio, features a magnificent W.R. Dallas hand-carved bar and barstools.
W.R. Dallas clients want exactly the same furniture that they grew up with in their family home or ranch, and Collier’s craftsmen are kept busy creating pieces identical to the original designs. This handcrafted precision also means extra time is needed for construction, and Collier says customers usually receive their orders within eight to 12 weeks. To ensure authenticity the W.R. Dallas logo is branded onto every piece.
Another aspect of the company that has remained constant are the artisans who craft every piece. Alphonso “Poncho” Martinez has worked with the company since 1964 and Jesse “Chuy” Ortiz since the ’70s. Collier recently attended the 100th birthday party for Timoteo Molina, a retired 40-year employee with W.R. Dallas.
W.R. Dallas furniture possesses the strength and charm of the Old West, and its style blends well with “Texas Tuscan,” Spanish and even Mediterraneanstyle homes and ranches. W.R. Dallas is solid, handcrafted in the USA and will last forever.
Andy Stonehouse is a writer and editor based in Greeley, Colorado He can be reached at email@example.com.