Meet Lori Guyer, the woman behind White Flower Farmhouse, a quaint little antique shop in downtown Southold. Lori is a natural born collector, with a knack for decorating and a love for vintage trinkets. Farmhouse antiques are her specialty, and she leaves no stones un-turned in the hunt for old treasures. Tools, pulleys, door knobs, spigots, nuts & bolts; you’ll find a regular vintage hardware store at her shop in addition to the typical antique fare; but its her custom reclaimed furniture and decorating services that are quietly transforming houses and businesses on the North Fork into vintage magic.
LG: Since I was 5. It was funny, my mother decorated in Danish modern style, and then she changed to colonial when colonial came in. So she had all this stuff in a box: salt and pepper shakers, dishes, all sorts of little tchotchkes. I put them all in a wagon and I went door to door and I sold them! I was knocking on people’s doors asking “Are you interested in any of my merchandise?” You know, for like 50 cents apiece or whatever.
LG: It was always in my blood. And then I was a graphic designer. I was the Art Director at the Traveler-Watchman – do you remember that newspaper?
GNF: I think they sold the building not long ago.
LG: It was right around the corner here on Traveler Street, the blue one. That was a newspaper for like a hundred years. Tim Kelly was the editor. They sold the building, they’re renovating now. I worked for the newspaper and then when I had kids, I couldn’t work anymore. So then I got back into doing shows, and then eBay started and I was one of the first people on there.
LG: I was one of the first people on there, and there were only like 35 items. You would list something and then people would literally send you a check in the mail. You’d get your check, and then you’d wait for it to clear and ship the item. I did that and then I did shows and then I started this store. That’s it in a nutshell.
GNF: Have you always lived on the North Fork?
LG: I grew up in Wading River. Went to High School in Riverhead. I never liked the city, I was always a country girl. I always liked used stuff and farm house stuff. When you are decorating it adds more soul to a space if you mix new and old. It makes it more interesting.
LG: Yeah, and you can get it cheap! I put things from my house on Instagram sometimes and people are like, “Wow I love that!” Sometimes I feel like telling them, “I bought that at a yard sale for like $5.” You have no idea. I’m a big Craiglister. Craigslist, yard sales, so fun.
GNF: And now you’re building custom furniture as well?
LG: Yes, we did Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, all the tables on sliders and for the restaurant. We did the modern red industrial farm table at Aldo’s. We did that new winery on Peconic Lane, Peconic Cellar Door. I love doing custom stuff. You’re reclaiming material, your reclaiming wood, half of it is from old barns. I get calls from carpenters that tell me they’re working on this old house, do you want these doors? And I’m like yeah, bring them here.
GNF: So basically you’re the Joanna Gaines of Southold.
LG: Yup, me and my carpenter John Mehrman, he’s a custom wood worker. He’s a retired math teacher, very smart, sweet old dude. Outdoorsy looking. Bob Villa type.
GNF: How long have you been working together?
LG: Our kids went to kindergarten together and now my daughter is 21. He is the only carpenter that I’ve worked with that you could literally stand on the farm table because everything is built so sturdy. Everything is built really well. I don’t have to worry about splinters, I don’t have to worry about rotten wood. He can do customs, plans, anything.
Just a few miles west of Lori’s shop in downtown Southold, retired math teacher John Mehrman builds bespoke tables, benches, and cabinets out of his garage on Wells Road. John is the maker behind the White Flower Farmhouse custom furniture business. Like Lori, John is an avid collector, but his passion is wood. He plans on building a dedicated shop – the foundation is already in place, but he’s meticulous in his work so the building is coming together slowly. With piles of wild-edge planks seasoning under tarps, stacks of vintage barn beams, and mountains of logs dotting his property – it looks like he’s going to be busy for a long time.
GNF: Lori tells me you’re a retired math teacher who loves building things.
JM: I have a disease, or an addiction if you will. I make stuff for people to feed my habit.
JM: Actually they are from the neighborhood. See that big grey house? When they tore down the old house to make it they took a bunch of trees down. A little further down the road where it’s just an open lot – they were building a house there and the frame was up; it caught fire and it burnt down. My friend Rob is still going to build there, but the fire killed a bunch of trees, so they took those trees down and I got the trees. Then if you go around the bend, there’s a new house going up over there.
GNF: I’m seeing a pattern here… Lori tells me you two go way back.
JM: Her daughter and my daughter went to elementary school together and they were very good friends. It was one of those things where, the carpenter she was working with wasn’t doing what she needed. She asked me if I could make her a bread board. I said yeah, I can do that. Then a while later she was like, I have this broken table, do you think you can fix it? I was like, sure, I can do that. Then a bit later she tells me, I got this old door, do you think you can make it into something? I said, yeah I can do that, and it just escalated from there.
JM: I grew up in a craftsman environment as a kid, my dad did everything. Although he was more of a mechanical person. It wasn’t so much furniture as it was rough carpentry, trim work, that kind of thing. I grew up in that kind of environment. I always liked doing this kind of stuff. I always wanted to build my own house so we bought the lot next door in 1984 and my wife and I built the house there. Of course it’s not done yet.
GNF: This wood over looks really cool.
JM: This is wood from an old barn in Vermont that I brought down to use for custom projects. People who want old barn wood. I know an artisan up in Vermont, he said this lady wants to get rid of a barn, are you interested? I trucked it down here. Cost me as much to truck it down as it cost to buy it in the first place. Slowly but surely I’m hoping to break even.
GNF: Any idea how old it is?
JM: Some it’s from 1700s, some of it probably mid-1800s. You can see how some of it was cut strait with a saw, and some was just hand hewn with an adze.
GNF: What are your favorite type of projects?
JM: I really like using the live edge, mixing the mediums, like steel, wood and stone. The best ones are the ones you make the least amount of money but you learn a heck of a lot, you know. And I’m fortunately in a position to be doing that.
JM: Not really, I just like to play around with wood. I really like what I consider to be functional art. And if you can mix different things together it just makes it fuller.