Worcester Living October
Paul Rulli puts personal touch on period
Raised in Sturbridge, Rulli spent many a day
playing with friends in Old Sturbridge Village. “By third
grade I had fallen in love with Colonial America,” he says.
Rulli’s father also had an influence on his early development
as a craftsman. Not only did his dad let him use a table saw
at a young age, he instilled in him the idea that nothing is
“My dad was a can-do guy,” says Rulli.
“For him there were no obstacles to doing things.”
After graduating from Tantasqua Regional High School,
Rulli says that he initially took “a very traditional path,”
by going to Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston to
study civil engineering.
Even as an engineer, however,
furniture making remained in the forefront for Rulli. He
remembers spending 40 hours a week doing woodworking in
addition to engineering.
“I couldn’t get enough of
it,” he says. “It wasn’t a hobby, it was a passion, and if you
have a passion for something, (you) do it.”
mind-set eventually led to Rulli’s decision to become a
full-time artisan, regardless of the financial risk. By then
he was focusing on early American furniture reproductions.
Today Rulli lives in Webster, and his business — Paul
Rulli Reproductions — is not far from his home. The building
in which he works is part of a mill dating back to the 1860s,
and its history couples nicely with Rulli’s work — the mill
was once owned by the Slaters, who were forerunners of the
American Industrial Revolution.
Rulli loves where he works. The tall ceilings
and old woodwork give the place character from which he takes
inspiration. He estimates that he spends about 65 to 100 hours
per week working, and from the way his face lights up as he
walks around his shop, one can conclude that he never tires of
it. Apart from his workbench, Rulli’s shop is, quite
literally, filled wall-to-wall with various pieces of Colonial
furniture that he has completed or is in the process of
When Rulli works, he likes to imagine that
he is in Colonial America and under the same conditions that
craftsmen back then would have been under. He uses antique
tools that he has collected from various sources — flea
markets, basements and antique shops.
“I love how
human hands have sculpted the entire surface,” he says as he
points out the small imperfections that can be found in the
pieces. When surveying the furniture, one can find
reproductions made from wood used in Colonial times — cherry,
walnut, soft maple, birch and mahogany, replete with
traditional accents such as ball and claw feet, Flemish
scrolls and rosettes.
And when the pieces do leave, Rulli
knows that they go to good homes. Most of Rulli’s customer
base is through word-of-mouth, and often buyers will return
to purchase multiple pieces.