We don’t necessarily think of fashion and woodworking as going hand-in-hand (unless we’re watching Sex And The City circa the Aidan and Carrie days). But Rosie Kovacs and Hayes Shanes, the couple behind Brush Factory, credit their backgrounds in fashion and design as part of what sets their handmade furniture and home goods apart. But there’s also plenty of substance behind their gorgeous editorial shots and designs. All their furniture is made from sustainably harvested wood using centuries-old techniques.
We spoke with Shanes to find out more about how Brush Factory got started, the craziest custom request they’ve ever gotten, and why Larry David would probably approve of their shop.
How did Brush Factory get started?
I have been woodworking full time for about ten years. My father was a cabinetmaker so I have been around the woodshop since I was a kid and exposed to furniture design and architecture since childhood. I studied Industrial design at University of Cincinnati and worked as a carpenter and illustrator before starting our shop. My partner, Rosie, comes from the fashion industry so while we both have the design training, our branding tends to be a bit more artful and trend driven as opposed to a typical local woodshop that’s been around for 50 plus years.
Does your shop’s name have a backstory?
When we first started we moved into an old turn of the century building that had just gone out of business making brushes. They made all kinds of beautiful handmade brushes from industrial scrubbers to consumer dust brushes. While working on the building it became known simply as the Brush Factory and we took on the name quite naturally. Our furniture collection grew from that name.
What is the best-selling item in your shop?
We actually get more custom requests than anything else. More specifically custom sizes of our product line. Since we are small and each piece is made to order we are able to custom-fit pieces for our customers, which I think is a great competitive advantage to larger retailers.
Have you ever gotten weird custom requests?
Nothing too weird but certainly some challenging projects. A couple of years ago we built a 144-inch version of our Alfred table—twice as long as our standard length, but it also needed to be at standing height and extendable with several leaves so that it could extend 60 or 72 inches. And it had to break down into several parts that could be easily reassembled with strong joints. It took some thinking but wasn’t too bad.
Where do you create your products?
We build all of our pieces in our Camp Washington workshop in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our solid hardwood furniture pieces are built from sustainably-harvested hardwoods sourced locally.
What’s something that people don’t think about in your line of work?Unfortunately there is a lot that goes into building furniture and cabinets by hand that a lot of consumers do not realize. From surfacing rough lumber, cutting joinery, designing/engineering for expansion and contraction of wood, finishing techniques and limitations, design hours involved, and shortage of skilled labor… I could go on and on. A lot of the mass-produced furniture that we compete against is made overseas with low paid wages and inferior joinery and materials.
What do you do for inspiration when you’re stuck?
I tend to look to the past. I have a nice collection of furniture books. For more modern pieces I visit vintage showrooms, museums, and the internet.
What celebrity would you like most to buy one of your products?
I like Neil Young’s music a lot, maybe he’d like something I make.
How do you imagine people using your products at home?
With love and pleasure. As Larry David points out, respecting wood is important to preserve the finish but pieces should be lived with and allowed to take on the personality of their owners over the years.
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