Wood. What comes to mind when you hear the word in the context of modern, contemporary furnishings? I bet it’s something like solidity, weight, simplicity, straight lines, sharp perfect angles, bringing forward the grains and materiality of the wood. What doesn’t come to mind (to my mind, at least) are words like sexy, sinuous, moving. Yes, there are beautiful examples of hand-carved work (usually in the world of antiques) but it’s really pretty rare–dare I say too rare–in more modernist, contemporary work. (Are we wrong? Let us know.)
That’s why WhyrHymer stood out.
In the hands of LA-based Brandon Morrison, founder/designer/maker at WhyrHymer, wood is still simple, but it’s supple, too. It moves and flows into improbable shapes and forms (a sexy rocking chair? Who knew). It’s quietly exuberant, joyful, knowingly winking. There are also pops of color (red, white) that wake up a piece, make you look twice, make you want to touch it to see what it really is. The look is at once sci-fi and retro, a little Japanese, but with a twist.
The work would fit–more than comfortably–in almost any kind of home: from minimalist to arts and crafts to boho to antiquey traditional. (It’s this kind of design that’s gotten Brandon not one, but TWO mentions in California Home and Design’s Hit List of best California designs of the year.) Most of his work is made to order, and he designs custom pieces as well. WhyrHymer’s work is also available through the delicious De Sousa Hughes showroom in San Francisco.
The other reason we decided that we absolutely needed to have him be one of our first profiles in SoCal is this video, which is on the homepage of his site (which, by the way, he produced). It absolutely (and gorgeously) sums up how we feel about the nexus of design and craft…it took our breath away when we first saw it, and we knew instantly that we’d found a kindred spirit.
We also loved that for Brandon, life and craft are so intimately connected. (The day we talked, he was getting his washing machine repaired and had to be on the lookout for the repair guy.) He works out of a studio in his home. Wife Sundeep is a big part of his business, and his daughter Sonia is inspiration.
How’d a nice boy from Louisiana find himself in the other LA? Well I came to break free. It’s a universal story. I come from Olla, Louisiana. It exists primarily because it’s on the main highway north south. There’s no red light any more. Everyone in my family lives there. Ah. Was your family from Louisiana originally? Oh yeah. Generations. (A slight twang comes in when he talks about his roots.) But I always knew I had all this creative stuff inside. I started playing drums at 13…I sent my band’s stuff to every A&R company and then record labels and I actually came out to LA and recorded some stuff. Went back…but I came out to LA 11 years ago to act. I got involved in this world out of necessity…and realized I was good at it.
You’ve gotta tell me about the name of the company….The name came from a friend in Louisiana who couldn’t quite pronounce the breed of my dog: he was a Weimaraner. (Fabulous.)
You’ve been in this business for years and you’re really coming into your own. Any big lessons? That the same dynamic it takes to get you to be an accountant or filmmaker or actor is the same it takes to be a furniture maker. It’s focus. It’s practice.
Oh, and I never expect anything better than what’s happening at any given moment. I never think that next week, it’s going to be any better than the last week. It’s just what it is.
What are your inspirations? So much! Driving and seeing the rear fins of a car. A picture on a billboard. Tree limbs. It’s just a flash of inspiration and just making sure that I pay attention to it. And sometimes things just emerge. For example, I made Sonia a high chair: it has this really futuristic and retro vibe to it, but it’s been practically conceived so it’s easy for her to get in and out. But then I realized that the base that makes it up is also a perfect base for a dining table. Those things will come out of nowhere, and will be parts of a new series. The Los Galos series started as a side table. It was just paying attention to inspiration and not dismissing it.
Here’s the thing, though. There is so much more than being able to produce good design. It’s about mindset: surrendering to the fact that no one has a real answer.
Your work’s in showrooms but do you sell online? Yeah. People will buy just off the phone. People will call or email, and I’ll never meet them….Send the product. I think it’s just the age. People tend to collect…once they get a piece, people want more, which is a nice thing.
You’re not just hands-on in your “making” but you’re really hands-on in the other parts of your business. Yeah, I look at everything as a creative opportunity: website, packaging, etc. Wood happens to be the medium I work in now. (In fact, in his blog, he writes I love hitting the end of a chisel as much as I love the click my mouse.)
When I started out, I didn’t know I had the ability to do any of this, but it’s important to project a clear image of what this is about. I think building trust is important and I work hard to make sure that happens while you’re working with me. I follow up on everything right away. So people are reassured that you’re being taken care of from the moment they express interest in me.
We like the choices you’ve made in wood. You’re really daring to be different. I don’t want to look too wood-worky. I like things that accentuate form and design. People get trapped in this idea of wood, you know, why would you cover it up and I see that…but then again I wanted to give myself a little more flexibility. I can use a different (and more affordable) grain of wood because I know I’m going to cover it up with lacquer.
What’s important to your design? I like things to flow. From website to the furniture. I think it’s really important to think through the user experience. I want it to look good. But I also want it to work well. Someone told me, it shouldn’t look this good and work this well. I liked that a lot.
What are your proudest of? As far as any piece goes…I won’t present something on the site as part of the WhyrHymer family that I’m not proud of. But if I’m proud of anything, it’s really myself, because I’ve learned to listen to my soul. Society tells you that if you don’t have these material things, there’s something wrong with you. But I learned I need to go with what’s inside me. That’s what counts.
What are your best moments? You know, I give my daughter a bath in the evening. I’m a 35-year-old man and I can’t believe I was having such a sweet time just combing my daughter’s hair. And everywhere I turned and looked in my house, I saw my footprint. I’m so grateful that circumstances have allowed me to do something where I felt something and believed in it (especially now, making high-end furniture in a recession). I’ve stuck to my ideas and it’s worked out in such beautiful way. There are a lot of people who don’t have that, who haven’t done it.
Are you beer or martini or wine? None of the above. I’m not against it. I just don’t enjoy it that much.
What do you listen to as you work? I was just looking at iTunes the other day. I’ve bought $1,700 of music. I go through so much music. I’m either listening to KPCC, the local NPR affiliate, or Providence, Ben Harper, Breaking Benjamin, Michael Buble, Jason Mraz. Metallica, Missy Higgins, Sade. It’s all over the place. I love listening to soundtracks…right now I’m listening to Inception (because I imagine all kinds of dramatic things happening in my shop while I work.) I also love Lady Gaga–I came to her late. I love the pop aspect of her music. And in the winter, I listen to Damien Rice. (Perfect.)
What are you reading? Don’t get to read that much. I want to do it when I’m older, when I don’t share responsibility for a 1-year-old baby! I love to listen to audio books. I want to get the new Stephen Hawking book on the universe. And I recently read Eckhart Tolle. It really reinforced a lot of things in my head.
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Ryan Gosling. (Beyond perfect. And said without hesitation, I add.)
What’s the genre of film or story you’d play in? Comedy AND heroic journey AND indie film. There’s SO much humor in my and Sundeep’s life…it’s great. I just want to feel young, laugh, and be silly, and know that I’m not sacrificing my maturity in any way.
Crucial to me is being able to have the life I have right now….I don’t want to need anyTHING. But when I think about the things I use all the time…..
My camera–I love it.
My Mac–it’s a tool for doing things that are extensions of me.
Great food going into our bodies.
Any guilty pleasures? I watched Real Housewives of NJ: I love to watch the psychology.
Love it. Thanks, Brandon.
1803 3rd Avenue
Los Angeles, CA