Made in Carbondale: Classic, quirky furniture from Board by Design
By Nicolette Toussaint
The playfully modern furnishings that Brad Reed Nelson crafts in his Carbondale studio are sold nationwide, and it’s easy to see why. Despite the name of his company — Board by Design — he’s clearly not!
“The name has an obvious a double meaning,” Nelson chuckled. “I wanted it to be provocative and contrary. I have a snarky sense of humor.”
Nelson’s humor shows up in his product names, as well as his design. For example, Board By Design (BBD) sells a “Very Holy” lamp; it’s a column of Plexiglas pierced all over in a polka dot pattern. BBD’s “Elefunction” organizers are rectangular wooden plaques that spout long trunks. A bungee cord crosses the body of the wall-mounted block, functioning to hang wallets and sunglasses. Four “herculean earth magnets” are embedded behind the trunk so that keys will stick to it. You won’t be searching for your keys, Nelson quips, because the Elephant never forgets!
Nelson does use boards in Board by Design furniture. “I love wood for its beauty,” he commented. “It creates a sense of warmth, and you can decide just what parts of the wood you want to use.”
Nelson uses only environmentally sustainable lumber. His Red House table, a hefty rectangle of Douglas fir cradled in a red steel frame, was crafted from a discarded beam found at a Snowmass construction site. Some of BBD’s organizers are fashioned from beetle-kill pine.
The lines of Nelson’s chairs echo the grace of midcentury modern style, but their wood slats are accented with a playful fillip of color that comes from steel framing. “I love steel for its directness,” said Nelson. “Steel can be very thin and strong. If you want something light, steel works better. And we love color! Color adds fun and humor.”
Nelson’s Windsorrondack line of swings and rockers — handsome, classic chairs that sell for $4,200 in the single-seat version — can be crafted from mahogany, ash or North Carolina walnut, and their steel frames are offered in shades of poppy red, Caribbean blue, Bermuda blue or Fruita green.
Nelson, who earned a master’s degree in sculpture from Arizona State University, first came to the Roaring Fork Valley to study at Anderson Ranch, eventually becoming its interim director. He founded Board by Design in 2001, running the firm from the Aspen Business Center for seven years.
But Brad and his wife wanted to live in Carbondale – enough so that they turned down a two-bedroom affordable housing unit in Burlingame after winning it. Nelson and his wife, a jewelry designer, now live here with their seven-year-old daughter. Brad opened his Carbondale studio in 2007.
All of BBD’s furniture is made in that studio. Nelson, who says that he would “like to be the inventor and have it made by someone else,” often partners with other Carbondale artisans for manufacturing. Local furniture maker David Rasmussen, for example, assembles BBD’s organizers.
Currently, Nelson is creating benches for Fold, a new Carbondale restaurant located just few doors down from BBD’s studio on Dolores Way. BBD furniture is also sold through the Harvey Meadows gallery in Aspen.
But more BBD products are exported beyond the Roaring Fork Valley than are sold here. Last summer, BBD shipped 41 tables to Shaw Media in Toronto. BBD sells accessories nationwide via the Etsy online website, and BBD furniture is offered by William Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, Urban Outfitter and Y Living stores, among others.
Nelson markets his work at two national furniture fairs, and although he calls himself “an analog boy in a digital world,” the Internet is contributing to Board By Design’s fame. Recently the Design Sponge blog wrote about BBD, and the international Apartment Therapy website named BBD’s hanging Bike All rack one of its favorites.
“I try to make beautiful, functional objects that solve problems and are not being shipped from everywhere,” commented Nelson. “I want to make things that will always be cherished. With good materials. And made in America.”
Made right here in Carbondale, in fact.