Concrete, Wood & Steel

Thursday, September 03, 2015

I first became interested in modern design years ago when I picked up an issue of Dwell while living in Portland, Oregon. I flipped through the pages and was attracted to the spaces with clean lines, lots of natural light and minimalist decor. My continued interest in these design elements led me to find Reify Design, a local maker of handcrafted furniture and fixtures. After seeing some pictures of their work, I asked if I could visit their studio to learn more about how their pieces are made.

The Reify Design team consists of Brad Douglas and Jason Wesner who work out of their West Omaha space. The company is new, having started about a year and a half ago. Brad and Jason merged their remodeling and custom cabinetry skill sets to create a business with the goal of making heirloom pieces where “lines and materials speak for themselves.” Reify Design primarily works with wood, concrete and steel. They're heavily influenced by the Ten Principles of Design by Dieter Rams with a less is more strategy. Another strong influence is Brandon Gore, a leader in glass-fiber-reinforced concrete innovation (GFRC). Brad had the opportunity to travel to Arizona and take Brandon's concrete design workshop firsthand.

During my two visits, the guys were working on some large custom tables for the office of a home builder. Brad shared that these tables were the largest pieces Reify Design had ever created and working in a studio of its current size was providing some challenges. On the first day, they were busy removing the molding from tables. I was able to return for a second visit to see concrete being mixed and sprayed as they continued to work on the office pieces. I watched them work together as a team, depending on one another for ideas and problem solving. I feel fortunate that they were willing to share a small glimpse of their labor and time intensive work that they feel so passionate about. They hope to continue with their momentum and be able to move into a larger studio soon. Here's a look at pieces of their process followed by a Q&A.

The reveal. Brad shared that he's always curious to see how the pieces have dried, likening the process of removing the molding to being like "Christmas morning."

Checking moisture levels. Drying time ranges from about 24-48 hours.

Sometimes they incorporate brass into their pieces. Brass was recently used on some tables they created for Hotel Flatiron

Reify Design specializes in using GFRC. The material is added to the concrete mixture, allowing for designs that are not possible with regular concrete. 

Brad prepping his tunes. He prefers to use his ear buds to help cancel out the noise in the shop, especially when spraying concrete. 

Although everything in the mixture was weighed and measured, Brad explained that there is no exact science when it comes to creating the mixture because concrete consistency is a personal preference. Depending on the project, the concrete can be sprayed or hand poured.

You spoke with me about the influence of Brandon Gore's erosion sink. What else did you take away from his design class? Yeah, that sink is what really turned me on to concrete and specifically GFRC. I took a lot away from that class, but the thing that stuck out the most was when he said "concrete is unpredictable. The faster you embrace that the better off you'll be." That's stayed with me to this day.

I think some people view concrete as strictly modern or only used as counter tops in kitchens. How can concrete be incorporated into more living spaces? Concrete isn't just one aesthetic. There are so many ways to cast, form, and process concrete. It can be very rustic or very modern and anything in between. My main thought is this: while concrete might seem cold at first, it can actually bring warmth to a space. The organic nature of the color changes or subtle voids are aesthetically pleasing.

You seem to enjoy collaborating with other local small businesses. Who have you worked with recently? Custom furniture and fixture collaborations with Birdhouse Interior Design, tables for Hotel Flatiron, pour over trays for Archetype and some custom sinks for TACK Architecture.

What's your vision for the future of Reify Design? We would like to settle on a furniture line that allows the customer to choose from a curated set of options for each piece. However, we're really enjoying the bespoke side of things. One day I can see a line of furniture coming from custom pieces we really like.

Kitchen cabinet fronts is something we want to expand on. This would allow us to work with customers on multiple levels of the kitchen. The main idea is to utilize IKEA boxes and interior fittings (I know, everybody reading this is thinking I'm crazy). However, I worked in a cabinet shop and have an affinity for cabinetry. I have my thoughts on IKEA furniture, but their kitchen boxes are made from the same material as you'll find here and come with Blum fittings (high quality manufacturer of slides and hinges) and a 25 year warranty. From there, we work with the customer to build custom quality fronts using custom milled 1/8" hardwood edging opposed to 1/32" glue on edging. The other benefit is we can grain match the wood. Ultimately giving the consumer a high quality custom kitchen below the price of what they would traditionally spend at a cabinet shop.

And of course we want to continue working with concrete since it's the heart of what we do. Stair treads, bath tubs, fireplace surrounds, sinks, furniture, fire pits are all things that we can create.

You can follow Reify Design on Instagram and Facebook to see new projects in the works. 


  1. I'm really digging some of these images! Cool process to watch!

  2. Thanks Trisha! It was great spending time with these guys. They're so enthusiastic about what they do.

  3. And now I want to remodel my kitchen :)

    1. Me too! With lots of white, of course :)


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