Interview: Matt Eastvold of Eastvold Furniture
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We welcome another wonderful designer into the 2Modern family today: Matthew Eastvold of Eastvold Furniture. With his respect for materials and keen eye for clean lines and modern aesthetics, his handmade furniture is becoming a favorite of design-lovers from coast to coast.
Eastvold Furniture is bursting with personality and uniqueness, not to mention originality and quality. Matthew’s background in woodworking and cabinetry really shines through upon examination of his products: joinery is pristine, functionality is king and the style sings with a sense of Mid-Century Modernism meets Shaker-quality craftsmanship. The kind of furniture you buy to last a lifetime and beyond, we’re really finding a lot of inspiration in flipping through his designs for sale as well as the custom projects he’s worked on. Born, raised and now growing his business in Minnesota, Matthew shares his Midwest home with his lovely wife and two young boys — we love when someone who’s talented is real nice, too. Enjoy this interview we recorded with Matthew while he sat on the porch of his home in Minnesota (extra awesome awarded to the sweet song birds you can hear tweeting in the background); we ask him about his background, how he juggles being a dad and running a business and what’s up for the future:
In case you aren’t in the mood for listening to the interview right now, we’ve graciously typed out every one of his interesting and lovely words for you down below. Be sure to visit 2Modern for Eastvold Furniture selections and we like providing you the audio file for your own filing: Eastvold 2Modern Interview
2Modern: We are here with Matthew Eastvold, who is the principle behind Eastvold Furniture, a simple and modern wood furniture company out of Minnesota. Thanks for being here.
Matthew Eastvold: Thanks for having me.
2M: Looking at your website and looking at the furniture that you design, it really seems like your company values simple, good design. How would you describe your style?
ME: I would say simple and I’ve just always let the materials do the work. When I was in cabinetry we did a lot of modern kitchens and modern cabinets and I learned a lot about letting the material do the work. Because there are so many beautiful woods and even if you are doing laminates and steel they are still beautiful colors to choose from, if you keep the design simple you can really let that shine through. You don’t hide anything. And I like simple design because it feels uncluttered and it feels — I don’t know if peaceful is the right word — but it makes it feel calm, at least it does for me.
2M: It sounded like some cabinetry is in your background, is that what made you decide to go into wood furniture? What is your background like?
ME: Well I grew up on a farm, a big conventional crop farm. And my dad didn’t farm his whole life so he got into welding and worked in his welding shop. Through high school and college I was doing metal fabrication. I always loved woodworking; we had a woodworking shop in the back corner and I would always build furniture with scraps. Then I moved to Minneapolis about ten years ago and had an opportunity to work for a cabinet shop there, and this guy was working for a couple of really great architects in the Minneapolis area. I worked for him for about six months and he decided to move out of Minneapolis to his home state. And I sort of walked into these amazing contacts, so I sort of accidentally fell into cabinetry but it wasn’t too far off from what I wanted to be doing and I really enjoyed the design community.
So we did cabinetry for a number of years and started developing furniture pieces with big projects we were working on — the customers ultimately needed furniture, too — so I was able to work a little furniture in the mix. The cabinetry thing was accidental, but it was really what gave us a lot of exposure — we got published a lot in a number of publications, especially locally, but national magazines were picking up some of the projects we working on (mainly because of the architects and designers that were really up and coming and doing nice work and getting a lot of exposure). After the housing crash we got out of cabinetry and just decided to keep the furniture going and it’s blossoming into something great.
2M: How about giving us some information about your operation out there? Is it just you? Do you have guys that help you out? Do you work at home? Do you work in a warehouse? What’s it like over there?
ME: I actually live in a town of 17,000 with two private colleges called Northfield, Minnesota and we have a shop outside of Northfield in a town of 300 and I share a shop with actually a cabinetmaking shop, ironically. But we’ve been able to pool resources and I’ve gotten access to really great tools –- tools I wouldn’t be able to have on my own and it makes things easier to produce and easier to refine. And now it’s turning out that they’re stepping into the role of building a lot of my orders because I’ve gotten to know the guys, I trust them, I’m able to maintain quality control and work on projects. So they’re not employees but they’re in the same shop and they’re helping me out because things have definitely gotten to where I can’t keep up with orders on my own.
2M: Well that’s definitely a problem you want to have.
ME: Yeah, that’s good.
2M: What’s it like living and working in Minnesota? Because you know you’re not in one of the larger cities like L.A. or New York where a lot of the furniture designers are coming out of.
ME: It definitely affects my work because it’s where I grew up; I believe design comes from your background and your influences. But Minnesota has a really vibrant design community both in the arts and theater and music — everyone knows about the music here — but there are a lot of really great architects. And it doesn’t have the population to support a lot of what I’m doing, but there are a lot of other people doing similar things. And I think being centralized in the U.S., it costs the same to ship in either direction, and most of my orders are in New York and California. So it’s nice that way, it might save on shipping costs. I think everyone in the furniture business ships so it’s nice to be centralized. Minnesota is a great state to be in as far as having influences and having peers to talk with about business and watch what they’re doing.
2M: Well I know you and your wife have just had a new little baby boy and you also have an older son as well. How has having kids affected your creative process or how has it affected your productivity? How you run your business?
ME: Before Avery — our oldest son is four — my wife was in graduate school and my wife and I just worked constantly. You know, 16 hour days; it’s pretty easy to get it all done on your own. And once we had Avery — I had always wanted to make family my number one priority and sort of build my work around my family instead of being gone all the time. I grew up with my dad being — my dad’s shop was on our farm so he was always working but he was always around, which was good because he was always available, and it was just a great environment to be raised in.
Now with number two coming along, you have to get a lot more creative with how to get stuff done. I’m not any less ambitious or creative, and I don’t feel like I’m getting any less done, I just need to rely on these guys I share shop with, try to figure out how to do more work at home, because that’s a priority of mine and I really want to be able to do that. I’d say it’s mainly only made things better, because it’s made me be more creative. I used to just work as hard as I could all the time and I think whether you have children or not, that’s not a very healthy thing to do. So I’ve learned to enjoy life a lot more while getting everything done. And be okay with not getting everything done all the time.
2M: You mentioned earlier about letting the materials speak through your work and letting them stand on their own.
ME: I guess my favorite material is wood just for the obvious reasons: it’s warm, very versatile; it’s got lots of color variations. My favorite wood to work with is walnut and kind of coming into more of my favorite is white oak. I like white oak a lot; it’s also a native tree to Minnesota. But I’ve been trying to work more steel into my projects because I grew up working with metal, so I’ve introduced the Elko line using laser cut steel with the powder coating. I like using the laser cutting because I like the onset of technology in furniture, which I know there’s a school of people who are against technology or like to use the old woodworking tools. I’ve sort of embraced the computer generated stuff and the computer operated machines. So the Elko line is sort of playing off the Mid-Century leg design but incorporating a new technology with it and hopefully giving it a fresh look.
2M: So what is up next for you and your company?
ME: The Elko line is sort of new; it came out last year and I just released the Elko coffee table. I’m mainly going to be focus on getting the lines we have going more, more refined, maybe tweaking the designs a bit. But when I do start to come up with new designs it’s going to be smaller items. I don’t want to be unapproachable; I want all different price ranges in there. I sell a lot of the classic coffee table because of the price point and just from a business stand point it’s easier to ship. Maybe more coffee tables. I’ve got a couple of toy boxes that I haven’t fully developed, need to come up with more colors, they have a laminate material. Very simple. So I’d like to do some toy boxes, some coffee tables, and maybe something even more traditional or maybe even more modern. I’ve been focusing on these Mid-Century inspired pieces but it’d be fun to branch out a little bit.
2M: Thank you Matthew! It was a pleasure talking with you.
ME: Yeah, thank you for the interview. It’s a beautiful day here in Minnesota and it was fun talking with you.
2M: You can visit eastvoldfurniture.com/ for more information about Matthew and his products. You’ve been listening to a 2modern designer interview. For more fun podcasts, inspiring design posts and design advice, check out the blog at 2modern.com