January 15, 2016
Apple, Google, Walt Disney, Westin Mitchell – “Companies Build Out of Garages”
Origin stories fascinate and intrigue specifically when auspicious beginnings turn profit as success stories. Westin Mitchell, the boy, drawn to Legos and erector sets, graduated college then hustled at flea markets understanding the value of his surrounding resources to gather knowledge, land a job and eventually turned a two stall garage into a company. Today at 7000 square feet, Westin Mitchell, the company has outgrown its “Fiat” footprint with a warehouse located in the burgeoning downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Westin Mitchell finds itself in a local community of craftsmen that thrive on the willingness even desire to inspire through collaboration; in this community there is an enthusiasm to see each other grow.
The power of the origin story is at the root of Westin Mitchell’s philosophy using reclaimed materials of mixed mediums – glass, wood, heavy metals. The “where it was found and what it was,” coupled with “how it’s made and who made it” creates a history; with a history you have a conversation piece. While Westin Mitchell brands itself “high-end gentleman loft living” there is universal appeal where “furniture is art.” We couldn’t agree more. Westin stepped away from his welder to answer our Spotlight questions.
1) What are you working on at the moment?
Currently adding more pieces to the collection – really excited about a new coffee table we are designing. It’s going to have a polished brass base, walnut body, and smoked glass top. There will be hand blown glass light bulbs built inside the walnut body of the table that will light up and be seen through the smoked glass. – Keep us posted, we’d like to have a first look.
2) What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I went to University of Arizona for school and studied real estate development. Most people ask or suspect I went to an art school – I never did. I didn’t end up getting into design until after school and mostly everything has been self-taught.
3) What’s your favorite piece of work/furniture that you have created?
The Cast Statement Chair – first time I experimented with casting aluminum and the piece turned out great. Love how the polished aluminum, walnut, canvas, and leather all come together and the bonus – the chair turned out really comfortable. We are currently designing an ottoman for the chair as well.
4) What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My welder – metal work is my favorite trade in furniture building and my welder is the most important tool I need to fabricate steel. I still have my first welder from when I started the company in my two-car garage; I will never sell it.
5) How has your work developed throughout the years?
It’s considerably more refined since the beginning, was first taught and built industrial furniture (Industrial Chic) where the style was very masculine, rugged, heavy, salvaged etc. and have now grown into a much more refined style with attention to detail and pride in craftsmanship.
6) How do you know when a work is finished?
I have a few good friends that I trust as critics. When I show them a piece and they have nothing to say besides it looks beautiful then I know its finished.
7) What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Probably when I met Nate Berkus (interior designer) and he called my new furniture line exquisite. – Well then we say, you are automatically Oprah approved.
8) What wouldn’t you do without?
My studio – could not run my business without it. It is the place where we build everything… has a full metal, wood, and glass shop inside. Also it is a big part of my marketing and branding – we have built a bar inside to entertain clients and hold meetings. We have held many events in the past and are currently doing a monthly event called “Design Night” where friends, family, clients, and industry come to the studio once a month to enjoy cocktails and conversation. Not only is it a great space to design, create and build our furniture, but also is a place to show our clients the process and how everything is made.
9) Why do you do what you do?
Ever since I was a little kid I have been building things with my hands and I am the happiest in life when I am in my shop with tools creating and building things.
10) What inspires you? What inspired the Parlor Desk?
Most of the inspiration for the Parlor Desk came from mid-century design and a little bit of art deco. Love the walnut wood used back then and also wanted to make a masculine desk, but have really nice lines with the tapered round legs and cross bars. Glass rod inspiration came from working with my good friend Uri. He uses a lot of different glass rods in the studio to blow glass. Seeing those rods lined up together gives this really cool deco feel that I wanted to incorporate into the desk.
11) Has being based in Los Angeles influenced your aesthetic at all? If so, how?
Yes, I knew nothing about furniture design or building furniture before I moved to LA so this city is where I learned everything. Also I am obsessed with the local flea markets in Los Angeles and am constantly getting inspiration from a lot of the antiques/vintage pieces I find at these flea markets. I also work with and collaborate with a few LA based artists that have definitely influenced my aesthetic.
12) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
When building your brand and designing make sure to find a niche in the market, design and make things that are not out there, but people need. I really like this piece of advice and have followed it by coming up with a high-end gentleman’s line. I know it is a bit of a risk because the majority of the furniture market is purchased by females, but I think it is something that is much needed and will hopefully succeed.