Change and InTransit

Change is hard yet necessary for growth. I don’t think anyone would argue that statement. We have all experienced it. It tends to be scary, walking into the unfamiliar. Most of my career at Hardwood Artisans, I held the title of Qualifications Director. This was an interesting and quirky job, which resulted in me having to know how to do every other job within the business, often poorly, but learned non-the-less. It had to do with understanding what was needed by the worker, and what was wanted by the customer. It was a painfully great job that involved me creating change within the organization all the time. It involved me getting people within the group to embrace and accept change.

Fast forward to 2015. Our Rockville store lease is ending in a year, and we are not going to renew the lease. We knew it was time to leave, so the hunt had to begin. What I realized, much like in 1997 when we decided to change our name , was that we were not the company our image portrayed any longer. We needed an external face lift.

On different occasions I found myself wandering around the newer, trendy (some say gentrified, but I think that word is overused) areas of Washington, DC and Bethesda, MD, looking for a space. We went to the 14th and U Street Corridor, the H Street Corridor, NOMA (North of Massachusetts Avenue), Bethesda Row, The Woodmont Triangle, etc. We kept seeing many low-rise steel and glass, full amenity modern condominium buildings going up everywhere.

This architecture was the catalyst for the InTransit design. The key points of motivation and standards for the InTransit Collection were: solid wood construction, impeccable joinery, industrial, simple/clean lines, relatively less expensive, efficient use of space, and scale appropriate (smaller).

We found some wonderful handles and finish for our prototypes in a serendipitous manner, as most good projects seem to go. I had a client who wanted something very transitional to go with other pieces they had. The handles and the wood/color selection were due to their efforts on that project. The handles are a distressed pewter finish, large and heavy.

For the prototypes, we wanted walnut wood, but darker. We also wanted the walnut to not fade, as walnut does over time. Still, we wanted the finish to feel natural (oil), and not be a lacquer-type finish. The demand for the correct wood and finish was changed several times. Finally, we applied Aniline Dye Stain to walnut wood, actually dying the wood, and then applied a clear Danish Oil on the top.

The InTransit Bed design was motivated by wanting storage, coupled with lightness. We integrated metal supports into the design for the headboard, made the surface for the mattress flat, and created open cubbies in the base (finished interior spaces), with drawer storage options. The entire bed system rests on a pedestal, resulting in an efficient storage bed that looks like it is floating.

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InTransit Bed. The exquisite lamp is courtesy of Bobby Lipman, artist and customer.

 

The InTransit Chests and Dressers were designed largely around scale. We wanted a standard five drawer chest, but with generously sized drawers. We also wanted a dresser, but not in the traditional sense. The seven drawer dresser is a mere 52” long, with larger “bin” style drawers on top and ample drawer storage below. It is taller than most standard dressers, trying to utilize wall space while maintaining aesthetics.

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Back to locating a space, in February of 2016 we found the space in the Woodmont Triangle area of Bethesda that we now occupy. It is like meeting the love of your life – the minute you see her, you know it. Steve Doyle, the Rockville (now Bethesda) store manager and I non-verbally, but simultaneously agreed this was the spot. So here we are.

I had not considered or accounted for the vast generosity of the community that welcomed us. One day after signing the lease, we got a call from Aaron Kraut from the Bethesda Beat (http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/) wanting to do an interview. Less than a week later we had a nice mention in the online version of Bethesda Magazine (http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/).

There is a guy in Bethesda. Most people seem to know him, or know of him. Charles, the window cleaner. He is a tall, thin, black man, who wears the stars and stripes on his shirt, pants, bandana, etc.. He is a little odd, I must say. But he is the exact flavor of “old” Bethesda we were looking for. We are in the funky northern part of Bethesda, where the little guy still prevails. A perfect fit.

We moved in the same week we signed the lease. I had just gotten back from Haiti two days earlier. Just a soft opening, but getting things placed and organized takes time. The space is different from most, with a curved front and a ton of glass, all nice, but challenging when wanting to create vignettes. Vintage. We had no phone, no printer, no internet. Our neighbor, Creative Parties, offered to design and print some signs for us, which they did at no cost ( Tracy Schwartz of Creative Parties.com ).

Back to the InTransit Collection. As we work to get Bethesda ready to go, we are putting the finishing touches on the collection. The InTransit Collection turned out exactly how we had hoped, exactly how the new showroom needed it to be. We have become a different company. Still, we are the same, but we have evolved, changed in a positive way, like your teenage son who you now recognize as a man for the first time.

Greg Gloor ran us through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s in the jeans and tee shirt and running shoes days – a bunch of hippies mastering woodworking. Now, we have traded up to something different, emulating the furniture we make. Now, designer jeans and dress shirts with wing tip shoes. Not better, just different and new. With all this change, I still only shave two times a week.  Most people see me in a perpetual three day beard. There are some things that I just will not change!

Mark Gatterdam

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