“Quality craftsmanship” is something of an understatement when describing the striking work of Chase Warren – a furniture maker in west elm Phoenix’s LOCAL Collection. We recently visited his workshop to learn a little more about his craft, and in return, were totally blown away with the attention to detail on his custom furniture pieces. From embracing the grain on the woods he uses and turning these natural qualities into unique design elements to how he incorporates steel and leather to make custom draw pulls, Chase describes his work and craftsmanship best. “We want the chairs to be comfortable, the drawers to close smoothly, the tabletops to be solid and flat.” Take a closer look at Chase’s studio and hear more from the maker himself below!
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Well, I’m an Arizonan by birth. I studied Biology in college, then worked in health care for many years. Making furniture had long been a passion of mine, so when it came time to switch the career gears, starting my own custom furniture business was a natural fit. The creative outlet it provides is inspiring, especially when my clients share the same pride in owning my work, as I did custom designing it.
Let’s hear about your studio space and what a typical day looks like for you.
We have nice little workshop in an industrial area of Phoenix. The space itself is surrounded by other woodworkers, cabinetmakers, painters, screenprinters, and metal workers. The creatives really stick together here. Quite the inspiring environment to be in. I’m able to do all the production in this space as well – from planing wood to the finishing process. Typical day is just what you would expect – having fun working in the shop! I squeeze in time to answer emails and meet with people and do office work here and there, but the majority of the day looks like an episode of The New Yankee Workshop.
Give us some insight into your design + manufacturing process.
All of the methods from the initial design to the actual build process are very purposefully analog and hands-on. My favorite way to design is to just go out and build, straight from an idea into reality. That way it’s fast and it can be exciting to make something with very little formal planning. When working with clients though we usually provide sketches and detailed descriptions of the concept if we are doing a new design for them. I enjoy all the little details. The idea is to end up with a piece that looks better in person than it does in pictures. It also has to function better than expected. Every aspect is considered. We want the chairs to be comfortable, the drawers to close smoothly, the tabletops to be solid and flat. When you are considering all these aspects, you end up making everything from scratch in-house. We make all our own drawer pulls from steel, brass, wood, and leather. The finishes we use are different – we mix our own. No stains, no dyes – we generally go with the natural color or we do some type of natural chemical patina. We cut our own thick-sawn veneers. The result is generally something that isn’t available any other way.
What (or who) inspires you the most?
As far as furniture, I don’t think you can beat the Shakers. They would be the main inspiration for most of what I make. In general, what inspires me is anything that points to the primacy of the individual. That leaves me a lot of good options inside of music, literature and just everyday life. It’s counterintuitive, but I do believe this is related to what the Shakers were originally up to. It ties in to working with your hands – making your personal spaces meaningful and attractive.
What do you love about the Phoenix area?
Phoenix is a mix of small town and big city. It is a nexus for a whole host of unique ideas – many of them very different. A little bit Pancho Villa, a little bit Frank Lloyd Wright, all these ideas from different parts of the world mix together here in an interesting way. Plus, this is where I was born. I’m happy to continue making furniture in the city I call home.