BDDW / Tyler Hays
When I first started thinking about writing a blog it was mainly to document travel diaries of important design destinations and to share information on craftsmanship in design. Tyler Hays, the founder of BDDW, is one of the main reasons I began this new facet in my design career. As a professor full time at Auburn University and part time at Parsons School of Design for 8 years I taught Advanced Materials and Finishes to the 3rd year Interior Design students. I always wanted to learn new ways of integrating materials into my projects and through teaching I gained an even better understanding of what materials work best in certain applications. Tyler Hays is a master craftsman and materials engineer that began his career as a painter and sculptor at the University of Oregon.
When he moved to New York in the early 90’s he worked mainly as a contractor and did painting and sculpture on the side as a creative outlet. That creative component and thorough understanding of materials and engineering is what drove him to create his current line of classic modernist furniture with an heirloom feel. His journey began in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and outside his first studio there was a brick factory chimney with the letters BDDW on one side and the company was founded in 1994. He realized later that the letters actually read EDDW but his business was already off the ground and stuck with the name. After that, he moved to Rivington Street in what is now Freeman’s Sporting Club Barber. It was mostly a workshop that he built custom pieces for everyone from Kate Spade to Ralph Lauren and was the go-to contractor for beautiful custom furniture. As his business began to grow he opened his first shop at 5 Crosby Street a week before September 11, 2001.
Not the best time for a new business to get off the ground, but with a small collection of 6 or 7 pieces he began what is now an 80 person operation. Some of the first pieces and soon to be classics in the collection included the Lake Credenza, Captain’s Mirror, Simple Chair, Tripod Lamp and the Slab Bed. I met Tyler over 10 years ago and have been buying his exquisitely elegant furniture for clients ever since. In fact, most end up buying multiple pieces which have become favorites that will be handed down for generations to come.
Hays uses American indigenous woods such as maple, Claro walnut, pear and holly as well as stone, bronze and cast iron to create these timeless shaker-inspired pieces that are completely original. When constructing his furniture, if he can’t produce them with his current machinery he simply creates a new piece of equipment to assemble the work. Following are images of materials and details of Tyler’s master craftsmanship, showing the engineering skills he continues to perfect.
Although he maintains an apartment in New York, the factory and his main residence are in Philadelphia, enabling him to have 300,000 square feet of manufacturing and engineering space for his furniture production. Tyler is continuing to expand the line and recently added upholstered furniture including sofas, chairs and custom mattresses. Even the way the textiles that he hand picks and works with manufacturers to produce are displayed in an innovative way.
Another one of Tyler’s passions is creating audio equipment ranging from custom speakers and mind-blowing turntables that he produces with Phila Audio Corp.
Tyler sees his business as “a group of closely knit people making things that will last for 100 hundred years and that mean something”. Judging by the success of his recent 10 year anniversary auction, collectors worldwide are already acknowledging BDDW’s furniture as timeless and truly meaningful design. I asked Tyler what was next on his design agenda and surprisingly he said “a toilet, coffee maker and blender as well as kids toys”. I’m looking forward to the introduction of each of these and can only imagine how special his design aesthetic will transform these things we use everyday. A special thank you to Jon Thorson and Tyler Hays for sharing his inspiring design story with The Gilded Owl.
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