Sunday, April 22, 2012

Designer Spolight: Rail Yard Studios



At Rail Yard Studios, “preservation and sustainability are our goal,” says father and son team, Jim and Robert Hendrick who uniquely create magnificent one-of-a-kind custom furniture from historical century-old railroad steel and hardwood timbers. Robert owns a railroad company and decided to re-purpose and transform all the imperfect railroad ties that had knots, splits or warps into marvelous furniture, real beauties of combined wood and steel!  What's fascinating are these special pieces made by the same hands that work the railroad, “honest, hard-working blue collar laborers.”

It was a real pleasure meeting the Rail Yard Studio team, owner Robert Hendrick and Erica Edwards at the Architectural digest show! Great people, great designs!The furniture is innovative and has superior attention to detail!  I am very excited about my interview with Robert where he describes his inspired story and creative process:

Robert Hendrick, Rail Yard Studios

Tell me about yourself, and how you were inspired to create Rail Yard Studios after seeing century-old materials being scrapped by your own railroad maintenance and construction company?

It was heart-wrenching to see the old steel with big bold brands and manufacture dates on the side that said CARNEGIE 1898 or TENNESSEE 1911. The crew just recognized it as worn out steel and carted it off to the scrap yard. Later when the economy turned down in 2009 and 2010, the crew needed something to do in between jobs, so I put to use my Industrial Design degrees and had them start building furniture from the century old rail. They thought I was crazy at first, until they saw the finished product. Then they believed.

In three words, how would you describe your signature design aesthetic?

Industrial. Revolution. Revitalized.
DETAIL OF SLEEPER DESK AT ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST SHOW
DETAIL OF SLEEPER DESK AT ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST SHOW
IPAD STAND - MIX OF THE OLD AND THE NEW!!


No great designer exists without inspiration. Please take us behind the design of your furniture-making.  How did the designs of all come to be? Tell us the inspired stories. What fueled your creative process?

I have lots of favorite designers - Raymond Loewy, Charles and Ray Eames and Frank Lloyd Wright to name a few. Truthfully, the biggest influencer was my father. He works with us at Rail Yard Studios and everyone knows him as "Pop." Growing up, he was constantly renovating the house or building something from interesting scraps of materials he had acquired. As my mom says, "We've been under construction for 50 years," so he has to take the credit and the blame for inspiring this.
 

Can you describe the difficulty and workmanship it takes to construct re-purposed furniture from old railroad and rescued centercut hardwood cross ties?

Railroad is big industry. Tolerances are fairly large. Crossties for example are allowed to vary by 1/2" in their height and width. So while the standard for the tie is 6"x8" one tie may be 5-3/4"x8" and the next one 6-1/4" x 7-7/8". That makes things challenging since we want to retain the outter rough condition of the tie. In addition to that, we use the rejects from the tie plant - the ones that did not meet spec. That means they may vary MORE than 1/2", be split, have big knots, be warped or contain a barkseam or any combination of those flaws. So each tie is different.

The steel is much the same way. Rail wears differently on the ends than in the middle of the rail. Rail that has been used in a curve has a different profile. In any case the 100 years of use deform the head wand create this small lip called "flow." The size, and shape of the flow varies with each piece. So we have to accommodate for those variances in all of our designs.



RAILROAD TRESTLE BED


RAILROAD TRESTLE BED
SLEEPER COFFEE TABLE

SLEEPER COFFEE TABLE

SLEEPER COFFEE TABLE


What are your favorite and most successful designs?

I come up with new favorites all of the time. Probably the longest standing favorites are the Switchpoint Desk and the Triangle Table pieces. They are fairly simple - a characteristic of good design, but also like any good design they were hard to come up with. 
SWITCHPOINT TABLE


TRIANGULAR TABLE
TRAINGLE DETAIL


Thank you Robert for an inspired interview!
Your furniture creations are beautiful!

~M



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