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Desert Companion

This is going to be huge

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Photo credit: Bill Hughes

Logan Hendrickson started off building chairs for dolls. Now his sleek but rugged designer furniture (for actual humans) is creating a big buzz

Roxy and Logan Hendrickson bought half a house — a log cabin, actually, on the outskirts of Henderson. It was a steal, priced at roughly the value of the acre it sat on, because it was a mere shell of a home. There were barely even walls.

So the two, married last July, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. They laid up bricks, installed wide-beam wood flooring, designed a kitchen and bathrooms, inch by inch building the house with sweat equity and an aesthetic that might be called raw, homey industrial minimalism.

Their work on the house led to them blogging about the process to help instruct other home-improvers (DIY concrete walls, anyone?). And because the house (featured on page 68) was built from nothing, Roxy and Logan decided their furniture would be as well. Soon, friends began asking Logan to make pieces for their own homes. Encouraged by the budding enthusiasm for a craft born of thrift, the couple decided to try to sell a few of the things they were making on Etsy.com. Onefortythree (onefortythree.com), named for their home address, was born, and the couple moved their online storefront from Etsy onto designer startup mecca Big Cartel.

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Think small

At least, that’s one way of telling the story of Onefortythree. The big secret to their success is literally a small one: The Hendrickson’s furniture business really kicked into high gear with dollhouse furniture.

“I got a lot of calls in from the dollhouse scene,” Logan Hendrickson says. (The most surprising part of his admission is that there is, in fact, a “dollhouse scene.”) Having been invited to participate in a blog-sponsored dollhouse design competition, Logan did what pretty much, well, no one else would have. He built a geodesic dome dollhouse, complete with a working electric chandelier and uber-mod, real (and tiny) molded plywood and steel furniture.

The dollhouse was rich with textile detail. Logan “installed” wood laminate and built a platform bed fitted with cotton sheets. The work won him a feature in American Miniaturist magazine; building awesome dollhouse furniture is that big a deal. When the competition was over, people who had been following called to buy bits of the minuscule modernism he had constructed.

It was then Logan decided to scale up. If he could make molded, Eames-inspired plywood chairs for dolls, he thought, he could make chairs for people, too.

“It was tricky, because there’s not a lot of information on how to do it,” Logan says. He first consulted his dad, a local cabinet-maker of 40 years, but came up empty. Even his dad had no idea how it was done. So Logan had to teach himself how to construct the molds and glue the veneered plywood up in layers in its iconic striation — almost as if it hadn’t already been done 60 years ago by the legendary design duo Charles and Ray Eames. Hendrickson has clearly mastered the art of plywood; he’s since branched out into everything from sleek magazine racks to clean, handsome wall storage cabinets. Not to mention his other creations, from his polygonal planters made from recycled wood to swinging wall lamps.

Everything Eames

It’s tempting to classify Logan and his wife Roxy as modern invocations of everything Eames: their curiosity and inventiveness, their work ethic, their collaboration in creating need-fulfilling, affordable design — not to mention their aesthetic. Much the way his predecessors prized the integrity of function, Logan chooses to leave raw and exposed what other furniture-makers might work to hide — such as the lock miter joints that connect a table’s planes without the use of nails, and the careful alignment of wood grain to allow the natural surface to shine instead of embellishing it with veneer. In the end, what makes the piece strong is ultimately what makes it beautiful.

[HEAR MORE: Learn how the neon sign came to embody the Las Vegas design aesthetic on "KNPR’s State of Nevada."]

Each success modestly built upon the last, Logan and Roxy seem to embody a vision of work that’s both old-fashioned and new, artisanal and technologically attuned. For instance, these small-scale producers use social media as real-time market research. Logan posts works in progress to Instagram in what amounts to a form of risk-free market testing, where he gathers feedback from the public before going into production. Their interaction with an audience of design-lovers makes Onefortythree seem most like a playful collaboration that’s achieving critical mass. Requests from customers lead to adaptations and variations on themes: a switch added to a swinging lamp base here, lengths shortened there.

And it works. If you browse their social media feed, the love for Onefortythree keeps growing. Logan will stumble across his products in the pages of San Francisco magazine, while he’s also snagging mentions on big-name blogs such as Design Sponge and Martha Stewart. Not bad for a homegrown business that’s now receiving requests from all over the world.

But that’s really not surprising when, after all is said and done, you could get your mitts on a made-to-order handmade Eames-like upholstered “Roxy” rocker (named after Roxy, of course) for less than $600. At least, before Onefortythree becomes the next biggest thing to come out of Las Vegas.

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