History, tradition and family connections are important to Steven Beck and they permeate every part of his business, Black Dog Home, a High Point-based company that specializes in handcrafted, custom wood furniture.
The company, started three years ago, sells direct to consumer but is growing its business with home furnishings retailers and interior designers, and recently joined High Point x Design to build its profile within the trade. Decor News Now talked with Beck during a recent HPxD Design Day.
“Being an entrepreneur, I’m always looking at ways we can grow,” Beck says. “Right now, I’m trying to grow by being a vessel for designers because I feel like what we offer and what they are looking to accomplish for their clients go hand in hand. We can really give them and their clients a value add by crafting the right piece of furniture for them.”
Black Dog Home operates a small retail space — and coffee bar — on North Main Street, where it showcases its products. It’s a comfortable, casual spot where Beck can also meet with customers to discuss designs. There’s a table in one room with a roll of paper on it for just such sketching.
Beck is a third-generation woodworker who relishes his childhood spent in a woodshop with his grandfather. He likes to incorporate reclaimed woods into dining tables, consoles, desks and other case goods, appreciating the stories the weathered woods tell, and he sources newer wood with local mills to support area businesses. Beck’s proud to be making furniture in the Furniture Capital of the World, even if less production is done in the region than in the past.
“I think the fact that we’re handcrafting furniture in the furniture capital is something cool. It’s been a part of our history, if not so much a part of our present,” Beck says. “… But there are makers and creators who are bringing handcrafting back to this area. That speaks to our connection to the history of the area.”
Handcrafted furnishings are especially appealing to millennials, says Beck, himself part of that generation. “I feel like my generation likes to know the story behind something. People are intrigued by that. So, if I can tell you, ‘This wood came from such and such a place’ and ‘This inspired the design,’ people get excited about that.”
Found objects and unique projects
A small team of Black Dog Home artisans produces the wood furniture and Beck also makes accessories, such as lamps made from found objects. Styles range from farmhouse to industrial loft to modern Scandinavian, but Beck and his team like to experiment and can custom craft pieces in virtually any style, he says. The company ships nationwide. A typical custom dining table retails from $2,000 to $3,000, and time from order to completion is 6-8 weeks.
“I come from humble beginnings,” Beck says. “My dad’s a small business owner. My wife’s father is a small business owner. … And I want my furniture to be affordable. If someone has been desiring a handcrafted table for quite some time, I want them to be able to have it.”
The nimble nature of his team means Black Dog Home can create a unique piece that goes beyond typical custom furniture. Consider the company’s current project for a new bar that’s opening soon: It’s a table that will drop from the ceiling and hover over a pool table when it’s not in use. For that, Beck is happy to have someone on the team who once worked on oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to help with the table’s rigging system. “It’s a cool idea and the even cooler thing is that we have the ability to make that table,” Beck says.
Beck’s a serial entrepreneur. This summer, he and business partner Zach Moore launched American Swing Bed, a company that makes, well, swing beds. (Think the deep wood swings perfect for a nap often found on Southern front porches.) The company produces the swing bed itself (available in several finishes) and packages each one with the ropes to hang it and the cushions to make it comfy. As with Black Dog Home, the company focuses on handcrafting and local sourcing, hand tying the rope knots and buying the cushions from a producer in nearby Archdale, North Carolina.
Black Dog Home’s retail space is a nice place for a chat. Here’s a bit more from our conversation:
Decor News Now: Why do your customers enjoy buying from Black Dog Home?
Steven Beck: “With every order that goes out, I include a handwritten note. I want them to know that they are purchasing from a small business, and that’s meaningful to us. This is how I support my family and we’re grateful for our customers. I think people also appreciate the consultations we do before every project. They like that they’re actually talking to the creator and the builder, and I learn what’s meaningful to them. I keep that in mind when I source the wood and through the building process.”
DNN: What do you want retailers and interior designers to know about your company?
Beck: “First, I’d emphasize that we’re all handcrafted, handmade. We’re not using CNC machines or making pieces on large assembly lines. We’re using tried-and-true hardwoods, everything built by hand. Second, I get asked by retailers if we have minimum orders. No, we have no minimums. We can work with you.”
DNN: What’s the tool you like most to use in your work?
Beck: “I have a couple of favorites in the shop, but I’d say Festool makes something called a domino joiner. It’s a mortise and tenon joiner for tabletops, or that’s what we use it for most often. And I still have and use my granddad’s files for sanding in hard to reach places. If we’re talking other types of tools, I’m a big Instagram person. It’s a quick way to get inspired. ”
DNN: What’s one of your favorite recent pieces that you’ve produced?
Beck: “That’s a tough question, like picking your favorite child. I would say it’s a table where the top is reclaimed pine so you get the characteristic aspects of the wood but instead of normal joinery — a seamless top — I ended up joining the two pieces strictly using walnut bowties. … It speaks to the creative nature of what we can offer. It’s not your everyday dining table you’re going to find around every corner, on every website.”
What’s in a name: Confession time. The first question I asked Steven Beck actually had nothing to do with furniture. As an animal lover, I wanted to know about the black dog that gave Black Dog Home its name. It turns out that dog was Sailor, a very good boy whose portrait is displayed on the back wall of the company’s retail space. “My dad is a vet and I grew up around pets. Dogs were a big part of my upbringing,” Beck says. “When it comes to family, I have a wife and two daughters, and we have our black dogs. When I was naming the company, I didn’t want it to be Beck Furniture. I wanted to incorporate something meaningful.” Sailor has since passed away but Beck says two other very good dogs, Hank and Scout, have stepped up to serve as mascots. — JAP