Scott Dergance and Jonathan Coppin of Denver-based company Elemental Living design and manufacture modern furniture guided by eco-friendly principles. Both are trained architects that worked on commercial projects that had them crisscrossing the globe. In 2006 they decided to launch a Elemental Living, through which they’re devoted to creating simple furniture forms that will enhance and simplify life. They provided us with a glimpse into a typical day of two guys making it on their own.
As is the case most mornings, both Jonathan and I start our day eating breakfast with our families and getting the kids off to school. We live about 25 miles apart, so we often work from home early in the day before meeting up at the shop or other locations.
I’m working on a small study model for a new dining chair design we have been developing. With our architectural backgrounds, building scale models of our designs has always been part of our process. On any design, we move from big idea hand sketches, to 2D drawings, to physical models, to 3D computer models, and then finally to production drawings. We will be building prototypes of this chair shortly.
The major event of the morning is a photo shoot for the 2012 catalog. This shot is one we took of the set up for our Ilex Lounge Chairs. The chairs pictured look fabulous in walnut and wheat fabric with sky blue legs. We’ll be sending these two chairs to Bobby Berk Home stores in New York City and Miami as soon as we are done photographing.
Like most days, today we will wear many hats and shift gears a number of times throughout the day to get done what needs to be done. After the photo shoot we head to our shop to start putting together Ilex tabletops. These particular tops are being built to fulfill orders from the Fab.com sale from a few weeks back. Jonathan is cleaning up the edges of some American walnut on the joiner before we start laying up the wood to glued.
It is hard to believe it is already lunchtime. In fact, we are taking a late lunch today at one of our favorite eateries, Chipotle, which is actually Colorado-based. We love the food, but there’s one thing we’d like to change: We think they need some new chairs. We just happen to have one in the back of our truck that would work beautifully. What do you think?
The reason we had that chair in the back of our truck was because we were on our way to a meeting with our metal parts supplier, Majestic Metals. We talked with them about the steel parts we need to start producing out goods in larger numbers. They gave us a tour of their facility and we were very impressed. Jonathan and Doug from Majestic are watching this amazing robotic press brake fabricating parts. Majestic prides itself on being on the leading edge of technology and we love that because it means we get superior quality furniture.
Here we are driving on I-25 from north of Denver to our next meeting ten miles south of Denver. Since all but one component in our entire line of furnishings is produced in the Denver metro area, we spend a lot of time driving around town. Being American made and local is what Elemental Living is all about. It allows us to personally touch every piece and part of furniture we make. That means higher quality for our customers.
Our next meeting is with the guys at EliSons Workshop. These guys are great at custom mill work. We hope to strike an agreement for them to produce many of our case goods. Jonathan and I are discussing some production drawings of the Veridis line of storage and shelving with Ben from EliSons. We are using the CNC router as a conference table.
It is now early evening; time to change gears again. We make a quick wardrobe change in the parking lot before heading back into town. A change of clothes (something nicer than shop gear) can often be found in the back seat of our cars. Today is no exception.
We head back into town with just enough time to stop in at Hillstone, one of our favorite restaurants, for a quick appetizer and a beer. We love its fabulous architecture and décor. Note the awesome Republic of Fritz Hansen stools at the bar. The places we like to frequent usually have excellent furnishings. Go figure!
This evening’s event is a special one. The Denver Film Society holds a great Architecture and Design Film Series every year. Tonight is an even bigger deal: it’s the world premiere of a new documentary on Charles and Ray Eames, and we have tickets to attend. Eames: The Architect and The Painter is a visually stunning and very high quality film about the two most influential furniture designers of the 20th century. Co-director Jason Cohn is at the premiere as well and participates in an interesting Q&A after the screening.
After the screening there is a reception at Encore Restaurant next door to the Denver Film Center. Due to our rushed afternoon and evening, we are both starving. While we wait for some appetizers to arrive, we catch up with William Logan (just out of frame), the publisher of Modern in Denver magazine. Our Ilex Lounge Chair and Ottoman made the cover of the latest issue. Talking with people like William is why we come to these events. We don’t get home until after 10 PM, which isn’t that bad, but it means we missed the opportunity to tuck the kids into bed. Sometimes that’s the price you pay when you are trying to make your company work.
Thanks Scott and Jonathan!
Portrait photo by Trevor Brown, Andrew Clark Studio.
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