Folks that are passionate about a hobby, their profession, their home, a color, an author, a material, a movement—about anything at all—are fun to talk with. Their enthusiasm is often infectious and they always have something new (and many times unknown to others) to share. I found myself having such a conversation with Roblyn. A naturally creative and design passionate person, armed with an Interior Design degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), she has helped many of our clients achieve just what they envisioned with our wood products. Her excitement about color and textures or the latest and greatest in the design world is genuine. It comes across within moments of meeting her. We found comfortable spots in our lounge to chat about what she’s seeing in the design world, what role Thoughtful Sophistication plays, and what she expects we’ll all see more of in the future:
Megan: Thanks for taking the time to chat.
Roblyn: Of course!
M: I wanted to pick your brain a bit. I know you’re into design and often take what you see and create your own experience; personalize it. And you bring that to clients. So what do you think is the next wave, the next trend in our industry?
R: I think we’ll continue to see an aesthetic where designers are taking existing spaces and materials and incorporating them into a modern environment without losing the history or value of what already existed. We’re definitely in a time where there’s a strong desire to celebrate the history—and story—of our environments while marrying them with new elements and the high tech products we want and need to live and work with.
Pioneer Millworks American Gothic Mixed Hardwoods reclaimed paneling
Bryan Danger started Zenbox Design after a May 2014 article in the New York Times featuring he and his partner Jen’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) garnered a lot of attention. Bryan has a master of Architecture from UofO but moved into Graphic Design and somehow found himself working in a high-tech corporate office for 14 years. After a year driving through Mexico and Central America in their 67 VW Bus, Bryan and Jen moved back to Portland to start on their new path. The problem? They had renters in their home. Solution? They had a 480-square foot garage that wasn’t being used. They designed and built out the garage into a cozy living space. Word got out quickly and readers and neighbors alike were demanding Bryan design their ADU and custom furniture. Hesitant at first, the couple wanted to keep their new found “nomadic balance”. Though they had been working with neighbors for free for some time, zenbox design was officially born and takes on a few clients every year for custom homes and furniture. The rest of the time the couple rents their garage on
The problem? They had renters in their home. Solution? They had a 480-square foot garage that wasn’t being used. They designed and built out the garage into a cozy living space. Word got out quickly and folks started requesting Bryan design their ADU and custom furniture. Hesitant at first, the couple wanted to keep their new found “nomadic balance”. Though they had been working with neighbors for free for some time, Zenbox Design was officially born and takes on a few clients every year for custom homes and furniture. The rest of the time the couple rents their garage on Airbnb and travels with their dog, Karma, around the continent in their custom sprintervan (another Zenbox project).
1. How would you refer to yourself? Woodworker? Artisan? Craftsman? Designer/Creative. Our designs range from custom furniture and installations to small custom homes.
2. How did you get started? Ive always designed/built as much of my own furniture/environment as I could. In 2013, my wife and I had downsized and purged all our belongings to take a 2 year road trip. Upon returning we hated the idea of simply buying all our furniture rather than each piece being intentional, and started designing/building them instead.
The garage transformed into an ADU, courtesy of zenboxdesign.com
3. Why wood? Our designs tend to use a combination of wood and steel, but we feel wood is critical because of the softness and warmth it brings to a space. All the better if that wood is also reclaimed and has a story/history to tell.
4. What was the first thing you made from wood? As best I can recall, a 3’ tall model of the Trojan Horse, when I was 6th grade. As Zenbox design, I think our first piece was a steel and reclaimed wood barstoolthat we still use (and offer to clients) today.
5. What does being creative meant to you? It’s simply how my brain works—I have to be designing or creating something to feel active or alive. It’s not a switch I can turn off and I naturally find my brain creatively redesigning every space I walk into and everything I touch.
6. Do you have any rituals? None.
7. What is your favorite piece? Our tiny home has a bar/island that takes up no space on a day to day basis but can roll out to seat 6–8 when we entertain. It’s a 6’ long slab of reclaimed fir we took out of the house in the remodel and it seems to be the perfect combination of creative reuse because the material is serving in its second life and the piece itself serves multiple roles (and is also the centerpiece of our home).
6′ slab of reclaimed fir, courtesy of zenboxdesign.com
8. Who inspires you? Anyone who is thinking and living outside the box, breaking norms and following their dreams!
9. What do you hope to communicate through your work? Clean lines. Elegant simplicity. Functional beauty.
10. If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing? We seem to be constantly reinventing ourselves, so “this” is different every day. Luckily we seem to keep finding clients that push our creativity and expertise, so the evolution of Zenbox Design is created by the projects and clients we choose to partner with. If we one day run out of both client and personal projects, I guess I would likely become a tattoo artist, or scuba diving instructor, or both.
11. The ultimate piece you want to create? I feel like each new client presents this opportunity. The goal is always to design that person or families’ perfect custom home. To craft both the environment and pieces within it in a creative and functional way so that their living space literally transforms their lifestyle.
12. What’s your favorite thing about PDX? The people. The creatives. The dreamers. We travel much of the year and have yet to find anyplace with the intense diversity, creativity, and “weirdness” that is Portland. It’s almost impossible to not be charged or pushed creatively here. We live our lives outside the box and Portland seems to the only place where that is not only accepted but fully understood and supported/celebrated!
Philip Krain is an entrepreneur, consultant, and founder of Global Homestead Garage whose mission is to provide community members a platform to grow big ideas using shared resources. A series of fortunate events lead to his dream of running an incubator space for makers in Portland; in 2016 he received an email in his junk folder that advertised a business for sale. That business was Shop People, which is the original community makers space. It hosts around 30 artisans in the heart of the eastside industrial district. There is event space, artist studios, a lounge; shared equipment is provided for jewelers, metal workers, and wood workers—all now part of Global Homestead Garage thanks to that email.
1. How would you refer to yourself? Woodworker? Artisan? Craftsman? My primary role within the Global Homestead Garage is to create a platform for artisans and small businesses to grow big ideas using shared resources. When given the opportunity, I enjoy designing and creating with natural and upcycled materials.
2. How did you get started? My previous career as a renewable energy developer allowed me to work with architects on active and passive solar design. My recent hands-on work has focused on landscape design and implementation as well as home remodeling. As a result of these projects, I took an industrial design class, which solidified my passion for problem-solving design.
3. Why wood? I love working with wood, as it is a natural, beautiful, and soothing material. Although it’s a renewable resource, we need to honor its scarcity, reclaim its integrity, and enhance its value in our life.
4. What was the first thing you made from wood? I remember making an ash baseball bat in seventh-grade shop class. It wasn’t the best piece of wood and it broke shortly after I began to use it. As an adult, I turned a stick shift knob for my Jeep from a chunk of maple burl.
5. What does being creative mean to you? To me, being creative means finding realistic solutions using limited resources (tangible or intangible) and unlimited options.
6. Do you have any rituals? No, but I should make time for some…
7. What is your favorite piece? I love our front yard. It’s an all-encompassing portfolio of permaculture, craftsman, and playful design.
Phillip’s front yard project.
8. Who inspires you? Children inspire me because no one should bare the burden of fixing other people’s mess. We need to work to clean our mess so that the children of children can enjoy their lives.
9. What do you hope to communicate through your work? There is inherent value in many items that have been deemed worthless and may be headed for the landfill.
10. If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing? Great question. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
11. The ultimate piece you want to create? Global Homestead Garage is my ultimate project.
Lobby at Global Homestead Garage
12. What’s your favorite thing about PDX? It used to be the smell of beer riding my bike down West Burnside at 2 am. Today, it’s the positive energy of all the people. My neighbors continue to rally as leaders within our community for a life designed with sustainable intention.
Henry Silvestrini has been working at ADX since 2013. His mother was an art teacher and so Henry has been immersed in a creative world from a young age. After studying neuroscience in college he realized that this was not the career path he wanted and refocused on the studio art classes he had started to take at ADX in his free time.
Henry joined ADX’s shop steward program making tables, cabinets, and furniture. Now, in addition to leading the fabrication department, he has begun his own woodworking business, Work PDX. Henry’s project for our Design Week Portland Open House makes use of timbers reclaimed from Centennial Mills.
1. How would you refer to yourself? Woodworker? Artisan? Craftsman? Fabricator/Designer.
2. How did you get started? I started building things in college (4 years of studio art/sculpture).
3. Why wood? Every piece is different and the tools you need to work it are accessible to someone just starting out.
Timber from Centennial Mills
4. What was the first thing you made from wood? A toy sword as a kid.
5. What does being creative meant to you? I’m not sure. I guess just having the desire to come up with new ideas or solutions.
6. Do you have any rituals? None other than my morning coffee.
7. What is your favorite piece? Michael Heizer’s, “City”. There are not many people who successfully build objects that stand against the scale of nature. He gets close.
My favorite pieces that I’ve made are cast aluminum coyote skulls. Melting and pouring metal by hand is exciting.
Cast aluminum coyote skulls
8. Who inspires you? My biggest influence was my sculpture teacher from college Mike Rathbun. The man could build anything from wood and he did. He also emphasized consideration before building.
9. What do you hope to communicate through your work? Nothing. I’m happy if people look at it and think, “that’s cool.” I’m interested in ideas of permanence and weight; I like to build big heavy things that will last.
10. If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing? Working on my house. I bought a teardown and I made the mistake of fixing it up one room at a time.
11. Ultimate piece you want to create A fire lookout tower out in the middle of nowhere. I love having a view, and living 50’ the air sounds perfect.
12. What’s your favorite thing about PDX? The people and the food.