For Brian Fireman, his custom furniture is rooted in a deep love and respect for the material.
If you visit the website of Brian Fireman Design (BrianFiremanDesign.com), you’re greeted by eye candy of the highest order: Elegant curves and sleek lines, glistening and borderline exotic; yet deeply functional, telegraphing comfort and utility. Such is the appeal of Fireman’s custom, hand-crafted furniture, and such is the designer’s acclaim in the decade-plus he has been displaying his wares of wood, amassing an ever-expanding portfolio of interior design media coverage and notching numerous awards at exhibitions. (July 2 through August 27 will bring his newest solo exhibition, at The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts, located in Highlands.)
Still, in a sense, Fireman’s position in the contemporary furniture world could almost be termed an accidental career, because his formal training was in an entirely different field. He earned his masters in architecture at Virginia Tech in 2001, subsequently moving to Asheville and working for several years at Griffin Architects. While in school, however, he’d also spent summers building traditional timber frame homes. “This was my first introduction to woodworking,” recalls Fireman, “and I greatly enjoyed the process of working with my hands, doing the joinery layout on large timbers in the shop and erecting impressive structures on site. I was exploring the connectedness between design and building.”
As the saying goes, the experience “took.” Even while working at the architectural firm, Fireman was assembling a shop in the basement of his West Asheville home. “I had missed the process of making something with my hands,” he says. “While the space was incredibly small, with my head almost scraping the ceiling, it worked and afforded me the opportunity to keep overhead low and grow the business.” He eventually graduated to less-cramped digs, purchasing a 30-acre piece of property located between Tryon, North Carolina, and Landrum, South Carolina.
I enjoy the sculpting and shaping of wood, and thus my work tends to have an organic and sculptural quality.”
Since formally establishing Brian Fireman Design in 2004, the not-quite-former architect (“It’s just temporarily on the backburner; I am currently taking the various N.C. licensing exams.”) has developed relationships with showrooms in Atlanta—his first show was an American Craft Council event in Atlanta, where he received his first commission, for a custom cherry-and-walnut cabinet—New York, Miami, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. He says building long-lasting relationships with owners is paramount, and as his business has been growing he has also been training other people who share his interests.
So what does he think sets his creations apart?
“One of the main reasons I work with wood is because of a deep rooted love and respect for the material. From a design perspective, I enjoy the sculpting and shaping of wood, and thus my work tends to have an organic and sculptural quality. I like a piece of furniture to not have a ‘back,’ but look good from any angle or direction. It’s the overall feeling and ‘presence’ of a piece.”
Fireman adds that the market for custom furniture is competitive, and he has had to become “just as savvy in the art of selling and marketing as it is to simply work in the studio. They go hand in hand in running a successful business.”
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