Nashville's Holler Design
How one designer began making furniture with wood sourced from his family farm
by Chérmelle Edwards
Matt Alexander grew up on a farm just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. After stints in Knoxville and Detroit, he found himself in Brooklyn, daydreaming about returning to his roots. His reverie eventually drew him back to his hometown, where he founded Holler Design—a furniture company that uses wood from fallen trees and designs from a workshop that once served as a general store run by Alexander's grandfather. “I always knew I would return to it,” explains Alexander of the move. "Our family has a history in the area dating back to the 1800s. We like the history and that story, so piling all these pieces together created a linear integration that really hits home with people,” explains Alexander.
The move paralleled a turndown in the American economy, as well as an aesthetic shift in design. “I saw a more rustic, less glossy aesthetic—raw finishes, simple design coming into play. We seemed to fit into that well,” said Alexander. With America metaphorically calling back to a traditional way of making things, Holler Design became a play on its own name. “The main thing that attracted me to [the company name] was its dual meaning and its ability to be radical in different ways," Alexander continues. "I gravitate toward things with dual meanings; I like the excitement of hollering and yelling and how it played into southern colloquialism of hollow—a geographical thing.”
Holler Design was built to champion his grandfather’s idea in a contemporary setting. With a linear integration of source materials coming from the family farm, Alexander aimed to create a new and more direct meaning of farm-to-table. “Its about us having control over the materials from the very beginning. It adds to the story of the product as well. Clients have an appreciation for knowing where the lumber for their tables come from—a specific place, it’s not shipped from all over the country.”
That specific place at the farm holds thousands of feet of lumber, giving customers the opportunity to go through stacks of wood and pick out exactly what kind of slabs they would prefer. With between 15 and 20 different species of trees, there’s ample variety to create fine furniture for indoor and outdoor use. Woods local to the area include cherry, walnut and oak, the latter allowing for a nice color and texture for furniture. More unique species include hickory, bodock, hedge apple tree and sage orange, which is the densest hardwood in the United States.
While Alexander’s woodworking can be seen throughout Nashville, one specific design has garnered quite a bit of buzz above all others: the ebonized oak chair. After outfitting Germantown restaurant Rolf and Daughters, others came knocking, including the owner of East Nashville's Barista Parlor coffee shop Andy Mumma. “Word of mouth—you can’t beat it. I started with chairs and then they wanted some bar stool designs, so I came up with some, reconfiguring the dining chair to accommodate a bar stool and it matched. I made about 20 in the end, all ebonized oak with a black finish.”
The ebonized oak is now part of Barista Parlor's downtown space, which in its own way is bringing further creativity to the craft movement. “I’ve been pretty lucky," says Alexander. "I started this at the beginning of everyone wanting handmade this and craft that. It fits into an idea of neo-localism—things not shipped halfway across the world—and I’ve always been an advocate of that.”
For more information on Matt Alexanders's woodworking designs, visit Holler Design directly online.
Portrait courtesy of Hollis Bennett, all other images courtesy of Holler Design