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Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Q&A with Kiersten Hathcock of Mod Mom Furniture

Ali

Posted by Ali | View all posts by Ali
7 Comments » | Published in Designer Interviews, Interviews, What's New  |  7 Comments

Mod Mom FurnitureThe newest addition to the DP family: Mod Mom Furniture. Mod Mom, aka Kiersten Hathcock, personally designs and builds all of her modern, mid-century inspired children’s furniture from her home garage.

Personally, I think it is hard to beat beautiful handmade furniture built by a mom with a power saw.

Enjoy the Q&A!

We know a little bit about your story…ex-TV network marketing executive turned stay-at-home mom turned self-taught furniture designer/builder. I absolutely love that you went for the power tools rather than the sewing machine or knitting needles. Now we want the full scoop. How did Mod Mom Furniture really get off the ground?

Mod Mom Furniture really came out of me needing two things: 1.) Another source of income (since we lost my salary) and 2.) An outlet to channel all the drive and creativity that surprisingly didn’t go away when I decided to stay home with the kids (then 6-months and 4-years). After leaving the corporate world, I took freelance marketing jobs and even nannied to help make ends meet but also be home with the kids. During that time, in 2005, I rekindled my love for woodworking while building a tiki bar and luau tables with a friend for my husband’s birthday party. I had forgotten how much fun it was to build and started to really think about how I could turn it into a business.

I started very slowly building toy bins and selling them to friends (who were kind enough not to point out the flaws because they wanted to be supportive of their crazy woodworking friend). I personally really love modern, mid-century styled pieces so I did some research and came to Mod Mom Owyn Toy Boxthe conclusion that more kid storage options were needed in that market. I built a few pieces and took them to small outdoor markets, built a website, and then started contacting kids furnishing stores in LA. What I wasn’t prepared for was the online design world somehow finding my unfindable website. I was BLOWN AWAY by the power of the internet and the design blogs. Frankly, it hadn’t even dawned on me that someone in NYC would be interested in what I was building. I remember reading a blog post where someone called me a designer and my mouth dropped open. I had never looked at myself that way but I’m so thankful others do. I became more invested in my garage life and started to believe more in my own design capabilities, became better at the actual construction part, and learned to not fear the table saw so much each time a made a cut!

How did your father’s woodworking/tinkering skills play a role in your life/business? Tell us about some of the projects he made and how he has impacted (in any which way) your designs.

Although my dad, Barry Parsons, is in Ohio and I’m in California, I still rely on him to give me tips when it comes to life and carpentry. When I was growing up, he was a health/PE teacher and a football coach during work hours and a self-taught carpenter on the weekends. Mod Mom Furniture Sam Toy BoxWhen he wasn’t teaching and coaching (and sometimes roofing in the summers to make extra money), he was building furniture for our house. I remember he took old bleacher boards made of oak that were tossed out. He put them through a planer and built a coffee table out of them. He used gym floor varnish to coat the table. That baby was solid and very well protected. It was so well made we could stand on it and not worry about scratching it! He also built a beautiful traditional bed and a writing desk for my mom’s late-night paper grading sessions (she was a teacher too).

I did a lot of tinkering in his garage workshop as a kid, but never really fully appreciated his talent, creativity and attention to detail until I started building myself. He inspired me at a young age and encouraged me to do anything I wanted. He, along with my mom, also made it very clear that if I wanted to be an athlete or do something that is considered “a boy thing” I could do it, do it well, and still be feminine. I didn’t have to give up my femininity just because I was using a table saw.

Where do the names (Gracie, Sam, Owyn, etc.) for your pieces come from?

The names come from cool kids I know. The hard part is when a friend has a baby and wants to name him or her something that just doesn’t sound good as a furniture name. I feel it’s my duty to step in and redirect. Ha!

I love that you work out of your garage…adds a lot of character to who you are and what you have started. What is your workspace like? Has working from home been a welcome environment or do you plan/hope to move to a different space?

Mod Mom Furniture Let’s put it this way, my table saw is inches from the washer and dryer. Not that I do any laundry while I’m working. That would make too much sense! The garage itself was built in 1940 and hasn’t been updated since then. I sometimes feel like I’m back in time in there with the country music radio station playing in the background. As my business grows, I’d love to get a bigger, cleaner space but it really works for me right now with the kids. I still have Grace home with me two days a week so she can be home playing while I’m building. It’s a good set-up right now.

It is admirable that you make each product by hand. How has this had an impact on your business and/or collection?

I really wouldn’t know how to do it any other way! In fact, I just sold a very loud air compressor that should have been hooked up to a nail gun but it was so loud and completely drowned out the radio, that I just decided I’d keep hand nailing. Obviously, doing it all by hand takes longer but as long as the customer is ok with it, I’m ok with it.

Mod Mom Furniture Gracie Toy BoxYour toy boxes are wonderfully geared towards wee ones with special attention paid towards the little (yet big!) things like preventing pinched fingers. However, I can easily see a some of your pieces fitting into my own home without looking like it came from the kid’s department. Bravo!

Any plans to branch away from kid furniture and into the adult world?

I’ve been thinking about that very question recently. In fact, a few months back, I designed and built a custom building blocks table for a very cool couple in Hollywood who wanted a coffee table with the building blocks component. I don’t think I’d branch away from kid’s furniture but might market some of the items towards adults also. Or, design a few new pieces that could fit either sector.

Which leads me to this question…what is next for Mod Mom Furniture?

That is such a big question and it’s a bit unknown. What I can say is that I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and hope that Mod Mom Furniture strikes a chord with people whether it stays small working out of my garage or I move into a bigger space. In either case, I hope to still be happily making furniture while continuing to avoid doing laundry.

View the full Mod Mom Furniture collection.

About Ali:
I enjoy wood paneled station wagons, German food and senior citizens (I am 80 years old at heart). Nearly every weekend I am taking photos at other people's weddings and I have a blog of my own (but I don't update it often enough). I love to paint, sew and knit. Check out my DP Staff profile on Hatch.

About Ali

Ali has written 149 post in this blog.

I enjoy wood paneled station wagons, German food and senior citizens (I am 80 years old at heart). Nearly every weekend I am taking photos at other people's weddings and I have a blog of my own (but I don't update it often enough). I love to paint, sew and knit. Check out my DP Staff profile on Hatch.

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Responses

  1. Design Public » Blog Archive » Mod Mom Furniture Bertie Toy Box says:

    April 22nd, 2008 at 10:56 am (#)

    [...] out all of Kiersten Hathcock’s Mod Mom Furniture pieces and read our Q&A with the designer/builder [...]

  2. Mike Smith says:

    September 12th, 2008 at 8:54 am (#)

    Hi Kiersten,
    Just happen to step into your website and I think the woodwork you do is incredible. I too am a woodworker. I am in the beginning stages with woodworking and have made my fair share of, what the heck happened here, or some days I find myself making a lot of toothpicks.

    The question I have for you is: would you be willing to sell plans for the builds you make.

    May the day find you well,
    Mike

  3. Kiersten says:

    September 15th, 2008 at 4:56 pm (#)

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks so much for your comment and your support! Feel free to email me at kiersten@modmomfurniture.com and we can talk offline about plans.

    Thanks!
    Kiersten

  4. Beth says:

    May 29th, 2009 at 12:52 pm (#)

    Hi K-

    Just (finally) checking out what you’ve been up to…really looks impressive. You go girl! Take care-

    B

  5. Matthew T. Smith says:

    August 14th, 2009 at 11:23 am (#)

    Hi Kiersten,

    Your work is wonderfully expressive. My favorite is the Owyn piece.
    I even envisioned you using a braided rope as a handle and making it look like a caterpillar.

    I wish you success,
    Matthew

  6. bill ellis says:

    March 1st, 2010 at 1:55 pm (#)

    Hi kiersten,

    i recently came across your website and i must say you have impressed and inspired me.Like you i have been building toyboxes with hand carvings which i have been giving away .i never thought it was possible to compete with the big toy companies. You should write a book for other craftspersons trying to get started.

    wishing you all the best

    bill ellis

  7. Kiersten Hathcock says:

    May 3rd, 2010 at 9:27 am (#)

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks so much for your comment! I’m just now seeing it. I wish I had a magic formula but I think it was a combination of timing/niche marketing, and CRAZY! :) I’d love to see your stuff so feel free to write me offline if you’d like: kiersten@modmomfurniture.com.

    Take care,
    Kiersten

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