Form, function, and furniture in Chattanooga’s Southside
By Elizabeth Camps
It all started when David Mitchell and Mark Oldham joined as business partners in 2011 to create the TerraMáe Appalachian Bistro. David was in charge of creating the concept, design, and layout. Once that work was done, it was time to start furnishing the space.
“We were trying to tweak some of the furnishings in TerraMáe but I couldn’t find what I wanted,” David explains. “So I decided to start making my own.”
David started working out of his home to create the rustic tables and chairs he envisioned for the restaurant. And without any intentional promotion on his part, he started to develop a bit of a fan club; it seemed like a lot of people were starting to compliment his work and asking where to find more. That’s when his wife suggested he put some of his creations online. Within a month of posting his designs on the Internet, the demand for his handmade rustic pieces was so high that he had to hire a few employees. “Sales blew up,” David says. “Next thing I knew I was renting a small section of a warehouse and ended up needing more and more room and employees.”
But this wasn’t the first time David had made his own furniture. Even in college, he was designing, creating, and building his own unique pieces. With a background in art and design and a woodworking father, you could say David’s whole life had been leading up to this one business.
From Concept to Completion
In March of last year, David’s old business partner from TerraMáe, Mark Oldham, began looking for his next big adventure and asked if David wanted a partner. David went for it, and the partnership is what brought The Industrial Farmhouse to its present success. “To have a partner that you’re able to have such a good relationship with creates strength in the company. It just works,” says David.
Today David works on all of the designs for The Industrial Farmhouse and works collaboratively with other craftsmen to better create varied options for customers. “It started out with just me, and now we have two sales people, eight shop guys, two truck drivers, and a mechanic. We’re growing exponentially,” he says.
In addition to their current success, David and Mark are working on a partnership with a restaurant consulting firm in Florida in which The Industrial Farmhouse will be able to collaborate on total concept designs. This means they’ll be working with restaurants to develop ideas and have a hand in everything from the furniture and lighting to the menus and the staff.
Along with their commercial restaurant line, David and Mark want to make sure they always have a nice, clean line of furniture for residential use as well. With a customer base that stretches coast to coast, the duo feels it’s important to still have smaller pieces where families can share experiences and make memories.
Form Over Function
So how does a piece go from idea to fruition?
“I design it first and then the customer looks at the design and asks us to make little tweaks, still using the same concept,” says David. From the design side, David’s mindset is art first, furniture second. “Often manufacturers don’t think that way. They think ‘let’s take the function first.’ But my hope is that I’ll be able to continue focusing on form first,” David says. “I would hope that’s what sets us apart.”
As for location, Chattanooga was always going to be the home base for The Industrial Farmhouse. Not only does David consider it a great distribution point, but he also values the number of quality craftsman that can be found in the area. “Even if I didn’t sell a single piece, I would still come here every day and work,” he says. “I love doing it.”