As you walk into furniture-maker Kendrick Anderson’s studio in Castleberry Hills, among the industrial sanders and table saws you’ll notice a simple, handmade cabinet containing an antique handsaws, planes, drills and files — some dating as far back as 1911. This functional shrine to traditional woodworking reflects Anderson’s love of the craft.
This story originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Living Intown magazine.
“I think it’s just the nostalgia of it,” Anderson says. “You can romanticize the act of using hand tools, but they are still extremely functional and extremely fast in the hands of someone who knows how to use them and [keep them] tuned properly.”
Anderson’s dedication to the basics in building furniture has attracted some impressive clients since he began in 2011. His portfolio includes custom home and office pieces for Octane Coffee CEO Tony Riffel, celebrity chef Hugh Acheson, and MailChimp co-founders Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius. He recently built the dining tables, wall sconces and chef’s table for Staplehouse in Old Fourth Ward.
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Building furniture was never in Anderson’s original career plan. While pursuing his degree in English literature at Georgia State University, he found himself drawn to the craft. “For some reason I had this idea I wanted to build a table,” he says. “I found this one-man shop and explained I didn’t really know anything but I’m willing to work for free in exchange for just learning.”
For six months, Anderson apprenticed at a shop at the Marietta Artisan Resource Center, where he met his mentor, Benjie Osborne. “He opened up this world of studio art furniture making where you are pursuing this furniture as craft, not just creating functional objects,” he says. Osborn encouraged him to pursue his passion, and after completing his bachelor’s degree at Georgia State, he continued his training at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine.
Anderson finds influence in Danish modern and midcentury modern furniture, two minimalist styles that emphasize clean, simple lines and functional requirements of the human body. “I want them to be quiet and understated,” he says of his pieces. “I don’t want them to be loud or have too much fancy stuff going on.” Anderson translates this love of elegant simplicity into every table, desk, credenza, bed and other custom pieces he creates for his clients.
Anderson, 31, says he feels that he has yet to find his “voice,” and attributes his lack of an artistic signature to his approach to design. He sees each piece as a collaboration between himself and his clients. “My goal is to create the most beautiful, functional piece for that client that will stand the test of time and be passed down to future generations,” he says.
Anderson accredits his work ethic and his dedication to craftsmanship to his family. His grandfather owned a lumber company in Lawrenceville, and his father, Charles Anderson, builds custom homes in Atlanta. Anderson’s father initially steered him away from the family business but taught his son some valuable lessons. “You work hard and start with the fundamentals,” the younger Anderson says. “That’s a lesson I’ve taken into everything I do, whether it was school or music or furniture making. I’m addicted to the process because how he raised me — how he pushed me to always do better.”
In May, Anderson and his father became business partners when they purchased a building on Fair Street to house his new studio and create space for Atlanta artists. “My dad is the expert,” Anderson says. “I help with some of the design, but it’s really all him: his vision and his execution, and knowing how to get this place off the ground.”
He hopes the 7,500-square-foot space will be a home for creatives in Castleberry Hill. “I want this place to be open to a community and a haven for elevating craft in Atlanta,” he says. The studio doesn’t have a name yet, but the Andersons already have tenants, with more moving in soon.
Anderson says he feels that his studio has the potential to enhance the artistic landscape of the city. “I’m very proud and excited to do this in Atlanta,” he says. “I just want to build a community of people who are actively engaged in making things, so hopefully we can all feed off each other.”
Kendrick Anderson. 431 Fair St. 404-401-4365. www.kendrickanderson.com
Do your homework before commissioning a piece of custom furniture: Educate yourself on the artist, pricing and style of furniture you seek, and be patient, as a piece can take about six weeks to complete.