Southern Made: It’s all about design

East meets South

Eric and Lori Wright believe in the beauty of usefulness. And together, the Georgia couple create Japanese-inspired housewares with Southern roots.

The company: Opened in 2014, ME Speak Design is located in North High Shoals.

The founders: Lori grew up in Conyers and studied marketing at the University of Georgia. She credits her design inspiration to both her father, who is a carpenter, and her mother's Japanese-Hawaiian roots. After an apprenticeship as a carpenter in Athens, Eric (an Atlanta native) went to school in Oregon, where he built titanium bicycle frames and learned welding and machining. In his worldwide travels, he studied sustainable architecture and furniture-making. Later, Eric helped teach a blacksmithing course at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

The goods: Home and kitchen goods inspired by Japanese minimalism and made from local woods, brass and steel. Includes serving boards ($110 and up); chopsticks with rest ($48); spatulas ($85); brass spoons and scoops ($55-$65), plus the new Anton table lamp ($565), which combines steel, wood and brass for an elegant ambience.

What's popular: The Oleole Collection, named after Lori's maternal family. The collection was recently submitted to Garden & Gun magazine for consideration in its annual Made in the South awards.

Fun or unusual request: Approached by the UGA's Presbyterian Student Center to design and build a Communion table, baptismal font and pulpit, using a pecan tree cut on the property five years ago.

Big break: Chosen as the Georgia Favorite in digital Dwell magazine's "50 Reasons to Love Design Made in America."

Where to buy: and at The-Commons, 54 Broad St., Charleston, S.C. (

You’ve got mail

One way to add curb appeal is to update your mailbox. The answer for your house might be a modern mailbox from Tennessee-based Aesh Design Architecture + Design Lab.

The company: Started in 2013 and formally founded in 2015 in Nashville, Tenn., and St. Louis with offices and design labs in both locations.

The designers: Trained as architects, David Grisham and Patrick Weber had renovated their own homes and wanted a special and personal mailbox. After several designs, the duo created Waldo, a modern mailbox — and a new company.

The goods: Mailboxes range from $375-$475 depending on size and finish. Color-matched posts are $175-$250.

Materials: Brushed or powder-coated stainless steel shell with hardwood mahogany or teak.

Who's a fan: Atlanta interior designer Julie Witzel, who found the company on Etsy and ordered a mailbox for a house on the recent Modern Atlanta home tour.

What's next: A new mailbox design (the Bailey model), which is a little less modern but still clean, simple and refined.

Where to buy:

Art + function

One grandfather was a carpenter; the other a machinist. Both had a profound influence on Atlanta’s Dave Lasker and his career as a furniture designer and sculptor.

The craftsman: Originally from West Seneca, N.Y., Lasker received his undergraduate degrees in furniture from Jamestown Community College and Buffalo State University. After working in related fields for a few years, he headed for the Rhode Island School of Design, where he received an MFA in Furniture Design. In 1997, he opened his studio near Emory University. He has taught 2-D and 3-D design at Georgia Perimeter College and Brenau University.

The goods: Mainly, freestanding custom wood furniture, such as cabinets ($1,200-$8,000) and functional tables ($500-$800 for small, side tables; $8,500 for a 10-foot dining room table that expands to 14 feet).

Other favorites: Nonfunctional sculptural pieces, mostly in solid wood, are $1,200-$7,200.

Big break: Acquiring his grandfathers' machinery and tools at an early age.

Where to buy: In the Atlanta area, find Lasker's studio furniture at Atlanta MADE, 1187 Howell Mill Road ( For his sculpture, check the DK Gallery, 25 W. Park Square, Marietta ( Also find Lasker at the various festivals, including Piedmont Park Arts Festival (Aug. 15-16) and at

Best of the South

Do you have favorite finds from around the South that you give as gifts, buy for your home or rave about to friends? If so, send your suggestions to: Also find more Southern-made products, featured in the AJC, at Southernfinds on facebook or twitter@southernfinds1.