First of all, they’re not just beds. Because just beds are just something that folks just sleep on when they get tired. Most folks don’t pay much attention to their beds because most beds aren’t built for attention. They’re, well … they’re just beds.
But anyone who has had the opportunity to take a look at the beds constructed for the cabins in the El Moore has quickly realized that these structures are works of art. True, they are functional pieces that serve a useful purpose (because sleep, most would agree, is fairly useful), but they most certainly are not just beds. These are custom beds designed to, quite possibly, design custom dreams. But only those who have slept in them will be able to attest to that.
And although the beds were technically designed by Chad Dickinson, owner and operator of Dickinson by Design (a former Green Garage business-in-residence that relocated about a year ago to a Detroit location on Livernois between 7 and 8 Mile), Dickinson prefers to view the end result of his labors as a somewhat spiritual and synergistic collaborative effort between his company and Tom Brennan.
So that probably sounds real groovy, or new agey, or whatever. Fine. But take a look at those beds and try telling yourself that process known as natural design didn’t work. Because it most certainly did.
Here’s how Dickinson describes everything…
The overall idea with the cabin was that, up north, if you were to build a cabin, you would build it with stuff you had lying around up there. So with the El Moore and the cabin design, I think that was the driver of it. Well, now we’re in an urban environment, not a rural environment. What do we have lying around?
Well, a lot of what we had lying around was lath. They used to pad the walls in those buildings with lath. It’s what they put plaster on top of.
When it came time to do the beds, it was like, “OK, well, we still have a lot of lath left over. Can we build the beds out of lath?” And that’s where I got brought into the conversation, as a craftsman, to figure out how to build a bed out of lath.
And then there were all those doorknobs that were unearthed when the construction guys began excavating to make way for the elevator, and there were also all these tubes they found. [See this recent post for more information about those knobs and tubes.] And Tom thought it would be cool (which it was) to include those materials/items in the design of the beds as well.
As Chad puts it, “That’s natural design; you’re taking everybody’s strengths and together we’re gonna make this thing great.”
But understand that Chad didn’t exactly arrive in the design trade by way of a straight line. He grew up in the building trades, but didn’t have the best experience with the building trades, so he quit to pursue a career in music for awhile. This naturally led to a musician friend who knew that Chad knew how to build things as well as play things, and he had this idea for building a music studio, so he asked Chad to build it for him.
Naturally, Chad declined. (Because of those aforementioned bad experiences with the building trades.) But the friend was persistent, and Chad had somehow begun to study the design principles of this guy named Christopher Alexander who, according to Chad, was really responsible for popularizing the concept of natural design. So eventually Chad relented because the guy was persistent, and he was a friend, plus Chad now had all this research courtesy of Christopher Alexander that opened his eyes to an entirely new concept of how to design things. So he told his friend that he would design the studio, but only if he could design it using Alexander’s concepts. The friend agreed, and it turned out to be one of the more transformative experiences of Chad’s life.
“That was my first experience using the natural design process, and it was amazing.”
That was about ten years ago, and that particular experience had everything to do with the birth of Dickinson By Design, which ended up at the Green Garage, which was where Chad met Tom, who bought the El Moore….
So you see how this works?