Before Benjamin Klebba was drafting, prototyping, and sanding, he was studying something completely different in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but it was his frontier-like upbringing that brought him back to woodworking. "My dad built the house that I grew up in along with the furniture inside," says Klebba, whose father also had his own business making furniture, cabinets, and wooden sailboats. "Woodworking was definitely around. I spent many hours sanding, helping, and just hanging out in the shop—it was the way we grew up."
Klebba ended up in Portland, Oregon, and started working for a cabinet maker. When the recession, and the shop's downsizing efforts where the push Klebba needed to start his own business; and so Phloem Studio was born. "My whole family has since moved out to Oregon, and my dad now works for me part-time. It's amazing. His experience and knowledge is incredible and we're really lucky to be able to work together on what we both love. It feels like I've finally come home."
Phloem Studio strives to keep their furniture both simple and distinct, honoring natural materials by using them in a minimal context. Working out of Beam & Anchor, a shared studio space in North Portland, Klebba's pieces are all made to order because, as he says, "we're a small business and right now, we like it that way." For more information, visit Phloem Studio.
Photography by Lisa Warninger, courtesy of Phloem Studio.
Above: The Peninsula Chair is available in domestic hardwoods or ebonized ash and with leather in earth tones or black. Designed by Klebba and Matt Pierce.
Above: "A chair needs to be both comfortable and beautiful. You should be able to relax and read a book in a lounge chair. But it does have to be interesting to look at—there's that level of art to a chair—because, really there are too many chairs out there, and if you're going to design something that's going to be around for a very long time, make it interesting for that next generation to look at too."
Above: The simplified Rohm Sideboard has five drawers, one door, and two adjustable shelves. "It's really important to me that each piece we design is really distilled down to all it needs to be," says Klebba.
Above: The sideboard is available with solid turned wood pulls or leather tabs (shown here).
Above: The Maxwell Lounge and Ottoman in domestic hardwoods and Maharam wool blends; currently in three different colors.
Above: "There is something extremely satisfying about working through a drawing into a prototype, and sitting in it over and over again. Getting the back angle just right. Stepping back and staring at it for an hour," Klebba says. "That struggle in your brain can be really wonderful. Eventually you let the furniture breathe on its own and someone gets to enjoy that piece for the rest of their life. How cool is that?"
For a look at Phloem Studio's Laura Desk, see our previous post: Organizational Behavior: A Desk with a Place for Everything.