A New Relationship

The Branch Studio

In July of 2004, I bought 7 acres of land which was home to a pair of buildings totaling 30,000 square feet.  The buildings, used in the past to service trolley cars and tricked out vans, had been unoccupied for years. My favorite part was the meadow-7 acres of weeds rippling in the breeze that had been untouched for years.  My more than favorite part was that one building had 2 operational 5 ton bridge cranes. Who taught me how to love bridge cranes?  Buck of course.  Why would I buy another building? I wanted to make ornament for the garden-from concrete, and steel.  Garden ornament that was not just beautifully designed, but of heirloom quality. Those bridge cranes would provide me with a very basic tool I would need-the ability to lift and maneuver very heavy things. The steel on my mind would need lifting gear. I had been fabricating concrete faux bois furniture, pots and garden ornament in the garage at Detroit Garden Works in the winter for a few years previous. I couldn’t help but get my feet wet. In the meantime, Detroit Garden Works had grown, and it needed the space that the landscape trucks and equipment were occupying.  We had gotten too big to house 2 companies in the same 3/4 acre. And we had an idea to make things for the garden. It was time to make a move.

Branch StudioI bought the building and land, not realizing what was to come-to make the property liveable and workable.  We needed a fire hydrant, and a parking lot for starters.  We needed a new furnace, and an electrical upgrade, and service on the overhead doors and bridge cranes. All of this work was accomplished as the landscape company was able to generate the income to fund them. Of course I had to pile it on. I  wanted to make terra cotta pots. Anything we made from concrete, steel, or terra cotta needed to be beautifully designed, and fabricated to an exacting standard. My attitude towards the garden ornament was no different than my attitude towards the landscape.  One at a time, thoughtfully designed, and beautifully executed.

DSC_1235By 2008, the US economy was in free fall. No one needs landscape design and installation to live. People were afraid to commit, as well they should have been.  My business contracted.  I am happy to say that my landscape practice was steady-but it was not growing one bit. There was no income left over to fund the Branch Studio enterprise.  Like many other businesses, all of the managerial people took substantial pay cuts.  Buck would spend the next 18 months handling everything at the Branch Studio on his own. He bought battery heated gloves, as we could not afford to heat the building much past 45 degrees in the winter. But he never thought to give in, or give up. My accountant-I waved him off when he suggested that I close the business. It was simple- I had an idea that I believed in, and I was prepared to do whatever it would take to make that idea viable.

Branch 3 2013We were busy sorting out and distilling who we were, and who we hoped to be. We made things that needed revision in size and proportion. All the right details are not always so obvious on the first or fifth go around. We were after a garden box that would turn heads.  Buck had already worked for 30 years as an architect, with a specialty in technical design. He and I both were after ornament that came from our history in Detroit.  The order of events was not so easy or predictable. We spent years in development, both on the design and the manufacturing side.

DSC_9098Tough times made it easier to decide what medium was our medium of choice. The head and guiding hand of the Branch Studio is Buck Moffat.  If you read this blog regularly, you know about him.  But for those of you who are not familiar with him, he was a Saarinen scholar in the department of architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the 1970’s. Though he is from Texas, he is all about a love for the history of Detroit style great industrial design and fabrication. The Branch Studio red book of creating precisely fabricated objects for the garden is of his invention, and I have him to thank for the fact that we now ship our garden boxes, fountains, pergolas and custom made ornament all over the country. The entire studio is confident that they will look great, and measure up to those people with a big love for the garden.

DSC_1231

The Branch Studio hums along now, some 11 years after that beginning. We make contact with all kinds of people who value the landscape such that they would commit to very fine ornament for their gardens. We do a lot of custom work for garden designers and landscape architects. This is who we have always hoped to be. Purveyors of ornament for the garden that does indeed provide a lifetime of beauty and service.

DSC_9095This past fall I had a call from Restoration Hardware. They were interested in pursuing a relationship with Branch. If you have seen their 2015 outdoor catalog – or any of their catalogs for that matter – you’ll see that they have a very big idea about design and home, and are pursuing that idea with great focus and energy.  After much discussion, it was agreed that we would design and fabricate an all steel garden box exclusively for them. We shared the design of one of our fountain cisterns with them, and will fabricate it in 2 sizes exclusive to them. The experience of dealing with them has been extraordinary. They were very thorough about wanting to understand everything they could about our work, and our products. They were very generous with their time. They were determined to represent our work.

DSC_9103Based on my experience over the past six months, they are a very large company that takes great pains not to be or act like one. What shines through is their excitement, passion, and commitment to great design. And a mission to make that design available to a very wide audience. Their customer service is very personal, thoughtful, and all around awesome-that part of them is a mission they take very seriously.  If you are not familiar with them, I would encourage you to seek them out. Their new catalog for 2015 for interior furnishings for small spaces-brilliant.  Restoration Hardware

We are but a very small part of their group, but by invitation, we are a part of their vision. Thank you, Restoration Hardware.

So very happy to be here:  Deborah Silver for Restoration Hardware

Comments

  1. Congradulations! Awesome pieces and beautiful fabrication. I applaud you at how discipline you guys are with cutting expenses and doing what had to be done to make things work. The best of luck to you and your help.

  2. First of all – wow! beautiful work. Secondly, how lovely to read about the collaboration. Best wishes for your continued success.

  3. Congratulations on this amazing partnership. Restoration Hardware has beautiful vision. I’ve enjoyed RH furniture for years, as well as their hardware and garden objects. I can see why they wanted to partner with you. Attention to detail is critical. Their designs always seem to be able to fulfill my vision for the perfect piece. In fact, I’m waiting for a bench that’s due to me in June. So yay! Another great resource for amazing garden stuff.

  4. I’m so happy you decided to tell the tale!

  5. Priscilla says:

    Congratulations on your new wider distribution from a stranger who has been reading your posts for quite some time. Beautiful designs and your perseverance is inspiring.

  6. who knew the welding helmets would garner attention? i just thought they looked cool and since they are all different, i can always identify who is underneath them when i need to. all of us at branch are so appreciative of everyone’s comments and support and we will continue to bust many moves as this grand and noisy adventure continues. there aren’t many people who can look forward to going to work everyday and i count myself very lucky to be one of them.
    thanks Deborah. for your vision, your persistence, your stubbornness, and finally – for your uncanny ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. you rock.

  7. cynthia woodyard says:

    How marvelous, Debra! You are a truly talented business woman! Cheers!

  8. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Beautiful work takes patience, passion, love and persistence, qualities you and your group exude. Congratulations to you all.
    –Patrick

  9. Okay this goes to show how daft I am! I looked thought the RH catalog and thought “they are lucky DS is so nice! They are copying her work!” This is fantastic and so so exciting. Congratulations to you and Buck and everyone who makes DGW and Branch such a special campus and business. Also congratulations to the cogis; I’m sure they take credit for all of it! So happy for you all!

  10. That Buck is a real peach.

    You referred me to him for help on repairing a large and expensive Provence clay pot with a beautiful swag that had come unloosened, hit the ground, but fortunately didn’t break.
    Buck was generous in his recommendations for the right mix of ‘goops’ to reattach the garland. And he coached my husband and me through the application, clean up, and babysitting of the curing process. We both really appreciate so much his professionalism and attention to detail. And the swag is still holding.

    I don’t know that I can get to Detroit anytime, but Restoration Hardware is within my driving range and I’m so excited that they were able to land a business relationship with you. In my opinion, their stock just went through the ceiling. What a coup!

    Deborah, your story is so inspiring. Thanks for sharing so generously with all your readers!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Terry, I am so happy we were able to coach you through a repair long distance. Both Restoration Hardware and my companies are equally devoted to great service. You are right-Buck is a peach! thanks for your letter Terry. All the best, Deborah

  11. Lynn Fiorentino says:

    Congratulations! How exciting and fulfilling. Creative talent and hard work really do pay off. Best, Lynn

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Lynn, we are very happy to be associated with them. I am personally very happy that Branch is a viable and growing business. I have always wanted to make ornament and containers for the garden-and I am. best, Deborah

  12. RH is so fortunate to have you and your vision. I am unbelievably thrilled for you and look forward to updates about some of the works in progress. I admit to a bit of envy for the bridge cranes. I so often design large metal design elements for the garden when I go to sleep at night, knowing they will never see the light of day. Congratulations, so happy for you both.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Charisse, when Buck came to work at Branch some 11 years ago, we had no work. But I believed we had a future in store that would need him. In 2015 I am so happy about a decision I made in 2004. best, Deborah

  13. Rhonda Nikolaisen says:

    I share your love and passion for the garden and landscape as well as beautiful, quality designed garden ornaments. I particularly enjoyed reading this blog and appreciated your honesty in sharing the ups and downs of keeping your business alive. You and your company are proof again of how perseverance triumphs

  14. Congrats on the new alliance.

    Never forget, they gain more prestige from you. Not the reverse.

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Tara, this is not about prestige. It is about an alliance of like minded people. I feel like the forging of this relationship is good for the both of us. Having had exposure to their group, I can say they are an incredibly intelligent and dedicated group. Thy are interested in creating an experience for people who really care about design. And they accomplish that in a big way. They have been great to me. Branch will be just as good to them. all the best, Deborah

  15. Congratulations, so very well deserved by all of you.

  16. Detroit Garden Works is my favorite candy store! When I visit I breathe deeply, touch lovingly and fill my senses with all the beauty you artfully display. Whatever I take away, I treasure.
    The huge white hyacinths I bought from Rob when I picked up healthy hellebores last week graced our church perfectly on Easter morning,

    Reading and seeing the pictures of your full story, I am in awe of all the work involved. You, Buck and Rob and everyone who works with you are to be congratulated and applauded.

    Thank you, elaine

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Elaine, we are most pleased to have you as a customer. So glad to hear that your church had great looking hellebores on Easter Sunday! best, Deborah

  17. I too feel I am on a journey and try to approach my garden designs as you do; one at a time, thoughtfully designed and beautifully executed. Your story reminds us all that the things worth pursuing, the things that keep us up at night, get our heart racing, and get us out of bed at 5 a.m., take time and often hit a few bumps in the road. And as a tool gal, I not only love the helmets, but have tool shop envy! My fantasy store would be an awesome hardware store with a shoe department.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Cathy, we share a lot of things-thanks for your letter. Buck picks out all of the welding helmets-aren’t they grand?? Thanks, Deborah

  18. You go girl!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Christine, you have been a supporter of the Branch Studio in a very big way. Thanks for that. all the best, Deborah

  19. Cynthia M-R says:

    Kudos Deborah for staying true to your vision & for Buck mirroring your ideas! I purchase from Restoration Hardware via online but have been to their store in Toronto. All of their products are of top quality & I’m happy to have recently joined your blog & this new news is outstanding!
    Congratulations & I look forward to following your business adventures.
    So glad your out of the Grumpery!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Der Cynthia, I am happy to have moved out the grumpery too! Spring is just about here-we are so ready. As for Branch-they are very busy! best, Deborah

  20. Janet Grant says:

    Congratulations, Deborah and Buck and of course to Rob,! I am so proud of what you have done with your truly amazing vision and creativity. Have been with you on your journey! What a new and exciting venture this is! Janet Grant

  21. Congratulations Deborah and all of you at Branch. I’ve been reading for a few years now but was compelled to make my first comment to say how well deserved this is. Restoration Hardware is expanding their stores into huge galleries showing off the best of living and entertaining, and to be a part of that is such a monumental accomplishment for you all.

    I hope to be able to make the trip to Detroit from Buffalo some time this summer to finally see DGW in person. Well done!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Jeff, I am really pleased to hear from you – thanks. Buffalo is not so far away. If you decide to make the trip, be sure to email me so I will look out for you. Our association with Restoration Hardware means a lot to us. All the best, Deborah

  22. I am so impressed by your story! Determination paid off with your beautiful merchandise. Restoration hardware is lucky to have you!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Londen, every and any story, told with conviction and detail, is of interest. We are lucky to have Restoration Hardware! best, Deborah

  23. Love the helmets. Just sayin’!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Susan-all of those welding helmets are chosen by Buck-I love them too! He and his fabricators have quite a thing going on over there. Stylish welding helmets included!! best, Deborah

  24. Your story is inspirational, Deborah. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Obstacles are what you see when you take your mind off your goal.” Your focus and determination is paying off. Congratulations!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Clare, I only go so far as to see myself as stubborn. If I have in fact been focused and determined-thanks for your read. all the best, Deborah

  25. debra phillips says:

    a serious round of applause for your determination, well deserved, and it’s fruitful yield!
    it will be fun to watch this portion of your growth deborah. congrats
    debra

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Debra, thanks for your letter! You have a considerable business of your own which I greatly admire. happy to hear from you. Deborah

  26. Deborah, You are truly amazing. You give us another big reason to be proud of Michiganders!

Leave a Comment

*