New Orleans is constantly inspiring young artist, business owners and entrepreneurs to find their way, and create a living of their own. One of my dear friends happens to be doing just this. I’ve been able to watch his business grow and seen him turn his dreams into reality. His pieces are unlike any others and I recently had the pleasure of playing around his shop. Today, get to know Alex, the man behind New Orleans based Doorman Designs, handcrafted southern made furniture with a storied past.
Q. Tell me a little about Doorman Designs and how you got started?
A. I founded Doorman Designs two years ago after graduating from college in Mississippi and returning to Louisiana and a job in New Orleans. Limited by a dismal post-graduate budget, I desired to furnish my 1880s apartment with furniture that embodied the charm and grit of the Crescent City. So, I decided to start making my own pieces. My first creation: a headboard crafted from an old growth cypress, five panel door salvaged from house flooded in Hurricane Katrina. I inlaid the panels with ornate, 19th century ceiling tins to give the piece more character and history.
From there I started to make and sell more headboards and eventually began designing lighting, coffee, and dining room tables. The materials I use are architectural salvage with an emphasis on reclaimed wood from New Orleans homes destroyed or damaged by Katrina. Growing up on the Gulf Coast, I know how much history is to be found in New Orleans’ architectural details. After Katrina, my heart broke seeing the city’s soul, flooded and ruined, and being torn down. I’d like to think that I’m keeping those stories alive through my designs and furniture.
Q. When you are looking for inspiration where do you head?
A. Right now I’m drawing a lot inspiration from two different eras of design-1950-1960s modern design and also French colonial style. These are two completely different styles but they both seem to agree that more is not more when it comes to the details of the furniture. Both looks rely on the simplicity and functionality of the furniture to make a statement and allow the material that they’re made of to create the furniture’s personality. I appreciate the refined, and sometimes primitive approach. And even better, these styles work great in almost any type of architecture and can be mixed in with an eclectic blend.
Outside of furniture I draw a lot of inspiration from folk art. I’d like to think this style of art is no longer conceived as a hooky, cliché depiction of rural country life. But instead, it’s a bit abstract, a bit modern, and has a very simplistic reality that a lot people can relate to. A lot of folk art has this layer of grit to it that I really gravitate towards. It appreciates imperfections and I try to emulate that gritty vibe by using reclaimed, weathered materials that have lots of patina to it.
A. Living and staying based in New Orleans has almost all the inspiration you could ask for. Sometimes I get a little too inspired living in a city with so much flare and culture! New Orleans has adopted a new mantra of looking forward but still appreciating and respecting its historical past. Down here we appreciate all things old so I get a lot of inspiration from the way people used to live, work, think and operate their lives.
Q. Not to play favorites, but it there one piece that sticks out in your mind as a favorite?
A. That’s a tough one but I have to admit that I love making lamps. Don’t get me wrong I love making beds almost as much but making lamps are like this little compact puzzle that has lots of twists and turns that challenge me. No two lamps are created equal and each have its own obstacles. Plus there’s nothing better than placing a really great lamp shade on a piece and then turning it on. It’s the perfect light bulb moment!
Q. Do you have any advice for young designers/artist trying to make their dreams a reality?
A. Sure, no one can ever question your motives or personality if you’re being authentic. It’s that simple. As humans we all have this internal sensor that says “you’re not good enough” or “no body will like what you’re doing”, “you suck”. I like to think of that sensor as a screen on a computer that you can minimize and make go away. I named my sensor Rex (get it? he Rex things) and every time he shows up, I try to minimize him back below. My best advice is to not let our sensors get in the way of our authenticity. If that sensor weren’t there, what’s the absolute best design or creation you could imagine in your head?
*Photos a mixture of my own and from DoormanDesigns.com