Brush Factory’s new furniture line has a secret ingredient: Hayes Shanesy’s blood, sweat, and tears. Or at least that’s what he and his partner Rosie Kovacs say with a smile from their Camp Washington workshop. Surrounded by slabs of uncut wood and furniture-making tools, the pair looks at home in the space as they discuss how bff came to be.
Shanesy graduated from DAAP in 2004 with a degree in industrial design, Kovacs in 2009 with a fashion degree. Both knew from day one that traditional employment for design majors—“going to work for a consultancy or corporation where you hand off a drawing in a huge team and may not see anything for years,” says Shanesy—wasn’t for them; they were more interested in working on a “smaller scale…seeing something through and actually building it, too.”
Brush Factory was born in November 2009 in a former brush-making facility in Brighton. “The first two years we were sort of doing things separately,” says Kovacs—he in a woodshop, she in a sewing studio, making clothes. The business “organically morphed into home goods,” says Kovacs, but custom wood furniture orders started pouring in, too. She set aside her sewing machine and moved into the role of organizer, while Shanesy got to work building made-to-order tables, desks, and cabinetry. Now, with a client list more than 30 names long—including Salazar, Continuum, People’s Liberty, and Cintrifuse—that approach seems to be paying off.
The pair entered the ArtWorks Big Pitch competition to flesh out their concept for a furniture collection. They won, and also took home the audience choice award. The competition—and the $20,000 in prize money—was exactly the “kick in the butt” they needed to jumpstart the line, says Shanesy.
The bff name is a play on words: A nod to the phrase best friends forever (heavy emphasis on the word forever, which is exactly how long Shanesy says his pieces should last) that is also the company’s initials (Brush Factory Furniture). The line includes nine different tables in various sizes and finishes—most of which are named for (and inspired by) Kovacs’s and Shanesy’s best friends.
The next step in a successful seven-year evolution, bff will officially launch online May 1 (brush manufactory.com) “Every time we do it, it’s like an experiment on a shoestring,” says Shanesy. “You learn what works and what doesn’t.” And beyond that? Furnishings for a new restaurant in Chicago are in the works, and the pair hopes to deliver bff pieces to neighboring states, too. One thing’s certain: “I try to do my best to let the material speak for itself,” says Shanesy. “And that’s not something that really goes in or out of style.”
Scroll through our gallery to see some pieces from the bff line: