I met Bart and Karen Thrasher years ago when they lived in my neighborhood. When they moved to a Prairie Four Square in Winnetka Heights a while back, I mourned the loss. Why? Besides being some great friends, both Bart and Karen were our family’s sounding board when it came to home renovation and improvement. Their backgrounds in architecture, construction, and design made them the go-to source.
Well, now the couple has gone and started offering their expertise to just about anyone. My loss, your gain, I suppose. Thrasher Works, which has become a labor of love for the pair, is a burgeoning business of building furniture, custom cabinetry, and unique interior spaces that are tailored to your taste.
Of course, they want to grow this family business, too, so they’re trying to win a $250,000 Mission Main Street grant from Chase. You can vote for them here. Find out more about the husband and wife team behind Thrasher Works after the jump!
Joanna: When did you both decide to make Thrasher Works a family business?
Bart: Near the end of 2012, I wanted to change the focus my design/build firm of 13 years from predominantly residential remodeling to cabinetry and furniture. I had been building up to this for years, with a shop space that slowly but surely became equipped to handle this and refining my skills doing many modern kitchens. My wife, Karen, shares the love of design and is a licensed architect. We started bouncing ideas off one another and decided to create a line of modern furniture that would fill the need we saw for this that was done with integrity.
It was then that we decided on Thrasher Works as a brand, and begun the task of completely changing everything about my former company (Office of Urban Renewal).
Karen: It was officially a family business once we were finally able to secure www.thrasherworks.com. We’d been trolling the website for several years and it was always unavailable until 2012. Someone let it slip. We bought it up and figured it was as good a sign as any. But to be sure and to wrap the deal up with as much luck as two un-superstitious people can, we went down to the records office on 12/12/12 and made the partnership official.
Joanna: What’s it like working with your spouse?
Karen: I don’t think Bart is used to someone telling him how things should be…or at least how they can be. He’s been his own boss his entire professional career. So I can honestly say it can be somewhat amusing to work together. But really, we bring very different things to the table. I don’t tell him how to execute woodworking or build an addition, and he concedes pretty easily when it comes to business, operations and marketing. Where it really gets fun is in the design. The blog is a great example. I’ve used it as a creative outlet this past year and it’s been amazingly therapeutic to simply get things out of my head in a creative manner. When Bart chimes in, I can get a bit defensive. After all, the designs on the blog are spare-time fodder. I’d rather leave the wrangling of critics and naysayers to my day job, right? Who needs that in your spare time? However, in the end, he is a great sounding board. He is a terrific designer who has taught me to think in a more practical-means and method-type manner while still allowing me to simply create.
Bart: For us, it’s fairly easy. Of course, Karen is not full time. She still has her day job as an architect! As for myself, I focus on getting the production done, and Karen does all the marketing and manages the “big picture”.
Joanna: I love the blog and how it gives people a peek into your design process. What keeps you guys in love with building things for other families?
Karen: Like I mentioned before, the blog has really been a therapeutic experience. I love my job and what I do each day — some days more than others … and some you just learn to block out — but the blog has let me explore different ideas within the realm of design which I don’t deal with on a daily basis: intimate spaces, residential structures, furniture, and whatever else isn’t paying the bills!
It’s interesting. I bought a new sketch book not long after starting the blog [note: new sketch book to an architect is like candy to a toddler]. I’ve found myself utilizing the blog and putting things out there more than I visit my sketch book. How narcissistic, huh? It’s just that it reinvigorates you. You can focus on a design, refine it, let it evolve and then it inspires another.
Bart: That is all Karen, she has quite a voice! As far as keeping the love of building, it was truly ingrained in both of us in college. Any worthwhile school of architecture does a number on you, and really leaves an impression on your outlook.
Joanna: What is your favorite project you have worked on together?
Karen: Right now we are in the middle of master planning a backyard for a local Dallas couple. The commission was generated out of the folly designs I published on the blog. Crazy, right? To have someone want to explore the execution and build out of one of the many ideas that crowds your head each day is amazing to me. Amazing. Exciting. Just, Wow. Bart and I have been able to really explore the process and we are evolving as a team. It should be a fun ride!
Bart: So far, for me it has been our first true line, Motus. We have four credenzas in production and some side tables on the way.