Philip Mast, the head designer of Goshen, Indiana-based Hedge House Furniture, heard that feedback when he started building a small furniture company in his hometown back in 2009. The craftsmen he hired to make his first pieces, accustomed to Shaker-style designs with more elaborate curves and details, found them too streamlined, too simple, and perhaps too nice (this is the Midwest, after all).
But that, according to Mast, is the entire point. Along with his sister and co-owner Katlyn, who manages operations and communications for the homegrown manufacturer, Philip Mast has built an independent outfit fusing modern aesthetic with handmade quality, all meant to make heirloom-quality pieces more affordable. At a time when stripped-down, subdued interior decor, a celebration of white walls and small statement pieces, is widespread, Hedge House’s pragmatic designs seek to stand out by fitting in.
"I don’t want our pieces to be the showstoppers in the room, but to blend in and play nicely with everything else," says Philip.
The Masts’ path to furniture design was a circuitous route that just happened to lead back home. After studying at Savannah College of Art and Design, Philip spent time working as a graphic designer, and then spent a decade as a freelance camera operator (he also happened to live in a home with overgrown trees in the front yard, known to friends as Hedge House).
But design always exerted a strong pull; during a stint waiting tables, he remembers sketching furniture prototypes. Katlyn, who always felt close to her brother and shared a similar aesthetic, saw her brother’s designs, and decided she wanted to get involved. In the years since they launched a small shop on Etsy, it’s been an experiment in both entrepreneurship and sibling relationships.
"Everything is hand crafted and built by one builder. Despite how big we might ever get, we’ll always stick with a smaller shop."
"We’ve experienced all the challenges that come with working alongside a sibling," says Philip. "Our accountant and business advisor may also be a family therapist from time to time."
Goshen is a small town with a liberal arts college, a blue dot in mostly red Indiana that’s also a big recreational vehicle manufacturing hub. It may not seem like the most likely place to start a furniture company.
But traditional woodworking runs deep in the area, a center of Amish country in Northern Indiana. Katlyn and Philip’s uncles and grandfathers have worked in the trade, and Hedge House currently employs a team of Amish woodworkers to make their furniture.
Philip has found that the face-to-face feedback from woodworkers has helped him sharpen his designs. Since he started from the sketch pad and not the shop floor, a better understanding of craft has been invaluable to his work and the brand.
"Everything is handcrafted and built by one builder," he says. "Despite how big we might ever get, we’ll always stick with a smaller shop."
That blend of established processes and contemporary profiles can be see on pieces such as the Windsor Bed. The platform-style design, perched on slightly angled legs, presents an inviting, casual posture, all while flaunting a stripped down, traditional headboard. It communicates heritage quality without being haughty or formal, encapsulating the line’s philosophy of function over form.
"I’ve tried to straddle a modern and traditional aesthetic, so our furniture can work in a modern house, or a place that’s traditional," says Philip.
Hedge House’s commitment to handcrafted modernism, made from locally sourced Midwest hardwood, has served them well. Since setting up shop in 2009, they’ve steadily expanded, building up a customer base on the coasts in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles—like touring musicians, they’ve toured the Eastern seaboard in a van making deliveries—and opening up an upholstery workshop in Chicago.
Hedge House is currently in the midst of expanding into upholstered furniture, which they introduced last summer, outfitting a new workshop, and stockpiling inventory, to help cut down delivery time. Handmade affordable is still the focus, says Katlyn, but they want to find an organic way to ramp up production (bringing on their third sibling, Julian, an electrical engineer, was discussed, but isn’t likely).
Traveling, architecture, and the environment are big influences on the brand’s visual vocabulary—the legs of one table came from the shape of the metal stands suspending power lines above the highway—but their hometown remains formative.
"When I’m in Goshen, I have more space to focus and work and get things done," Philip says. "I may get inspiration elsewhere, but my hometown is where I can focus, tweak, and get things done."