Troy Garza is perpetually curious. You can feel his mind working when something intrigues him. He wants to understand the process, so that he can use it to make something all his own. He has no reticence when it comes to finding out what he needs to know and then jumping right in with his own experimentation.
At the photo shoot for this story, his mind was on the equipment and how to light a subject. He takes his own photos for social media, and he’s looking for ways to better convey the brilliant sheen and the rich colors for which his pieces are known. What if a series of mirrors were used to bounce the light around the room, he asks? The conversation plunges deep into the weeds over the principles of light behavior in photography.
Furniture is Troy’s passion, but it’s not his only one by any means. He and his sister Mandy have two shops that on a quiet corner a few blocks off Main Street in the old town area of Tomball. 209th Designs is brimming with Troy’s work, much of it in monochromatic white and gray, and it runs the gamut from refinished furniture to art canvases to clothing. The adjacent Muse: 301 is filled with larger statement pieces, a mix of furniture and art by Troy and his fellow artists and craftsmen, who work alongside one other in a set of buildings behind the two shops.
A wooden deck with a few chairs and couches sits among the buildings, with a wall-size mural emblazoned with the words “Viva Arte!” serving as a backdrop to the seating area. It’s a focal point that brings together the disparate structures into a cohesive “artists’ compound.”
Years ago, Troy and Mandy’s mother had her own shop in Tomball, the well-known Dahlia’s Boutique, which was located on W. Main Street. When their mother passed away, Troy says their desire to continue her legacy led them to open the two shops, and to see where the journey would take them.
On any given day, the buildings are filled with activity, and it surprises new customers to see the extent of the work going on, like something you’d find at an artist’s colony in Marfa or L.A. or New York, says Mandy, who manages the shops. “I'm the mother hen of the businesses. I work amongst all men. I actually prefer that at the moment. We all show a level of respect. We protect each other without drama.” She and her husband Charlie also run a cool and kitschy cigar bar called Henry’s Place, housed in a vintage Spartan trailer that’s located on the compound.
You may find Troy’s friend, woodworker Jim Gott in the woodshop, sanding a live edge coffee table he’s built. Another friend, metalworker John Cobb, may be creating a fire pit or a wine rack from a car engine block. Other members of this crew of creatives are doing prep work--repairing and sanding, readying a piece for Troy to paint in the building they call the “Poor House”—“The place where the magic happens,” says Troy.
Artists are often characterized as brash or disorganized. This is not Troy. He has a calm, meticulous nature and an ability to break down and coordinate the steps of all these processes, likely honed by the years he spent as a kid helping his dad, whose job was in avionics at Hooks Airport. Troy has a checklist. He keeps track of the time involved in creating a piece, how much material is needed, the flow of the pieces through each stage, from acquisition to repair to sanding to finishing, then on to the customer’s home or to the showroom floor. “I know every square inch of a piece,” he says. “You have to learn that connection. When I hear the sound of sanding, I can tell if it’s being done correctly. It’s not menial work.“
Years ago, Troy created his own clothing line. He had studied fashion design in college and was working at his mother’s shop when he developed a fascination for finely crafted wood furniture. Early-to-mid 20th-century pieces--hardwood bureaus and chests of drawers and consoles that were of sturdy character with beautiful lines. The kind of furniture that no one was making anymore.
He searched out one of the few local furniture refinishers he could find to teach him the craft. It was 2014, and the craze over chalk paint was killing off traditional wood stain refinishing. He knew the fad wouldn’t last. Chalk paint was a quick and easy home décor fix, but it wasn’t art. “No one knows they’re in a cult until they’re in a cult,” he muses.
Troy continued to learn everything there was to know about furniture refinishing and was delivering pieces to clients when he began to notice in some high-end homes a kind of kitchen cabinet finish that captivated him. Richly colored, shiny finishes, like you’d see on a new car. He started asking questions. It turned out the cabinets were done in lacquer.
The process was not easily replicated, and the paint could not be obtained through a big box home improvement store. He connected with custom painters to understand the process, figured out where to source the paint, and began to experiment. Soon he was perfecting his own furniture refinishing style with lacquer.
His first pieces, the ones he learned on, were placed on the floor for the 2020 grand opening of 209th Designs. Within a week, he’d sold out.
He started looking for old furniture at donation center stores and in resale shops. It didn’t take long for the word of mouth about his work to spread. Now, when he gets to the shop in the morning, he sometimes finds an old piece of furniture sitting out front. “They’d rather give it to me than to Goodwill,” he smiles.
Troy has a vision for other mediums too. He and metal fabricator John Cobb met through mutual friends and started working on concepts that take car parts and transform them into furniture--fire pits, coffee tables, and wine racks made from old engine blocks. Other smaller parts become lamps and vases. They were using parts they’d found wasting away in salvage yards, and as the word spread, people starting bringing the parts to them. Troy says they had stumbled upon a niche, people who wanted their homes to reflect their love of cars and boats and aviation.
Inspired by fashion clothing from Dolce & Gabbana and AMIRI that can cost over a thousand dollars at places likes Saks Fifth Avenue, he’s also devised a special paint and a technique for applying a splatter effect to jeans, t-shirts, and even reading glasses. It involves hand-splattering the pieces with a flick of the wrist that he perfected after consulting a professional bass fisherman about the art of casting a fishing line.
When luxury fashion house Versace made the jump into home furnishings, the sofas and chairs oozed the color and style that the design house was known for—there’s no mistaking a Versace couch, says Troy. He wants to take that excitement and artistry and make it attainable to people in all walks of life, to add a jolt of excitement to everyday environments. “What if Versace opened up a Chili’s? It would be absolutely awesome!”
The Garza siblings have another property with a house on it behind the compound, and they’re mulling its future use. Troy envisions an AirBnB-type living quarters, where aspiring artists can stay while they help out and learn their craft. He says it’s important to leave a legacy that others can follow. “Serious students only,” he emphasizes. “Are you willing to immerse yourself? I can teach you the techniques, but not the lifestyle. I grab a brush, even on prep day.” Another thing that can’t be taught is the connection with the piece. “A piece is like a person, like a new friend. It’s sad to see it leave.”