For designer Andy Whitcomb, it’s all about imagination and conscience, and the journey to his current career as co-founder of local made-by-hand furniture store Brackish hasn’t been a traditional one.
When he was 19 years old, he decided to be a furniture designer, with no experience, training or education. He got a job at a refinishing shop in Ballard refinishing antique furniture to gain some hands-on experience. After several years, he attended Kendall College of Art and Design in Michigan. The four-year program focused on design, and after graduating, he designed mass production items that were produced overseas.
In 2007, Andy stopped in New York City on his way home from a work trip to China. He walked into ABC Home and Carpet, an iconic six-story home store in Manhattan, and had a religious awakening. When he reached the floor that featured furniture made of reclaimed materials, he realized there was so much more to design that he wanted to pursue. That was when he decided he would start his own company. That moment shifted his perspective and his entire career.
“I realized I couldn’t design stuff anymore that would be in a landfill in three years. I wanted to create something people would appreciate and that I would be proud of. My imagination and conscience have been my main drivers in design and running my business since then.”
In 2009, Whitcomb & Co. was born, with Andy handling 100 percent of the design and creation of his custom furniture pieces. He began working with wood. It was the easiest medium to start with, and he had some experience with it from his time refinishing antique furniture. The style of furniture really stemmed from his lack of skill at the time; he would build a metal framework and bolt the wood to it because he didn’t have the knowledge to make strong wood joints. He also realized his passion for the industrial look and the ability to create something from the basis of authenticity. He fell in love with being able to take a work bench that had been used and abused for years and making a beautiful table out of it.
During that time, Andy met Forest Eckley, who would come to own Glasswing, a retail design shop. Over a conversation about an idea for a couch that Andy had in mind, Andy and Forest decided to merge their businesses and create Brackish.
Many of Brackish’s designs combine wood and steel together, creating a modern industrial aesthetic. One thing that sets Brackish apart is their incorporation of reclaimed and salvaged materials. As a child, Andy grew up in a rural area and loved taking wood he would find around his home and build treehouses. That continues to this day. He loves the idea of scavenging things and making something magical and beautiful out of it.
Today, while Andy is still hands-on in the creative process, he doesn’t make every piece of furniture himself, but he is a part of the entire process until the piece is finished. He most enjoys creating custom pieces because it involves interaction with the client. When he delivers the finished product to the client, and he can hear how excited they are with it, he appreciates that honest moment of enjoyment.
His favorite part of his job is the license to be creative. Coming up with creative solutions and objects has always been something Andy enjoys, and he is able to exercise it every day. Alongside that creativity, Andy also credits a quote by Napoleon Hill as the greatest lesson in his life, both personally and professionally: “If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it.”
Currently, Andy is working on a project for a high-profile cabin, designed by Tom Kundig, owner and design principal of Seattle-based Olson Kundig. Andy is redesigning some of the interior of the cabin as well as making a custom sofa. It is a dream project for him, being able to work with his professional hero and favorite architect, whose work is so well regarded by the design community.
Brackish also owns two homes that are furnished completely with Brackish furniture. Brackish House is in Capitol Hill, and Canyon Creek Cabin is in Granite Falls. Both are available for rent on Airbnb.
Brackish furniture can be found at Glasswing, a retail store in Capitol Hill, as well as on BrackishDesigns. Custom order inquiries can be made at email@example.com. You can also find their pieces on Instagram @brackish.
“Living in the Pacific Northwest has taught us how materials can shape an environment over time. As a result, everything we design is built as a piece for frequent use and regular inspiration. This mindset allows us to build furniture with simple materiality that will endure for generations.”