Located in West Oakland, California, Munson Furniture is a design and manufacturing company for the 21st century combining the latest digital design and fabrication tools with smart design principles and traditional woodworking techniques. The methods and machinery of Industry 4.0 provide for efficient, made-to-order production of beautiful furniture meeting the highest standards.
After many years of providing fabrication and design services to architects and interior design professionals, I founded Munson Furniture as a way to bring more of my own creative visions to life. I’ve been interested in the creative process as far back as I can remember. In my twenties I started to combine my interests in drawing and making with a growing awareness of my personal surroundings and the architecture of living well. The scale and cadence of furniture design and crafting spoke to me and drew me in.
Alternative universe dream job
Professional tennis player
Favorite workday lunch order
Carnitas tacos from Taco Panzon
Although born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve now lived in California longer than anywhere else, and I’d say this place has had as much impact on my identity as Minnesota.
If you asked me a few years ago if I thought I would be a business partner in a furniture company in Oakland, I might have looked at you funny. But since I was already married to a furniture maker at that point, maybe not. My role at Munson Furniture began as sounding board and occasional advisor, and over time morphed into busines partner. Printing cards for our first trade show meant that I needed a title, and Paul was kind enough to recognize my early ad-hoc contributions with Co-Founder.
As the daughter of a couple who designed, built, and decorated more than a few homes over the years, my interest in the world of interiors probably started early, but it wasn’t until now that it became a stop on my varied career path. Unlike most of my business school classmates, I was less interested in the big company route and so have found myself in small, usually nimble, sometimes chaotic companies like this one. Even on the hard days, I don’t think I’d trade it.
Favorite tool in the shop
Director Of Operations
In a company as small as Munson Furniture, Director of Operations really translates to The One Who Does What it Takes to Keep Things Moving. Some days I’m focused on shop planning, materials purchasing, and managing the team, while other days are filled with CNC programming, milling, joinery and assembly. The possibilities are endless—and so is the to do list.
I blame LEGOS for my current career. I went to UC Santa Barbara with computer science in mind, but I came out with a degree in Fine Art, a bent laminated chopper bicycle, and a knowledge of the ins and outs of wood and metal fabrication. I’ve worked the mill at Berkeley Mills and made painting substrates and sculptures for artists all over California.
I smoke meats and eat a lot of sushi
Favorite tool in the shop
Senior Product Manager
I spend most of my time working with Paul and the developer team to create a more perfect set of web tools for our configurable designs. I originally trained and practiced in architecture specializing in digital fabrication. When I first met Paul he described the laborious process of recreating existing pieces in a slightly modified version and his vision to create a collection that could update in a more efficient way. I had no prior experience designing furniture, but the idea of an object as a living model, or a parametric algorithm, was a familiar concept. So I connected this past experience with those goals to design a methodology to produce a more dynamic solution from start to finish.
I like to experiment with material science and invent novel fabrication methods, like 3D printing coffee grounds.
Favorite tool in the shop
Planar—it makes things smooth, beautiful and rationalized
Least favorite tool in the shop
Planar—all the sharp blades scare me
Furniture Maker/5-axis CNC Operator
I work on both the digital and the physical sides of the shop—contributing to the creation of our 3D models from my computer and helping to fabricate the furniture pieces in the shop. I think of my hands as having their own little brains, and the physical movement through my hands is like the gears of those brains turning. After spending close to a year traveling the US by bicycle, I returned to Oakland and took the steps to pursue a career in making. I got my introduction to woodworking through Laney College and started at my first woodshop through an internship with Harbour Freight.
I studied Economics in college and then pursued midwifery for a few years post-college. The math requirement for Economics has been helpful with the digital side, but I can’t say I’ve used any of my midwifery skills on the job so far.
At this point, I have lived longest here in Oakland and feel like this is home. I grew up in China, moved to Los Angeles at 10 and to the Bay Area after college.
I’m in the shop working on furniture production, selecting wood, assembling pieces, sanding, and quality control. I was working as a finish carpenter in Santa Barbara and a craftsman for the visual design group at Patagonia in Ventura just before relocating to the Bay Area and landing at Munson Furniture.
I’ve worked all over the world as a craftsman, fascinated by how culture and location inform design and by how people build using what’s available to them. I still implement tips and tricks I learned along the way like working with old barn wood in the Swiss Alps. I designed and built a home in Portugal, restored from an abandoned pile of bricks foundation. Through that process I became immersed in the unique stone working tradition of the region and created a living space that thousands of vacationers have enjoyed over the past 5 years. For two years I ran a Dutch surf hotel in Costa Rica, overseeing construction projects managing staff, and making classic Dutch pancakes every Sunday.
You can find pictures of me shredding powder in Dutch snowboard magazines from the early 00s.