We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Larkin and Andrew Karl and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan & Karl, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Kindred is all about crafting furniture that will last for a long time. We make sure that we use sustainably sourced materials and as few chemicals as possible in all of our builds. It’s so easy to head to your local big box store and buy something that may look trendy or serve a temporary purpose, but those pieces aren’t made to last. Many of the materials that these companies use rely on low-grade plastics and particle board which end up in land fills when they inevitably break.
When we’re able to communicate directly with a client about wood options and finishes and develop transparency in regards to materials, you begin to create real equity in a piece of furniture. It becomes something that doesn’t need to be thrown away. In the end our goal is create timeless, beautiful furniture that is tailor-made for you and can be passed down for generations.
We make furniture that has real aesthetic value and is truly made well, and that means you may only need one table for the rest of your life. That’s the way furniture used to be made, and that’s how we want to keep making it. This helps keep our forests strong, our waste low, and our clients happy.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Our art is functional, so we always have to push ourselves to find not only what looks great, but what also works best in someone’s space. We are constantly pulling from different eras of design to make something that is new and unique. Normally, we play around with classic elements of American and Japanese styles of joinery and aesthetics. We love using the natural defects and characteristics of wood to highlight the beauty inherent in it. Many people are used to seeing commercial wooden furniture that is free of knots and other imperfections. The waste that results from throwing all of these pieces away, even though they are perfectly usable, isn’t apart of what we do. We think that these qualities should be embraced and cherished. The trees that are used for lumber worked hard to become as big and strong as they were, and we plan on always using whatever we can.
We also love blending the tools we use. Many of our favorite tools are the ones so often disappearing from modern production shops. We still use the classic hand tools that aren’t much different from the ones that the Romans had, or the ones that built the great cathedrals. However, we are also lucky enough to have the electricity that we’re sure those wood workers would have killed for. So, we are often beginning our builds with power tools and finishing our detailed work that often occurs towards the end of a project by hand. This keeps the costs lower for our clients, but preserves our passion for furniture making.
We got our start in woodworking the old fashioned way, by throwing ourselves in to other small shops and starting at the bottom. Andrew started in a frame shop where he quickly became one of the top woodworkers and began making complex canvases for some of the top artists in the Los Angeles area. Ryan began at a small furniture repair and refinishing company where he apprenticed under a master carpenter and learned the ins and outs of historical furniture construction and the differences between styles and periods. We began Kindred Furniture after both having tried to go it alone, but came to the conclusion that it’s much easier when there’s someone there to help you move a giant tree slab. It’s also nice to be able to create as a team, and have someone to help you work through all the complex problems creative furniture can present.
It’s rare that designing furniture is ever easy. There are processes that are similar, but when you make something for the first time there is always a situation that may leave you somewhere you’ve never been. That’s why it’s great to have a partner around. We overcome challenges everyday, and have yet to find one that we couldn’t solve as a team. We take comfort in knowing that we have the knowledge to figure it out, or that at some point in time there was another woodworker who probably already did. The business side of woodworking can often be the most difficult part, especially during the age of Covid-19. This past year we have seen prices surge for raw materials, and supply backlogs have made purchasing equipment and hardware a real balancing act. On the bright side, many major furniture retailers have faced many of the same problems. This has led more people to discover that custom, handmade furniture is still something that is proudly made in the US when they can’t have that coffee table shipped to them next day.
We just want people to know that there is another option when it comes to the way they choose to furnish their home. We know that it’s unlikely that someone would fill a house with entirely custom made pieces, but even if it’s just one, that piece will be cherished for the rest of their lives if done right. Furniture has been relegated to something that we can pick up with the groceries when we go to Target. What happens when that piece of furniture becomes an experience, something that you get to interact with everyday, and something that makes your life a little bit easier because the person who made it wasn’t obsessed with making 10 more, but just this one, better? That’s why we want people to support the hard work that is making something by hand and choose Kindred Furniture.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles has such a rich art and architectural history behind the strip malls and florescent lights. Even as a a Los Angeles native and a long-time resident, we are constantly finding new places to serve as inspiration and relaxation. There are so many must sees, and must eats, but we included some of our favorites below:
– Schindler House, West Hollywood. – This place is just a beautiful display of early 20th century California and American architecture. Built in the 1920’s, you could easily mistake it for something built today. Walk over to Ippudo for some fresh ramen after. It’s just down the road!
– Culver City Art’s District. – Here you’ll find galleries like Blum & Poe and George Billis Gallery, which are typically free and open to the public. Just a stroll down the road is JRs BBQ – a true LA legend
– The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City – a classic, quirky, and ever changing museum of some of the strangest things ever seen. Of course, after going there you have to head to In n’ Out.
– The Huntington, Pasadena – A beautiful museum and gardens that you could easily spend the day in. They have so many legendary artists and sculptors to see. It’s so easy to find inspiration here, we fully recommend it.
– Angels Flight, Downtown LA – Subject to availability, but if you get a chance to get on, it’s a cool blast from the past. You could also head over to the Bradbury Building, which is the oldest commercial building in Los Angeles. When you’re done checking those out, grab a bite to eat at Grand Central Market. There’s something for everyone, but grab a sweet treat at Fat & Flour.
Many people also don’t realize Los Angeles has some stunning natural beauty. There are so many great parks and outdoor spaces to spend time. You can take some beautiful and scenic hikes at Kenneth Hahn or take a short drive up through La Cañada and enter the Angeles National Forest for some fresh air.
And a few LA classics that have been here forever:
-Pepe’s Tacos, West LA. Some amazing taqueria style Mexican food. After a long day, nothing is better than a Pepe’s Supreme.
-Jitlada, Thai Town. Really excellent southern Thai cuisine, we recommend everything on the menu.
-Sakura House, Culver City – One of the best small home town Japanese Izakaya resturants
-Hamburger Habit, West LA. Ryan’s favorite hamburger spot in Los Angeles. I have been going here since I was a kid, the chili-cheese burger always hits the spot.
-Kotohira Udon, Gardena. Amazing udon and Japanese. Their spicy pork udon is our recommendation.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We would love to thank all of our family and friends who helped us get to this point. So many of them have been supporting us however they could since we first began, and we could have never done it without them. The time and energy that they gave us has kept Kindred going.They always volunteered to be our first clients. Without the lessons we learned from those projects there is no way we would be the craftsmen we are today. Of course a special shout out goes to our significant others who put up with all the dust, late nights, and worked weekends. They really keep us at our best.
We are so lucky to work with some amazing clients. They are the reason we get to do what we do. It has always been a dream working with people who support our vision and trust us to create pieces that they will keep for a lifetime. We strive to keep earning that trust as we continue to grow, and wholeheartedly thank every one of them for their support.
Woodworking is such an interesting field to be apart of. It is full of weird quirks, techniques, and traditions that have been passed down through the generations. We would be remiss if we didn’t thank all of the woodworkers and artists who came before us, and all of the makers out there now who are making the whole craft better. We’re grateful to the mentors who have showed us so much of what we know and have given us the foundation that we continue to build upon today.