Our Feature in Crain’s Chicago Business’ Startup Roundup

We are very excited to be featured in Crain’s Chicago Startup Roundup! Scroll down to the second article to see our feature, which includes a mention of our installation at the Fine Arts Building. We are excited about this type of exposure, and hope it gets the word out to new Brokenpress fans.

Crain's Chicago Startup Roundup Brokenpress

Brokenpress’ feature in Crain’s Startup Rounup





Groove in the Lounge during the Fine Arts Building’s Second Friday

Chicago is known as one of the best cities in the world for architecture. One of the oldest structures along Michigan Avenue has been around since 1885:  the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Avenue. It’s been known as the “Nation’s Oldest Artist Colony,” but that’s not how it began.  It was first known as the Studebaker Building from 1885 – 1898 as their carriage assembly and showroom. According to the Fine Arts’ website, in 1890, the Studebaker brothers added 4 stories for the Art Institute to the building, which helps explain the two styles to the building’s exterior.

Brokenpress Fine Arts Building Chicago

The beautiful 410 S. Michigan Avenue

In 1898 there was an extensive renovation, and then it became known as an Artist’s Studio building. Artists, sculptors, writers, musicians and architects used these studios for over 100 years. In 1961, the Artists Cafe  opened and remains a staple on Michigan Avenue with it’s charming lighted sign and counter seating. There’s free wi-fi, too!

Brokenpress Fine Arts Building Futility

Artists Cafe at 410 S. Michigan Avenue

Besides the Fine Art Building’s gorgeous exterior, it’s the restored interior which is definitely worth seeing. The elevators are original and still use hand operators; that alone is worth stopping in! You can tour the building alone or take a proper tour.

Brokenpress Fine Arts building chicago

Grab an elevator on the left

The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers a $10 tour the first Tuesday of every month.  If you don’t want to wait until August, then stop on by this Friday, July 11th from 5pm – 9pm, and explore all ten floors for free during their Second Friday Open Studios tour.

Brokenpress Fine Arts building chicago

When you’re there, be sure to take a hand-operated elevator ride to the 5th floor to see Chicago Custom Costumes‘ gallery space.  Vintage vinyl will be spun in the mid-century modernized lounge created by Chicago’s Brokenpress Design+Fabrication and Futility Studios.  Brokenpress Design+Fabrication’s creates stunning furniture using fallen Chicago trees, along with steel and aluminum. Brokenpress’ main focus is audio component and vinyl record storage, but this lounge will feature rift-sawn hardwood tables and the Plotkin hutch in addition to the signature audio credenza. With vinyl making a big comeback, people need a place to store their records. Brokenpress offers many solutions. Futility Studios artfully brings the garage into the living room by reconstructing vintage car and motorcycle parts as unique lights suitable for any home, grotto, or (man)cave. Together, they pair up wonderfully.

Groove along with vintage sounds in their lounge on the 5th floor from 5-9pm this Friday, and enjoy the studios and works of other artists throughout the building at 410 S. Michigan Avenue. If you can’t make it, the Brokenpress and Futility lounge will be on display through July.

Brokenpress Futility fine arts chicago

Don’t miss the  Brokenpress and Futility Lounge on the 5th floor


Getting the word out while supporting stuff we love

Even with almost 15 years of furniture making experience, Brokenpress Design+Fabrication is still a new business. We’ve slowly dipped our toes into the world of advertising, but are very selective on who we market to. Our mid-century modern fans can see us in Atomic Ranch. Since we love the pinup lifestyle, it made sense for us to advertise with Kat Club, a great new offshoot magazine by the amazing Retro Lovely. We thought it was a great way to support a magazine we love, while getting our name out to like-minded people. Guess what?  Retro Lovely even shared our ad on their facebook page! (Welcome, new fans!)

We’re on the lookout for the right audiophile magazine to help us share our great audio storage pieces! Know of one? Please contact us and we’ll look into it!

Showcasing Record Cover Artwork

Did we ever mention that we’re vinyl junkies at Brokenpress Design+Fabrication? One of the reasons why we love to design and build custom audio furniture is because we love music. It’s rare when a record isn’t being spun at our home on Chicago’s northwest side.

Brokenpress Chicago Audio Furniture Vinyl Records

Back when Reckless Records would use post-its for their album reviews

A favorite part of collecting records, besides hearing on early 1970’s monster wars audio equipment, is enjoying incredible album cover art. Maybe my background in graphic design makes me a little biased, but album cover artwork, notably from early 1960’s albums, are often works of art in their own right. To highlight that, we designed a record rail to not only display beautiful album covers, but to also let inquiring minds know what you’re spinning, as well as what’s up next. It’s form and function all rolled up in one.

Brokenpress Audio Furniture Chicago record rail vinyl

Les Baxter is one of our favorites – in both 10″ and 12″ varieties

Brokenpress Furniture Alex Dunham Clash London Calling 12" single vinyl

Who doesn’t love a Clash dance party?

We think our record rail is the perfect way to display album artwork that we even brought it to the Guerrilla Truck Show.

Guerrilla truck show brokenpress design furniture audio chicago

Esquivel and Man from U.N.C.L.E volume 2

Don’t have room to put a record rail above your turntable? At Brokenpress, we can make any size record rail in the wood species of your choice to match your existing furniture. It can showcase your favorite records as both functional and artistic pieces. Don’t think your record collection is worthy of an LP display? Pffft! Our record rail can be used to display artwork, too.  Want to find out more? Contact us and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.


A wet & wonderful Guerrilla Truck Show

We had a great, albeit wet, time at last Tuesday’s 10th annual Guerrilla Truck Show hosted by Morlen Sinoway Atelier in Chicago’s Fulton Market. We were excited to share a space with Joe Wislar of Futility Studios highlighting Alex’s furniture and Joe’s lighting.

We were in the Guerrilla Truck show in 2012, and if you’re not familiar with it, the concept is 60 small moving trucks turn into pop-up spaces/showrooms for artists, designers and furniture makers for one night in June during Neo-Con. For the 10th annual show this year, there were over 200 applicants, and we were excited to be one of the sixty trucks selected to participate in the show.

While the concept seems pretty easy, there’s a lot of prep work done. You start with a blank canvas, er, empty truck, and the goal is to make it inviting for people to come in and view your work.

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

This is what we start with

Since our truck rental was only for 24 hours, both Alex and Joe planned the layout as they loaded the truck with their pieces. The wonderful part of Brokenpress partnering with Futility is how the rich colors of Alex’s furniture mix well with the sleek chrome/metal of Joe’s lighting designs. Alex’s pieces have very modern lines from wood grain and steel and aluminum bases while Joe’s pieces uses tactile vintage car parts with bulbs that are best described as ornamental. There’s a definite vintage, mid-century to both their styles that compliment each other perfectly.

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

Planning up the mockup

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

Almost there!

The rain was intermittent throughout the afternoon, but we were ready at 3:30 to roll into our space.

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

In the queue ready to roll in.

We had a great spot right on Fulton, in the middle of 23 other trucks. It was exciting to see the mix of art, furniture and design objects next to one another.

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

Even with a gloomy sky, the skyline looks fantastic.

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

Setting up shop

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

We were ready right at 5:30

We worked hard on making the space not look like the inside of a truck. We wanted to create an actual space to experience our work. We wanted to mimic a living room, including carpet tiles, a chair and vintage vinyl records spinning on our turntable, hearing them through Brokenpress’ rift-sawn white oak speakers with vintage grill cloth. What were we listening to? You just needed to check out what record was up on our record rail to get your answer.

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

We’re big fans of the Man from U.N.C.L.E soundtrack… Volume 2!

Even with all the people coming in and out of the truck all night, we never had a skip on the record! Our signature audio credenza featured a record stop, which made it easy to search for our next record to spin without having it shift to the back of the credenza.

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

There was lots of interest throughout the night

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

Rift-sawn white oak surfboard tables welcome you into the space

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

Alex telling people about our bar cart prototype

Despite the torrential downpour, we met a lot of great people enjoyed our pieces, the music and our space. The only complaint from our guests was there wasn’t any alcohol in our bar cart! We had a great time, hope we made some new fans of Brokenpress’ mid century modernized furniture. Thanks to all for supporting our mid-century modernized furniture that’s handmade in Chicago.  If you want to see some of our items before next year’s show, contact us and to schedule a time to meet us.

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

Alex and Secretary Ladybird™ braving the rain

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

Alex and Joe

Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago Brokenpress Furniture 2014

End of the night. Looking forward to next year!

Furniture made with Chicago Hardwood

Furniture made from reclaimed wood is definitely hot these days. People enjoy seeing pieces of lumber salvaged to create a distressed piece of furniture. However, distressed lumber might not have the same appeal of local urban forestry lumber, What’s the happy medium to having sturdy, solid hardwood furniture that’s still environmentally responsible? At Brokenpress, we use responsibly forested hardwood for our furniture, but some customers are asking for something even more sustainable. For those requests, we go to  Horigan Urban Forest in Skokie, IL.
What’s great about Horigan is the lumber they carry comes from fallen tress in the Chicago area. It’s a source of solid, hardwood local which came about naturally and without a tree being cut down, and isn’t trucked across the US to get to us. A lot of black walnut, we were told, simply gets turned to mulch. Instead, we’ve created a new life for it at Brokenpress.
We’re working on a special project for Morlen Sinoway Atelier‘s 10th Annual Guerrilla Truck Show on June 10th, and chose some live edge black walnut for the piece. After Alex hand selected the boards, he brought them back to the shop to mill, thickness, size and get ready for glue ups for panels.

In addition to our super-secret Truck Show project, Alex was also able to create another surfboard table. Check out how his finishing technique really brings the color of the black walnut to life. Who would think this as reclaimed?

Now, whenever I see a huge tree cut down from a storm, I want to wonder, Is it going to go to Horigan?  It might be! They do offer the history on some of the wood pieces when they have it.

If you’re looking for a piece of custom furniture using reclaimed hardwood, don’t think you’re limited to something distressed. Brokenpress can build you a custom piece of modern furniture that’s been given a second life. Live outside of Chicago? Don’t worry, Brokenpress offers delivery options, too. We can provide a custom quote for the project and for shipping, just send us an email and we’ll get back to you.


More than just audio furniture

At Brokenpress we love vinyl; record shopping is one of our vices, for sure. We buy our records in Chicago and during any travels, so it comes natural to us to create audio furniture and vinyl storage solutions for ourselves and people who enjoy music as much as we do. By no means, though, does that limit what Brokenpress can create!

Many people contact us when they’re looking for built-in and custom furniture. A recent client moved into a new home, added a fireplace and wanted a mantle, surround and bookshelves. Our clients had a budget they needed to stick to, so Alex said they could reduce costs if they wanted to paint their cabinets instead of using wood veneer. He came in to measure the space and worked closely with our clients to find out what their exposed and enclosed needs were, and created the piece below.


The mantle is walnut veneer with a hardwood walnut face; Alex found a great piece of walnut that had blonde accents on it. He knew it would look great with the aesthetic of their house.  If you look in the photo below, you’ll see how the grain cascades along the sides. He even added the electric during the installation, helping negate the need to bring in an electrician. Our clients will have their fireplace tiled and the cabinets painted soon – we’ll be sure to update with an image when it’s finished.

brokenpress chicago furniture fireplace mantle

Brokenpress also did the electric work during the installation

So don’t let our focus on audio furniture or vinyl record storage make you hesitate contacting us. If you’re in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, need a built in or some type of custom furniture, but aren’t quite sure exactly what you want, please contact us. We can work with you to design something that fits your space and your budget.

Prepping for the Guerrilla Truck Show

We’re very excited to have been selected to join Morlen Sinoway Atelier‘s 10th Annual Guerrilla Truck Show on Tuesday, June 10th.  What is it, you ask? It’s a one-night-only popup design show, using moving trucks at gallery spaces, in Chicago’s Fulton Market. Trucks back up to dock height sidewalks of the area, open up the back of the truck, and boom – there’s your gallery.  The Guerrilla Truck show coincides with Neocon, the world’s largest Contract Furnishings International Trade Fair. We’re excited to be included as one of the sixty trucks in this year’s Guerrila Truck Show and introduce such a large audience to Brokenpress’ Mid-Century modernized furniture. We definitely adhere to their manifesto:

The GUERRILLA Manifesto:
1. To achieve excellence in design
2. To galvanize the design community locally and nationally
3. To select forward thinking individuals that are innovative with both products & display
4. To achieve a high quality of craft and presentation

We’ll be teaming up with Futility Studios for a second time this year. Futility has artfully been bringing the garage into the living room since 2012, and compliments Brokenpress’ furniture well. It’s a great collaboration that we’re excited about. We partnered together for the first time at Retro Rewind in Dubuque in January.

Brokenpress Guerrilla Truck Show Futility Studios Furniture

Futility Studios and Brokenpress Design+Fabrication at Retro Rewind Dubuque

We were part of the 8th annual truck show in 2012 when Brokenpress was intially a side project for Alex. Even though we were new to the scene, Brokenpress was mentioned as one of the favorites by Design Bureau. See some of our images from the 2012 event below.

Brokenpress Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago 2012

The beginning of Brokenpress alongside McBride Housewrights in 2012

Brokenpress Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago 2012

Our humble beginnings with the Brokenpress cocktail credenza and hardwood dining table with inlaid trivet.

Brokenpress Guerrilla Truck Show Chicago 2012

We learned a lot our first time and can’t wait to dazzle the crowd in 2014.

We have big plans for our truck interior this year, and plan on debuting a new item or two at this event. Find out more on the event’s Facebook page, and be sure to stop on by to say hello! Have a specific question? Let us know and we’ll get back to you.


The beauty of rift-sawn hardwood

We love working with rift-sawn hardwoods at Brokenpress. Most commercial furniture nowadays is made from man-made board and not hardwood. Both hardwood and man-made board have their advantages, but our preference is rift-sawn hardwoods for long lasting pieces of furniture.

Rift sawing is a technique of cutting boards from logs. Each board is cut along a radius of the original log, so that the saw cuts at right angles to the tree’s growth ring. This produces lumber of great stability and a tighter grain pattern emphasizing the species’ beauty, but with an added cost. The outcome is a gorgeous example of whichever selected species. However, since this process of cutting yields much less than flat sawing, rift-sawing is much less-commonly used than flat sawing. We build most of our coffee tables and surfboard tables with rift-sawn hardwoods, and feel it’s the special edge that makes Brokenpress different.

Brokenpress surfboard table mcm chicago furniture

Finished top – rift sawn hardwood walnut surfboard table

The individual boards are milled from their rough sawn state coming from our favorite lumber yard. Then after jointer and planer passes it’s onto the table saw to final size, and then glued together to create a full panel or table of hardwood. The new larger piece is then sanded in our drumsander to give it an even flatness and glue clean up. From there, we continue to sand the board at various grits to ending with 220 grit then adding multiple layers of finish to make the natural colors pop while giving the piece added durability and easy clean up. It’s a time consuming process, but the end result is something that is extremely durable and gorgeous to look at.

Brokenpress furniture chicago surfboard table

Brokenpress walnut surfboard table in progress.

Another benefit of hardwoods is the ability to repair them. We were at an event selling Brokenpress surfboard and coffee tables. Someone at the event dropped something heavy on one of our tables, making a dent in it. Had a dent like this been in a man-made wood veneer table, similar to what you’ll find a most mainstream furniture stores like Crate and Barrel, Ikea or Ashley Furniture, the table would’ve been ruined. While it was a time-consuming task to refinish the dent out of the table, the hardwood surfboard table was repaired to its original state. You could never have known the table was dented. You can see some of our tables for sale in our Etsy shop.

There are still times where man-made wood veneer furniture is the right choice. We’ll be talking about the types of wood veneer and plywood we use in our other projects soon. Don’t let the word “plywood” scare you – it’s more prevalent in furniture than you’d think.

Contact Brokenpress Design+Fabrication today to find out about having your own hardwood furniture project completed. Live outside of Chicago? That’s ok, we’ll ship, too!

Brokenpress Press Release

Brokenpress Design and Fabrication Debuts Mid-Century Modernized Furniture for Record Store Day

CHICAGO, IL, March 18, 2014 Chicago furniture maker Alexander Dunham launches Brokenpress Design + Fabrication on March 25. Creating handmade furniture from his original designs, Dunham’s work offers a modern take on Mid-Century styles. His signature wood and steel credenza is ideal for audiophiles and the vinyl record resurgence. Vinyl record sales have increased 32% in 2013, and Brokenpress provides furniture designed specifically to store and display all that vinyl. Clean lines and cord management help highlight beautiful wood grains and component pieces.

With over 15 years of general contracting and furniture making experience, Dunham has decided to focus his energy into furniture making full time. His craftsmanship is second to none as he works seamlessly with rift-sawn hardwoods, veneers, and steel.

“The type of wood I use depends on the project,” says Dunham. “Most audio credenzas are walnut, cherry, or birch veneers to keep them lightweight. I use tung oil to bring out the wood’s natural finish. It really makes the wood sing. Tables and deluxe credenzas tend to be rift-sawn hardwood, because the quality, durability, and overall look of hardwood is like nothing else.”

Dunham is a longtime fan of Mid-Century styling and no stranger to music. He is a former member of post-hardcore bands Hoover, Regulator Watts, and Abilene; and has played guitar longer than he has been building furniture.

“I still have records that I collected on tour over twenty years ago,” says Dunham. “I continue to buy vinyl and build my collection, and want something functional and beautiful to store it in.”

While standard sizes are available, Brokenpress builds made-to-order pieces and will customize credenza sizing. That allows for custom height and widths to accommodate clients’ current audio components. The overall design stays consistent, but the subtle customization is what makes Brokenpress unique to the furniture market.

“Some clients need two levels of record storage, while others need only one for records and a smaller secondary shelf. I work with each person to find out exactly what their needs are so I can build precisely to their specs,” Dunham says.

The credenza isn’t limited to audio or home theater components, either. The original credenza design was for cocktail storage or as a traditional buffet.

Hardwood coffee tables by Brokenpress are currently displayed at An Orange Moon in Bucktown and Modern Cooperative in Pilsen. He can be commissioned to fabricate custom millwork from designer drawings and client sketches. Whether you’re looking forward to Mad Men’s final season starting on April 13th, the 7th annual Record Store Day on April 19th, or to have a modern take on a vintage piece of furniture you love, Alex Dunham’s Brokenpress Design and Fabrication (773-798-9908) in Chicago can help outfit your Mid-Century Modern furniture needs.