Brett Reisdorf: A Designer who will "Steel" your Heart
Brett Reisdorf is not your stereotypical designer. With messy sun-bleached hair, a freckled face, unassuming smile and laid back surfer slag you might mistake him for a beach bum rather than an aspiring designer. But it may just be this unique set of characteristics that will help him ride as smoothly into the design industry as he does into his morning break.
Brett grew up in South Africa which is where he developed his love for natural beauty. "My parents were pretty adventurous so I got to do a lot of exploring from a young age." These adventurous parents also had a lot of furniture that piqued his interest. After moving to the United States, Brett worked for one of the first guys in San Diego to really become an artisan in the medium of decorative concrete. He developed a huge amount of respect for Jack, the work he did and, more than anything, the way he dealt with clients. "I asked him, when I was getting near the end of working for him, what I should do to do what he does and he said, 'Go to interior design school.' So I did." Brett enrolled at Design Institute in 2007 and never looked back. "I feel awesome about my education. It can be hard, but in reality it is such a strong school. I can tell that the system to get you through all makes sense and I loved it."
After discussing his passion for design and furniture with a friend, that friend introduced Brett to the scrap metal yard. "He showed me just how beautiful some of the pieces at the metal yard are. Some of the things are clearly an accident which is why they ended up there, but they can create a unique beauty that you can capture." This inspired Brett, in his senior year, to design a piece of furniture for a class and also as a gift for his friends who were getting married. Brett always had a knack for the materials and building system classes he took at DI and was eager to put his knowledge and skills to work. "I designed a few tables but through class critique narrowed it down to one." His final product was an entry table that incorporated repurposed steel and concrete.
It was the confidence Brett developed from this project that led him to start his own business, Brett Haydn Designs. "People love decorative concrete but I don't think countertops are the best application. Nobody is really doing furniture, like tables and benches, and that's really what I'm doing." Decorative concrete mixed with repurposed steel has given Brett a novel product. "I know my product is unique. There isn't much like it out there. Being driven by sustainability I want to just keep pushing my product to have that meaning to it. Some of the pieces are large structural elements from buildings that have been torn down. There's history there."
Brett's current project is for a client who wants an entirely Japanese themed powder room. She had an extra piece of slate from her outdoor fountain that she wanted turned in to a vanity top. "I shot her some drawings and told her what I could do and she was totally into it!" Like nearly every piece Brett designs, this design is one-of-a-kind. "The face is going to be made of rectangular tubing. I've been removing, bending and distressing material to get the right look. It's going to be very cool."
Brett's matter-of-fact, go-getter attitude also landed him another outstanding opportunity. While flipping though a recent issue of Dwell Magazine.
Brett saw an ad for Opportunity Green, a high profile sustainable design conference held in LA. Seeing a phone number next to the word 'sponsorship', Brett called hoping to get sponsored to attend. "I think they meant that you should call if you wanted to sponsor the event but I ended up talking to the right person. They checked out my website, loved the work and since it fit their philosophy, decided to feature some of my planters on the main stage!" Though the conference dealt with larger global issues geared towards bigger corporate businesses, Brett was able to see how designers can be helpful in the whole process. "DI really emphasizes sustainability. I came out feeling like I could save the world, but sitting there with mathematicians and scientists dealing with huge energy and water issues helped me see the bigger picture and where I can be most helpful in the process." Brett realized that it is the designers who interface with the consumers on a personal level which is where he can really have an influence. Brett was also able to network which gave him even more motivation for the causes so important to him. "To see young people in completely different industries who have the same purpose was really cool."
Even though Brett is steeped in furniture design he still wants to practice interior design. "I'm refining exactly what I do. With my education at DI and my passion for the environment and saving what we have left, I'm just going to keep moving forward. There are ways to make positive change and I want to help." Brett's simple approach and humble attitude has brought him far and will continue to do so. As he put it, "I try to solve each problem that comes to me. It's never ending but I feel it's important to stay true to myself and do what I love."