BEHIND THE GRIND: Kage Design Studio

Let’s celebrate the hardest workers we know. At OXX our products are built tough to get the job done. We are inspired by the people that put in the time and effort to do things the right way. Whether they’re in the shop, on the jobsite, or in the field they continue to define hard work. We want to know what fuels them, how they got where they are now, and uncover what happens behind the grind. They are the leaders of the Herd, and these are their stories.

What started as a hobby turned into their livelihood. Now Kage Design Studio is making their mark in the world of builders. Their secret to success? Aside from blood, sweat, and tears the Glaab family believes in Passion + Purpose. They use their talents to do more than just hard work. By making charitable donations with every purchase, and working with those in need the Glaab family strives to make a difference. Between long hours in the shop and two adorable toddlers, Kevin and Tristen have their hands full. We were lucky enough to interview this beyond rugged couple and hear more about their story and the love that goes into every project.


How did Kage Design Studio begin?
Kevin: I went to school for interior design, but when I started working I realized I hated looking on the web for photos of things I thought I could probably build better. I’ve always been hands on, even when I was younger. Coming from a family of cabinetmakers and construction workers, I was always around tools. I did sales for ten years and just hated it, but on the side I would build pieces of furniture for friends and family. I never had the guts to try and sell it, but that’s where Tristen came in. She just said, ‘We should just do it and see where it can go.’ It just exploded after that and that was three years ago.

Tristen: We started out of our garage. It really stemmed out of passion and desperation to love what we do while still providing a good life for our family. He was more hesitant, but I’m said, ‘Let’s just do it.’ We had the garage, we had the tools. Then we just uploaded a photo to the internet.

Who inspires you?
Kevin: Charles and Ray Eames, we love that husband and wife connection. Their creativity and their company is where we take inspiration.

Tristen: Yes, they seem so daring. But my kids inspire me too, I want to show them that they can do anything they want in the world. I want them to follow their dreams and see that it can turn into a reality.

How do you define hard work?
Kevin: For me there are times when I’m sanding thirty different table tops, and I think about quitting the job because I need to get home or I want to go golfing. Hard work is dedicating the time to finishing those projects. It’s making sure they go out on time. We have a lot of long nights and long days to get these pieces out, but hard work is doing no matter what it takes to get it done.

Tristen: Hard work is definitely emotional, there is a storytelling element to it. I focus a lot on communicating the passion and love that goes into our products. That’s definitely hard, trying to make sure that they feel the love and blessings with their table or whatever piece they receive. I think, as a team, we create a good balance. Hard work goes into everything we do. Blood, sweat and tears are a part of every project.

What does a typical day look like for you?
Kevin: I’ll wake up and spend some time with my oldest son before I head out to the shop. I’ll go through the orders for the week and get started and however long it takes for the job to get done, that’s how long I’m there.

Tristen: The kids are with me full time. Everything on the business side is me. Shipping, customer service, marketing. I have to juggle all of that with two toddlers. It’s a challenge.


What was one of your proudest moments?
Tristen: For me it was the moment I realized that this is what we were meant to do. When we first got on Etsy, I thought ‘Let’s just see where this goes.’ When we exceeded our goal and orders started adding up, it dawned on me. It was like, ‘We did it. Now let’s keep doing it.’ Then I wanted to try and make a difference by doing what we love.

Kevin: I remember the day I was able to quit my previous job. The moment I knew I’d be able to get behind a saw instead of driving around California doing sales. Being able to get up in the morning and do what I love was really moving. We also recently hired on a guy to help in the shop. He came up to me at Home Depot. At first I walked away but then I stopped and asked him to tell me more about himself. He told me he was homeless and looking for work. He was really willing to learn and I’ve been trying to teach him this craft. Our paths crossed and to be able to help him out has been a good experience. I’ve been able to see a change in his outlook.

Tristen: We want to continue to grow and help other people that might be struggling as well. We thought ‘How can we make what we do more purposeful?’ ‘How can we give our passion more purpose?’ So every month we donate a percentage of all sales to a charity. Last month we donated to Childhood Cancer and this month we are donating to fight Breast Cancer. We call it Passion + Purpose and it brings more joy into what we do, and makes it about more than just selling furniture.

What is the best part of your job?
Kevin: We have a passion for repurposing. We take time to get lumber from barns and buildings, ideally before WWII. That impacts the design. We try to keep the age, color, and patina as true as possible. So I think knowing that people are using these pieces and enjoying them with their family is what I love most. I like knowing they’ll be having their Thanksgiving dinner around it and coming together. I put hours into a piece, picking every single piece of wood and doing every weld and when we ship it out, knowing a family will be able to enjoy it is really fulfilling.

Tristen: Especially because some of the most precious and important moments are shared around a table. Those tables carry so many stories, it’s amazing knowing how many stories are already in the wood, plus our story in creating the table, and then the stories that are shared around them.

How do you take your coffee?
Kevin: I like a simple espresso.
Tristen: I’m already an extremely energetic, and hyper person so I usually drink decaf with a just a little cream and sugar.

If you had to give advice to the next generation what would you say?
Kevin: At first I was too nervous to sell any of our pieces. It’s scary. I was lucky to have Tristen to push me. So don’t be afraid of rejection or someone not liking what you’re doing. If you put a lot of heart into something when you’re making it, you’ll find someone will appreciate it.

Tristen: It’s what I tell my kids, I want them to dream big. No matter what they decide to do. Never give up. For artists and makers and creators, success is at your fingertips. We started something that we never even imagined was possible all because we posted a photo of a table on the internet. Just go for it and then learn from your mistakes.


Connect with Kage Design on Facebook here. You can also read more about their story on their website here.