The Local Look: Strand Design

Founded in 2009, Strand Design transforms locally sourced materials into unique furniture and lighting designs. With their hands in everything from the movie industry to international retail, co-founders Ted and Sharon Burdett are bringing Chicago design to the global market. We talked to the husband-and-wife team about just why they chose Chicago and where they see Strand Design headed next.

Sharon and Ted Burnett

Strand Team’s Sharon and Ted Burdett design with Chicago in mind.

Why did you choose Chicago?  Tell us about what it means to be a business in Chicago.  

We are life-long Chicagoans and continue to be inspired by Chicago’s history, culture and resources. As a company that focuses on local manufacturing, we enjoy meeting and working with the many other family-owned businesses, both small and mid-sized, that call Chicago their home. For us, being a Chicago-based design business has always been about creating objects that are representative of where they are made, in both material and aesthetic, and working with local manufacturing and material source partners is a primary part of that story. Much of our work has a very modern, architectural feel that speaks to the city’s history as a birthplace of modernism, and we work to create designs that feel simple, clean and timeless. Another unique feature of our work is that we always use locally sourced lumber in all of our products. When you buy one of our coat racks, mirrors, stools or any other product that uses wood, you are buying an object that was made from Chicago’s urban forest.

We also chose Chicago because it is a wonderfully livable city, and as residents of the loop, we love that we can walk everywhere and everything we need is within reach—amazing restaurants, museums, the lakefront, the river walk, the farmer’s markets, Millennium Park—the list is endless.

If you could go back in time before you became involved in running the business and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would you tell yourself?

It took us a long time to learn that we can’t do everything ourselves, and it’s something I wish we had learned earlier. It would have saved us a lot of time and effort. I would have told myself to focus entirely on what we do best and work with partners who can do the things that are hard for us to do. This is the way that we have operated for the last few years, and it just makes life better.

What are your next steps?  

Food is another one of our main inspirations, and currently, we are very focused on a new product that we just successfully funded on Kickstarter called the Fourneau Bread Oven. The Fourneau is a patent pending bakeware device that will help anyone make artisanal quality bread in their home oven. Our intention with Fourneau was to create “a new classic” piece of bakeware for baking bread since so many home cooks were using improvised solutions. We were delighted that so many people liked our idea, and we raised almost $170,000 during our Kickstarter campaign. You can definitely expect that we will continue to explore the intersection of design and food.

We want to be in the know!  Name one person, place or thing that you think is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets—a secret until now, of course.  

We’re huge book nerds, and if you want to still be able to have the experience of zoning out on actual books in an actual bookstore, one of the last and best places to do it is at After Words Chicago.  After Words sells and buys new and used books, and is a great place to go if you want to unplug from the internet.

Q&As are edited for clarity and length.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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