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2020 PVD Design Catalyst: Peter Lutz of Lutz Furniture

July 8, 2020 /// Featuring: Lutz Furniture


Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

1. Tell us about your company!

Lutz Furniture is a New England-based design and fabrication studio that creates handmade furniture and objects melding traditional techniques with a sculptural sensibility.

2. How did you start your business?

I’ve always been passionate about making things. After graduating from art school, I entered a sort of journeyman phase of my career, seeking out fabrication jobs where I could expand my abilities and learn new skills. Over the next 13 years, I worked in a variety of disciplines, including production machining, fine art fabrication, resin casting, prop-making, and interior yacht-carpentry.

It wasn’t until I began building furniture in 2012 that I realized I had found my calling. I finally found a craft that combined all my experiences and skills together. Without realizing it, I had developed a skill set that gave me a unique perspective as both a fabricator and an artist. That experience is extremely valuable to me today as the owner of a fabrication and design studio.

3. Why did you apply to the Catalyst program and how has the program impacted your business? 

The Design Catalyst Program gave me the time and space to step back and think about my company more holistically: Where do I want to go? How do I define myself as a business owner? Rather than constantly chasing the next job, I was able to step back and engage in longer-term thinking. 

I applied to the program to motivate myself to have a plan and get organized. Even the application itself was very helpful to clarify what I wanted to accomplish. The business training workshops and guidance I received from numerous people in the program were really helpful, in some ways, more so than the grant money. 

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

5. What was your biggest lesson as a business owner from the program?

While I have gained a lot from the grant workshops, my one big revelation sounds kinda obvious: “be yourself.” I came into the grant program thinking I would learn the “cheat codes” for a successful design business, as though, there was something every other successful design business was doing that I just didn’t know about. The truth is, I needed to be myself. Only then could I determine what is unique about Lutz Furniture rather than trying to be what I thought people expected from me.

6. What tips would you give to those who are looking to start their own business/studio?

I think it's very useful to work for other people for a while: it improves your craft, you get to see how other people approach running a business, and it helps you be adaptable and not stuck in your own way of doing things.  

7. Finish this sentence! When I’m not designing I’m…

Taking my newborn for a walk! I became a father during the grant program, it's been a big adjustment. In some ways, I feel this came at the right time, synching up with the pandemic, I've had more time to be home.

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

8. What is it about this profession that you find most rewarding?

The continual learning. I’m constantly discovering new methods and techniques with every project. It's absolutely addictive. Also, there’s an honesty to woodworking: shortcuts are usually at the expense of quality. Hard work pays off in the finished product. If I did my job well, the furniture will be around long after I’m dead. It sounds strange but I find that thought oddly comforting.

9. What do you love about working in Rhode Island? 

I love the scale of Rhode Island; there’s a personal connection with this community. I often meet someone and the first thing they tell me is, “You look familiar. Have we met before?” I find that sense of familiarity very charming.

10. How has the current global health pandemic impacted your business? What are the changes and adaptations made to your business? 

There is a terrible amount of uncertainty right now that is affecting everyone. However, I’m one of the lucky ones, since I have the ability to work in isolation.  Disruption creates opportunities as well, so there is a chance for people to shift their habits. I’ve heard anecdotally from some designers that they are looking for more local makers instead of relying on overseas manufacturing. I’m hopeful that, with people spending more time in their homes, they may be more interested in buying furniture. 

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

Catherine Chung