Designers: Aaron and Claire Van Holland
What: Reclaimed heirloom furniture and accessories
Made in: Los Angeles, CA
When Aaron Van Holland learned that his grandfather was planning to demolish the 100 year old dairy barn his brothers and cousins had grown up playing in, it seemed like fate. He and his wife Claire had just spent a year selling vintage furniture and accessories, but they were ready to transition into crafting original designs from sustainable materials. MFEO was born, and the couple have spent the last couple of years dismantling the barn piece-by-piece to create heirloom wood furniture and accessories.
Why did your grandfather want to get rid of the barn?
It had gotten to the point where it wasn't safe to use anymore, but he couldn't find anyone who wanted it and was thinking of knocking it down before it actually fell on its own. It was perfect timing. He was happy to know that he could help us out.
Where do you build the furniture?
We work out of a small workshop in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, but we're starting to look for a larger and longer term workspace.
How much of the barn have you used so far?
About 2/3. The remaining lumber is in a retired greenhouse on my parent’s farm, just a few miles from my grandfather’s place. We drive back to Oregon to load up on wood every eight months or so. Once we’ve gone through all of the family barn wood, we're considering sourcing additional structures a little closer to our shop in California.
Which pieces from the collection do you keep in your home?
We have a number of them due to a lack of storage space, including our Takelman dining table, Rohe chair, Jungalow planters, Troikas and Yuri lamp. We love that we're able to enjoy our finished work before letting them go to their forever homes.
Do you have a favorite?
Definitely the Rohe club chair. When we originally salvaged what we believe to be a vintage Modernica or Mies van der Rohe chair, we were in love with the beautiful chrome base, but the upholstery was in tatters. We ended up replacing the entire seat with barn wood and it is, without question, our trophy piece. We'll be sad when it sells one day, but we're happy to enjoy it in the meantime.
Your Jungalow hanging planters are really unique. I know Justina Blakeney designed them, but can you tell me what inspired them?
"Jungalow" is the term Justina uses in reference to her current living space, which is a colorful, bohemian bungalow filled with plants and thrifted finds. The inspiration behind the planter comes from Justina’s and our love for mid-century design. When she first approached us about the collaboration and showed us her idea for the planter, we knew it was a perfect fit.
How do you guys balance working together and marriage?
The most important lesson we’ve learned is that there's a time and place for everything. Because it's so easy to get caught up in a project or a task, we’ve come to really value the importance of setting aside time to spend with one another where we don’t talk about work, and to simply enjoy each other’s company. We also hold weekly meetings that we use as a way to check in with one another about our ongoing projects.
Sustainable design is obviously very important to you, and you mention "maintaining a sustainable lifestyle" on your site. What are some ways that you reduce your carbon footprint? Mindfulness for our environment is the key pillar to MFEO. We try to keep it simple: Source and build locally, utilize reclaimed or sustainable harvested materials, and offer timeless pieces that are made to last so they can be handed down to future generations.
What would you tell someone looking to start up their own company?
It's an unbelievable amount of work, but we’ve never done anything so difficult and at the same time so rewarding. If you love your craft enough, you’ll accept the lows with the highs and learn to appreciate them both.
Thanks so much Claire and Aaron!
A few of Aaron & Claire's favorite things:
Favorite local restaurant:
In an effort to eat healthier and feel better, we love going to SunCafé, a vegan restaurant near our home. It's the best vegan restaurant in LA, in our opinion. We're not even vegan, but we still find ourselves craving their recipes.
Favorite American-made brands:
One of our favorite brands at the moment is Everlane. Some of their products are made in other countries, but they practice ‘radical transparency,’ which provides their customers a very clear understanding of the process required to design, source and produce their products, which is something we admire and strive for with our products.
Favorite thing to wear on a Saturday afternoon:
Aaron: I’m usually in the shop, so I’m in work attire: A pair of Levis, work boots, a T-shirt, and my work apron by Hedley & Bennett. Claire: Lately I’ve been taking dance classes, so typically I’m wearing loose fit sweatpants, a tank, and dance shoes (which varies between my Vans high tops or Capezio ballet slippers, depending on my mood). I’m a huge fan of clothes that don't restrict my movement and still show form.
Favorite American-made products:
We're obsessed with our Pendleton pillows which are crafted by San Diego-based Rais Case. Also, we happened across two original Herman Miller shell chairs in dumpster a few years back. We ripped off the old foam and polished up the fiberglass shell. We love the fact we rescued a piece of mid-century history from the landfill. There’s nothing quite like vintage American.