Bounce-ing Right into My Role at Hazel Tree

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by Sophie Franchi

Note: This post is the first in a series about working on The Generator - Bounce Innovation Hub’s first floor.

When I first started at Hazel Tree, we were mid-project with most of our clients. But that didn’t really matter too much to me, because at that point, my responsibilities were pretty much limited to helping clients who came into the studio, assisting with the occasional “showroom shuffle” (our name for rearranging spaces and purposes of spaces within the studio), making sure everything was neat and tidy, filling vases with fresh flowers, posting to social media and writing blogs.

So, Bounce Innovation Hub’s first floor, which they’re calling “The Generator,” is the first project I’ve worked on since *almost* the beginning. Right around the time we solidified our contract with Bounce, one of our designers, Chelsea announced that she was moving to New York City to pursue a career in textiles (Yay, Chelsea!). That’s when I moved into more of a design assistant role at Hazel Tree.

It’s been a really exciting time for me, and for our whole team. This is Hazel Tree’s biggest project yet – 30,000 square feet of commercial awesomeness.  And the scope of the project has only gotten bigger and better as the months have flown by. I’ve witnessed this project grow from super cool, innovative design and Akron-ization of the space to something much bigger for our community of artists and artisans. Now, instead of merely peppering our design of the space with Akron-made art and artistic furnishings, we’re finding creative ways to salvage and repurpose Akron artifacts and architectural relics to use in our design, and we’re also figuring out how to have a large percentage of the furnishings made right here in Akron.

Certain things – like rolling/nesting tables and task chairs that need warranties and such – we will still order from commercial furniture companies. But for some areas, we get to work with a skilled team of artisans to make furniture that is beautiful AND functional – AND locally made! These are people that Jon and Karen have known and worked with and trusted for the last ten years, so it’s such a fun experience to get to watch them all come together and work on this project!

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So now, as Bounce has become one of our primary focuses here at the studio, I’ve been spending my days searching through product binders for just the right chairs and tables, ordering fabric and finish samples, communicating with various representatives of various companies, helping choose tile and carpet and laminate and LVT and furnishings, making spreadsheets, project managing like a champ (Thank you, Trello and Dropbox), and generally geeking out about how cool my new job is.

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The best part is that I still get to arrange fresh-cut flowers for the studio and blog about this whole experience, all while diving deep into the world of designing spaces.

What a way to begin.

Un-storing the Store: How Hazel Tree Is Getting Back to its Roots

  Photo of Hazel Tree on opening day eight years ago, featuring antiques, mid-century modern furnishings, architectural relics, framed wallpaper samples, and local art.

Photo of Hazel Tree on opening day eight years ago, featuring antiques, mid-century modern furnishings, architectural relics, framed wallpaper samples, and local art.

When Karen and Jon were joining their home-based interior design and picture framing businesses back in 2010, they were not intending to open a store. But then, in a most fortunate turn of events, Hazel Tree grew to be one.

When Hazel Tree first transformed the old Norka Futon building over eight years ago, it was more of a picture framing studio and interior design showroom. It was rich with vignettes of different sorts: locally-made furniture, antiques, architectural salvage relics, repurposed pieces, current day wallpapers and vintage fabrics, and a few artworks on the walls.

As the studio opened and grew, Karen and Jon were happy to let the needs of local artists and makers drive the direction of the space. Amid the new and repurposed furnishings, they started taking in more and more locally-made gift-type accessories for the home, and hanging the work of a growing number of local 2D artists as well.

Over time, Hazel Tree had officially become a store.

Fast forward to present day, 2018. The design and framing studio has gotten busier and busier, and every year has been greater than the last! At the same time, the artist economy in Akron is growing and thriving, and new art galleries and artisan-focused stores are popping up all around town. With so many places now for our community and Akron visitors to find the work of local artists and makers, our showroom no longer needs to hold that space as a gallery or a store for our local artists. (Which is AMAZING for the artist community and for our city!)

This all led us to one big decision: it’s time for the Hazel Tree design studio to get back to its roots. It’s time to un-store the store.

So what’s next for our building? Our team will use the studio to focus on what we do most and what we do best: we’ll meet with clients and customers to design interior and exterior spaces, and we’ll frame pictures!

Through all of this, we will never stop connecting our clients to the work of local artists and makers — it’s always been a part of our mission to do so, and it always will be! We’ll just do it with fewer pieces in the studio, and more one-on-one connection, or through digital resources.

As we un-store the store, Hazel Tree will look a little different. It won’t be as constantly programmed with artworks and smaller items for sale like it has been. The walls will have some glorious whitespace from time to time, just waiting for the next “something” we are interested in featuring, or sometimes we’ll be installing something ourselves. We’ll also become a pop-up space for shows and events for interested artists and makers.

Another new thing you’ll see when you come in is a new fabric display for Norwalk Furniture, since we sell so many of their locally-made upholstered furniture pieces to our design clients. If you’ve never heard of them, Norwalk Furniture is a 100+ year-old, nationally-renowned, high-quality furniture company — and it’s only 63 miles from us. Since we found their furniture line about five years ago, we have been so happy to be able to connect our design clients to locally-made sectionals, sofas, dining chairs, recliners, etc.

And lastly, from time to time, we will activate our outdoor space and our indoor space to be able to host events that are important and meaningful to the community at large and the West Hill neighborhood. While we will never be an actual event space, we are very involved in our community and we want to open our doors after hours to host things near and dear to our mission. In that process, we hope to be one of the things that holds our beloved neighborhood of West Hill together.  

For the last eight years, Hazel Tree has serviced our artist community as a store. Now it’s still going to service the artist community — just in slightly different ways. It’s also going to be a totally different thing for a different type of community, as Akron and West Hill continues to grow over the next couple of years.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for your support of us and the incredible Northeast Ohio artisan community that we have grown up with since 2010.

Stop in and see us the next time you’re over our way. We’d love to see you again or say hello for the first time.

P. S. Stay tuned for a trip down memory lane: soon we’ll post a slideshow of photos from past events and previous incarnations of the studio.

Hazel Tree Workshop, 4th Floor: Hazel Tree Gets a Dreamy New Workshop Space

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You may have seen the pictures of our new Hazel Tree Workshop that we've shared on Facebook and Instagram. We are so excited to have this additional space inside Bounce Innovation Hub in downtown Akron!

This space will serve as our mission control for our interior design of the Bounce Generator, which is the first floor co-working space, event space, cafe and maker-space opening in 2019.

Our workshop will also serve as flex space for when we need room to spread out and create for our own art installation projects or creative endeavors, and we hope to also share this beautiful space with our artist friends.

Here's a picture of what the workshop looked like when we first got it:

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Here's another photo (in addition to the first photo above) of what it looks like now, with a fresh coat of paint.

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Also, check out the interesting geometric shadows cast on the walls by the workshop windows!

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We also noticed some really cool reflections on the building next door, but their source is still a mystery...

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These reflections likely came from something on the roof, but we'd never noticed them before because it was our first time spending the entire morning in the workshop.  

It's so neat to think about reflective art made from the sun. Seeing this gave us some interesting ideas on how to play with reflection and shadows in our designs. 

This is a great example of how, without even meaning to, arts and sciences can inspire each other in this business incubator building.

We will be blogging about the Bounce Innovation Hub Generator project as we go, so watch for the progress updates! 

Hazel Tree Wonderland: The making of a textile forest in downtown Akron

by Sophie Franchi

  Photo by Karen Starr

Photo by Karen Starr

When Karen told me that I’d get to work with her and Chelsea on our very own Curated Storefront exhibit, I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was going to be awesome.

The Curated Storefront is a 2016 Knight Arts Challenge winning project conceived by Rick Rogers. It’s an ongoing series of art exhibitions created in unused storefronts in downtown Akron. The intention is to activate those spaces in an effort to bring business back into downtown.  

Located at 68 East Mill Street, our storefront is in a fantastic location: right in the middle of downtown, in Greystone Hall, across from the John S. Knight Center and the Akron Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau. We had two windows to work with: a large window, viewable from the front and side, and a smaller window off to the left.

In the large window, we created a fabric wonderland. Chelsea hand-dyed all of the rayon and silk textiles on the far right of the exhibit with dyes that she created from avocado, blackberry and indigo. She dyed the draping fabrics in an ombre fashion, with avocado or blackberry dye on one end fading into indigo dye on the other, and all of the sheer silk fabrics were dyed with indigo. All the indigo fabric was dyed in a low-submersion dye bath, so the natural twist of the fabric setting in the solution created its own unique print. Once they were dry, Chelsea stitched the panels to create some cinching, which created a resemblance to Austrian stage curtains.

Chelsea also heat treated and hand-dyed the wool roving (the long, rope-like wool textiles in the middle of the exhibit) with dyes from onion skin, privet bush berries and indigo. She left some roving untreated for a different effect.

  Photo by Sophie Franchi

Photo by Sophie Franchi

Together, the three of us hung the individual pieces of roving and yarn and and played with them to create different textural effects. We then incorporated spanish moss for another organic element. We hung two Akron architectural relics: salvaged light fixtures from the ends of the deli counter at the old Bisson’s Grocery Store that used to be in Wallhaven. Then we hung the fabric panels on the far right, twisting, turning, draping, and re-draping until we got the effects we wanted.

  Photo by Chelsea Uhl

Photo by Chelsea Uhl

For the smaller window to the left, Karen found an owl that that she made even more majestic by painting him and adorning him with feathers that she cut individually out of jewel-toned crushed velvet and glued on one by one. We nestled him behind a witchy black lace curtain to balance the lighter mood of the other window. During the day, the owl is more hidden, and the viewer has to look a little harder to see it. But at night, the owl comes to life, as nocturnal creatures do.

  Photo by Sophie Franchi

Photo by Sophie Franchi

  Photo by Courtney Cable

Photo by Courtney Cable

The Hazel Tree Wonderland exhibit is best viewed in the early evening, at night, or before dawn, as that’s when there is the least amount of light reflecting off the windows to obstruct the view. The exhibit will be on display until January, when the next artist will take over the storefront. Next time you’re grabbing a cookie from Sweet Mary’s Bakery or some tacos at Nuevo, stop by and check it out!

New and Improved

Notice something different? Our website has a new look!

We are so grateful to the "Amp sisters" at Amp Strategy for all the hard work they put into refreshing our website. Morgan Lasher and Kat Pestian have been incredibly helpful, answering all our questions and showing us how to make the most of our new and improved internet presence.

 Photo of Morgan Lasher (left) and sister/partner Kat Pestian (right), courtesy of Amp Stretegy.

Photo of Morgan Lasher (left) and sister/partner Kat Pestian (right), courtesy of Amp Stretegy.

Take a moment to explore our new site. Learn about our team and our work, and check out our portfolio!

Soon, we’ll add a page where you can meet the makers with whom we collaborate on design projects. We’re also almost ready to share what’s up next in the design studio, so stay tuned... 

Smart Sustainable Home Summit coming to Akron on April 9

If you are in the industry or interested in learning more about smart and sustainable homes, this is an event you won't want to miss. It will be filled with inspiration, information, education, and networking with one of the nation's leading experts on high performance construction, Peter Yost. During the day, there will be programming and continuing education credits for building industry professionals. 

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For more information, you can find the event listing by clicking here.

For homeowners interested in sustainable home solutions, at 6:30pm, Peter Yost will give a free presentation on "How Buildings Work". The talk and discussion will be geared toward sharing info and inspiration about making an existing home more comfortable and energy efficient, as well as cover sustainable new home construction.

A Designer's Touch for Akron's Christmas Tree

Hazel Tree Design Studio is known for their authentic, Akron-centric designs, strong community involvement and now, for curating and decorating Akron’s largest Christmas Tree, which was lit at the Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony on Fri. Nov. 27, 2017.

Located at the Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron, the Hazel Tree Interior team, Karen Starr and her husband, Jon Haidet, along with their employee Chelsea Uhl utilized more than 120 strings of white lights, of all sizes, as well as hundreds of repurposed and new ornaments to bring the Christmas tree to life for the city.

“At Hazel Tree, we create unique designs for our clients, balancing doses of new energy- efficient items, used and repurposed pieces,” shares Karen Starr. “We took the same approach with this one-of-a-kind tree and went through boxes of past tree decorations in the basement of the City building searching for ones that matched our vision.”

“We’ve created a blend of historical touches and fresh, new displays to create a tree that’s unique, beautiful, and fit for our city.”             

Hazel Tree at Lock 3!

Lock 3 is home to a wonderful array of wintertime activities for kids of all ages. You can ice skate, slide down Reindeer Run, play Polar putt-putt golf (inside!), see the vintage window displays from the old O'Neils department store, as well as take a selfie in front of the Christmas tree! Click here for a link to Lock 3's website with more information about all the Winterfest activites.

 Photo by Michael Derr

Photo by Michael Derr

Here are some fun facts about the tree:

-There are 15,930 lights on the tree.
-We used six different kinds of lights to create the silver and gold effect. We used three different bulb sizes/shapes, in both cool white and warm white light temperatures, to create texture.
-All the lights are LED and therefore require very little electricity to power the tree. Back when the bulbs were incandescent, it took 13 different electrical channels - now it takes one.
-The tree is 25 feet tall.
-The top 2/3 of the lights and ornaments were hung by City of Akron Parks Department staff in one of their tree trimming trucks with a lift on it. The bottom 1/3 was decorated by Karen and Chelsea with ladders on the ground.
-This is the first year that the tree has ornaments on it - it was always just lights before, so it was really only viewable after dark when it was lit up. We wanted to design it for both daytime and nighttime enjoyment, so we added over 500 ornaments this year.
-The new tree design got some fun press this year! 

Click here for coverage by Akron is for Entrepreneurs.

Have you been to see it yet? We hope you enjoy it when you visit Lock 3! These photos are courtesy of two Akronites that have taken photos of the tree when they visited. Thank you, Michael Derr and Bronlynn Thurman! 

The Latest Showroom Finds

We did a major showroom shuffle last week, in anticipation of our 7th anniversary open house on Saturday. We had a lovely time and saw friends old and new at the open house!

Here are some images of the newest pieces available in the showroom: