Brokenpress Design’s mid-century chic pieces look so authentic, they’ve been mistaken for the genuine thing. That’s the ultimate compliment to the husband-and-wife duo behind Brokenpress, Alexander Dunham and Jennifer Bakija. While their furniture channels the ’50s and ’60s, it’s made to accommodate modern living and can be customized to fit any space.
Their original pieces have been a hit with audiophiles looking for record storage and a stylish place to set a turntable. Dunham channels his own musical past for inspiration — he’s been playing the guitar longer than he’s been wielding a saw. Bakija, who goes by Ladybird, harnesses her marketing experience to spread Brokenpress’ designs far and wide.
The well-styled pair shared their inspirations and design influences with us in an interview this month.
Brokenpress has turned your basement into a design shop. How did it start?
Dunham: I’d done general contract work since 2000, but in 2002, I started an apprenticeship with a furniture designer who teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College. He taught me about techniques, tools, materials, finishing, etc. It was an enlightening experience that gave me skills I’ve honed over the years. That opportunity opened the door for me to create from start to finish. I am deeply indebted to him.
Bakija: Everyone who sees Alex’s work is blown away by it. I wanted to use my professional background to help expose his work to new clients. I’m so passionate about his craft; it made sense for Brokenpress to be a collaborative venture.
How do you collaborate?
Dunham: I’m the fabricator, and Ladybird does a lot of the marketing and PR for Brokenpress, but together we are always working on new ideas, concepts, prototypes and strategies.
Bakija: I try to give outside inspiration on new things we should try, like our LP storage bench and our bar cart. We recognize the audiophile market is an untapped area for us to focus on. We’re both passionate about music, and with the resurgence of vinyl, we both feel records and stereo components should be housed in something stylish and functional.
Dunham: We combine those ideas with my formal background to create new pieces. We have designed and fabricated a really nice and affordable audio credenza that not only accommodates audio equipment and turntables, but serves as vinyl record storage.
Tell us about your workspace.
Dunham: My workshop is in the basement of Beatrice (that’s our name for our 1923 Chicago bungalow). It’s lived-in, but the majority of the time, it’s very orderly. I make a point to clean up after a day in the shop: put tools away, file my project drawings and notes, sweep the floor. It helps clear my mind, especially when I come back down the next day to a clean slate.
Bakija: I’m jealous of his commute!
What draws you to mid-century style?
Dunham: I’ve always been drawn to mid-century design. In some ways it’s innate — I grew up with so many of these designs and pieces in my life as a child. Mid-century is elegant in design, often clean and simple. It’s timeless.
What’s your favorite piece from Brokenpress?
Dunham: The Plotkin. Someone came to us with an idea for a commission, and we pushed the boundaries. It’s the first time I’ve designed a freestanding hutch, and it’s produced from a locally-milled black walnut Chicago tree. I also incorporated aluminum into the design and love the result.
Tell us about your mix of metal and wood.
Dunham: I started using metal to structure the bases for audio equipment. LP storage, especially when you’re jazzed about vinyl like we are, requires a strong base that won’t sag. After that, I started using it in other applications because I like the contrast between the aluminum and steel and the organic warmth of the wood.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Dunham: Everywhere, really. Even if it’s not mid-century, you can see something that gives you an idea. It doesn’t even have to be a piece of furniture! A ’60s Oldsmobile inspired one of my credenzas. Record cover art begged to be shown, so I developed a record rail for displaying it. Not to mention cocktail culture… everyone needs a stylish bar or bar cart.