After seven years as an architectural designer, William Dohman grew tired of watching well-made material samples going into the garbage, so he decided to take things into his own hands (literally). Dohman reclaimed the samples and brought them to his home shop. As he tinkered, he found a source of creative fulfillment. “I was frustrated at how many projects never made the leap from paper to real life. Going in the woodshop filled a void: I could dream something up, go in the woodshop, and I had measurable results—even if it wasn’t totally finished—by the end of the day,” he says.
In 2008, Dohman teamed up with his wife, a former style editor, to bring Oh Dier to life. With backgrounds rooted in design, the couple works to create home décor and entertaining pieces that are “beautiful, functional and most importantly, fun.” The Minnesota-based shop offers a range of goods – from hand cut ring boxes, to cheeky signage, to toy robots made from upcycled wood – all intended to commemorate life’s milestones.
Thoughtfully sourced and often upcycled materials play a significant role in Oh Dier’s aesthetic. “It’s nice to feel like you can take something that would have ended up in a landfill and make something beautiful or high-end or special with them. It would be more efficient to buy wood at a lumberyard, but not making more waste feels better than efficiency,” says Dohman. But environmental concern is just one piece to the Oh Dier puzzle; reclaimed materials also serve as a vehicle for storytelling. “When you see small offcuts of wood, it kind of says what it wants to be. Offcuts aren’t bad—they just didn’t fit the original project. For example, at a furniture shop, they might cut off crazy grain because the piece of furniture wants something that looks cohesive and that grain stands out. And this results in products that are one of a kind. If I bought big pieces of wood, all of them would look exactly the same… I get a lot of inspiration from the wood I pick up… it gives each piece a one-of-a-kind feel, especially with our Arikata serving boards.”
Along with upcycling, much of Dohman’s creative process is derived from his architectural background – particularly product design and production. “Knowing that good design can be everywhere, I often find problems with things people might not otherwise notice and try to create a solution that feels useful and beautiful,” he says. “Most people haven’t found an issue with the ring box before—they’ve been used for billions of proposals—but I see it as a missed opportunity for the big moment. The box design alludes to what’s inside—a gemstone—and why not dress up the biggest moment of your life?” While he drives the design and production process, Katie works as a style advisor – contributing opinions about trend and color in addition to offering insights about how people buy.
In the last year, the Dohmans decided to do more to act on their tagline, “Everyone has the right to a beautiful and happy life.” Since then, twenty percent of Oh Dier’s profits are donated to Tubman, an organization dedicated to providing victims of domestic violence with resources.
They must be doing something right – their work has been recognized by design notables like Bon Appétit, Real Simple, Midwest Home, and Martha Stewart.
Though Oh Dier’s product selection is ever-changing, you can expect to see some larger-scale pieces hit the shop in the near future. In the meantime, Oh Dier’s story continues on the Modern Midwest Instagram.