Custom furniture creator Riley Meisch abandons “fast trash” for sustainability,
quality and longevity.
By Madeline Nathaus | Photos by Viktor Budnik
With an eye for quality of design and a heart for sustainability, local woodworker Riley Meisch of Meisch Made creates simple yet elegant furniture that is made to last generations.
“Everything around us is designed by somebody figuring out how to solve our problems,” Meisch said. “I’m really fascinated by how to make my furniture look both beautiful and functional.”
Ojai-born Meisch, 32, developed hands for building from an early age. By the time he was 12 years old, his father, who was also a builder, introduced him to the world of construction through working on projects together. In the spirit of a young boy, Meisch remembers his early years building as “crawling around houses” and “banging stuff with hammers.”
His true entrance into the professional world of woodworking did not come until much later. Initially, Meisch attended Santa Barbara City College for graphic design. He said he always knew he had a passion for design and saw this as his original calling.
“Design is elements and how they relate to each other,” Meisch said. “Graphic design is line, color, shape, form, texture. You put those together on a page and it should evoke emotions, it should solve a problem.”
However, soon after moving to Los Angeles post-college, his love of design led him instead to construction once again. He and a friend started working out of a warehouse in Hollywood for a production company that built furniture and appliances for experiential marketing events. They created items such as coffee tables and “weird” lights for corporations like Google, YouTube and South by Southwest.
“I really loved just making random stuff,” Meisch said.
While Meisch was let go due to his inability to commit to the job full-time — he was also touring in a band as a drummer at the time — he was still allowed to rent a space in the warehouse to continue his interest in building. This was the beginning of Meisch Made.
Meisch carried on creating random pieces and recreating things he saw on Pinterest and YouTube in his own way, trying to improve upon them. All the while, he posted photos and videos of his work on his website, where his graphic design background came in handy.
“In an age where everything is available with a couple clicks of a button, finding someone with an eye like Riley’s is golden,” said Spencer Graves, a production designer.
During this time, he also constructed stages with Graves for music videos and commercials. His notable projects include set design for artists like Britney Spears and The Killers.
“I saw Riley’s detail in craftsmanship,” Graves said. “I knew he could be great in creating set pieces on the side of his high-end furniture business he was building at the time.”
Through this experience, Graves introduced Meisch to others for whom he could build custom furniture. After he’d accrued a few solid customers, word of mouth quickly connected him to a larger clientele seeking his skills, and Meisch Made took off.
Though Meisch, now a Ventura County resident once again, previously sold pieces in consignment stores and had an ETSY shop, he presently focuses on custom pieces. Most of his commissions consist of repeat customers, references and people who find him through his website.
“Riley was extremely easy to work with,” said Steven Gordon, who owns an eyewear store in New York for which Meisch made a display and dispensing table. “He was communicative, transparent, and always kept me abreast of where he was at. I would not hesitate to use Riley again.”
In Meisch’s business, longevity, quality and sustainability are emphasized in all the pieces he makes.
“For music videos, we would build crazy, cool sets,” Meisch said. “But it all becomes trash right after. I hated that part of it because I’ve always been centered around sustainability and accountability.”
So he flipped the script for his own business. Rather than perpetuating what Meisch calls the “fast-trash” industry, he aims to make furniture that is built to last.
He observed that often we buy from stores furniture that breaks so easily, causing us to buy an entirely new set. Meisch instead encourages his clients to call him for repairs if a piece he made them is damaged.
“You really develop a relationship with your clients through that,” Meisch said. “Which I really think is something that’s missing in the world.”
Meisch champions his relationships with his clients and is always open to work with what they want. To him, creating a piece is a conversation.
“He is a joy to work with,” said Michal Mitchell, a repeat client of Meisch’s. “The thing about Riley is, he is so down to earth, not pushy or showy.”
Though repairs are an option, his pieces are made sturdy from the start. Meisch likes to use local wood from trees that fell naturally or were taken down anyway for construction. Trees like oak, English walnut, ash and pecan are some of his most common materials, though he enjoys working with black walnut when he gets the chance as well. Meisch will not use endangered species.
For his style, he prefers minimalist and traditional furniture, allowing the wood to maintain its natural look and accentuating its raw color rather than dyeing it. He also finds himself favoring live edge in his pieces, a method of incorporating the natural edge of the wood.
“Just let the wood be itself,” Meisch said. “We’re so busy, we just want everything to be simple, and there’s beauty to that clean look.”
Meisch added he hopes that clients can attach meaning to the products he makes for them. Our furniture is often such a central part of our lives, and Meisch said he wants his creations to be a part of people’s stories.
“I was struck by his interest in the work and his attention to detail,” said Mitchell. “He is eager to see his work shine in life, and it does just like he does.”
Meisch said a lot of his skill comes from trial and error. “I’m open to what clients want. Every project you learn something. Even if you’re doing something that isn’t turning out well, you’re still learning what not to do the next time. I try to look at everything that way.”
1340 Callens Road, Unit B, Ventura