Floyd designers and friends Kyle Hoff and Alex O’Dell started creating functional and long-lasting furniture in the Motor City.
Featured photo courtesy of Brett Mountain
In 2013, the city of Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. It was the same week Kyle Hoff decided to move to the Motor City to launch a new business.
After studying architecture and entrepreneurship at the University of Miami, Ohio, then earning a master’s at the University of Michigan, he had been biding his time at a low-rung position at an architectural firm in Chicago.
“I’ve wanted to pursue architecture since I was a kid, when my parents took me to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, which was not far from where I grew up,” says Hoff, 32, a Youngstown, Ohio, native.
“When I got out of school, I found the profession of architecture was pretty marginalized at that time. It was hard to see projects through from concept to the finish line. I started becoming interested in the idea of building furniture that was affordable, transportable, adaptable and lasting.”
Having furnished a handful of various apartments as a student at two schools and then living in Chicago, he says, “there wasn’t a lot of well-designed furniture for people like me, living a somewhat nomadic lifestyle and moving several times — and having to deal with disposing of cheap furniture or dealing with Craigslist.
“There has been a cultural shift in the last 25 years, with places like Ikea and Target becoming the go-to,” Hoff says. “I wanted to change how people were consuming and enjoying furniture. When I was living in Chicago, I found myself going to the suburbs to buy furniture. And the thoughtfulness wasn’t there.”
Soon after, a friend was launching a start-up (now defunct) in Detroit, and he convinced Hoff to move to the city to help him, along with another friend, Alex O’Dell. Hoff and O’Dell, who lived in the same Corktown building as Hoff, became fast friends.
“The state of Michigan is steeped in furniture history,” Hoff says. “La-Z-Boy [whose founding brothers pioneered the design of the reclining wood-slat chair in 1927], Charles and Ray Eames [the husband-and-wife team that created the predecessor to their history-changing bent plywood chairs to carry injured soldiers during WWII], Herman Miller, Eliel Saarinen [who designed Cranbrook’s Saarinen House]. The Eames Fiberglass-shell chair has been selling for 60 years. You can find it being taught in a school and the same day see it in a modern home in Los Angeles. It’s a very versatile product.”
O’Dell, a filmmaker who studied public policy at U-M, and Hoff set to creating a product that might have a similar design ethos — innovative yet functional and good-looking and well-made enough to last, possibly for decades. They dreamed up what would become the Floyd Leg. The laser-cut, formed, welded and powder-coated furniture leg was named after Hoff’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather, all metal workers in Ohio and all named Floyd.
Their friends loved it. So, the pair launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a market testing of the leg, which could easily be turned into a table with any flat surface. Their funding goal of $18,000 was surpassed in a few days, and Hoff and O’Dell received a total of $256,273 over the month it was live. They delivered on the product two months later.
The pair launched Floyd (floydhome.com) the same year, 2013, with a small showroom in Detroit’s Eastern Market, with the company designing, manufacturing and selling furniture itself under one brand. Six years later, Floyd has grown to a 30-person team with four core products for the home — the shelf, the sofa, the bed and the tables, all grown from the original product — the leg — plus hardware, accessories and lighting with plans for much more.
“We like to go deep on one product per category,” Hoff says. “We’ve grown every year on the initial product, and there’s a lot more that we want to do applying the same design principles.”
Adds O’Dell, “A tenet of our design ethos is that every product we put out into the world needs to be long lasting.
“We began Floyd out of a reaction to disposable furniture and the 9.9 million tons of furniture that end up in landfills in the U.S. every year. Designed to last for us means high-quality materials, modular designs that can evolve with your needs over time, easy assembly and disassembly, and timeless design that doesn’t follow fashion trends.”
In addition, Floyd, primarily an online seller, has showrooms in major cities across the country. Putting his entrepreneurial degree to work, Hoff has Floyd partnering with Airbnb, furnishing rooms and homes in some of their favorite structures, all with stunning architecture, great design and incredible locations — Portland, Ore., Montauk, N.Y., and Leland, Mich., among them.
Just last month, Floyd partnered with West Elm, with store-in-store displays and sales in key stores across the country, including its Birmingham location.
Floyd has grown as Detroit’s economy has begun to bounce back, and Hoff is very happy to be witnessing its ever-changing climb. Today, he lives in a classically minimalist home designed by modernist architect Mies van der Rohe in Detroit’s Lafayette Park with his wife, Brooke — who he began dating in high school back in Youngstown — and their 5-month-old daughter, Henni (named after Brooke’s late grandfather Henry, a Holocaust survivor.)
“We go to services at the Downtown Synagogue, sometimes the Chabad House,” Hoff says. “But we’re still shopping for a home.”
Ever-busy with Floyd, Hoff says the company is building out a new research and development lab in its Eastern Market location and says sales have grown by 100 percent year-over-year within the last three years.
“We’re a customer-centric furniture brand,” O’Dell says. “Before we kick off the design of any new product, we send a survey out to customers and receive thousands of responses in the first few days. People love participating, and it allows us to bring products into the world that will connect with real customer needs.”
Adds Hoff, “Furniture should be made for the home, not the landfill. Floyd furniture is furniture for keeping.”