By Veronica Penney

Summer is in full swing, which means that Denver Design Week is back for its 2017 installment.  The annual seven-day event showcases cutting-edge work that spans a range of industries, from architecture and interior design, to visual arts and technology. This year’s lectures, tours and workshops take place in downtown Denver through Fri., July 21 and are open for the public to attend.

The purpose of Denver Design Week is to promote a dialogue about design and how it relates to our city, state and world. Speaking events cover topics including the role of technology in modern kitchen design, building affordable housing solutions in Denver and how technology is changing the way we design.

Denver’s makers are an important piece of design in Denver. The Mile High City is reputed for its collaborative community of local artists and entrepreneurs, and in no place is this support more obvious than in Denver’s community of local artisans, designers and retailers.

In an age largely defined by mass e-commerce and instant order fulfillment, handmade products—which traditionally take more time to produce—face a difficult position in the retail market. The movement toward buying local good has continued to pick up steam, which has allowed several Denver makers to make a name for themselves regionally and nationally.

A chair designed by Where Wood Meets Steel, a studio known for its clean lines and contemporary aesthetic

Where Wood Meets Steel, a River North Arts District (RiNo) studio owned by husband-and-wife duo Ryan Dirksen and Marina Chotzinoff, is one of the Denver workshops with customers across the states. They design and build bespoke furniture for both commercial and residential use.

Even if the name is unfamiliar, Denver locals are well-acquainted with Where Wood Meets Steel’s designs. The studio built the community tables and center bar at The Source, in addition to the furnishings for the North Broadway locations of Acorn and Comida. Their work is also featured at The Children’s Museum and a smattering of Denver metro shops and restaurants.

“People like a story,” Chotzinoff says about the rise in support for local makers. In the case of Where Wood Meets Steel, one of the unique materials that they craft into furniture comes in the form of City of Denver trees. Instead of becoming wood chips or sawdust, the trees are transformed into masterful works of custom furniture. While a nail can add a nice patina to a finished piece, Dirksen has also found oddities like dog collars from the 1960s and bike inner tubes inside of city trees.

Walnut waiting to be milled at Where Wood Meets Steel’s workshop

The cost of specialty equipment can pose an obstacle for smaller-scale producers, but the RiNo maker community has found a solution by sharing their infrastructure. “We can get probably ninety percent of it done here, but we’re not gonna have a 12-foot brake, or a 10-foot shear, for five percent of our work, so we make the extra trip up the road,” notes Dirksen.

“We have kind of a nice radius around here,” Dirksen continues. “Our powder coater is up the road; our local fasteners are a mile up the road; we have two big steel distributors a block down the road.”

Despite the rising cost of real estate in Denver, RiNo is still a good neighborhood for Where Wood Meets Steel.

“We like the central location. It’s one of the last industrial areas close to downtown,” says Dirkensen. “The National Western Stockshow has a big billion-dollar-plus center going in, so they’re really going to change LoDo quite a bit. They’ll probably take the industrial part out of this location and we’ll get pushed out. But right now, we like being here.”

If you’re interested in attending some of the Denver Design Week events, it’s not too late—tickets are $10 per event and the full schedule can be found on the Denver Design Week website.