A Modern Furniture Atelier Crafts Pieces by Hand—And Invites Visitors to Watch
The doors are wide open at custom furniture manufacturer Sólido.
By Robrt L. Pela | Photography by Estevan Medina
I see the furniture business as a community, not a competition,” says Estevan Medina, senior project manager of Sólido design department. “One way that I express this is we don’t hide anything. If you look at our Instagram feed, we document every part of the process. We show you our inspiration, we show you how we build each piece. We invite people in to watch us work. That’s different.”
So, too, is Sólido’s combination of minimalist design and solid materials. Bold, geometric shapes hint at midcentury design, but those angled legs aren’t the veneered plywood of the 1960s—they’re solid oak. That post-deco swivel-based barrel chair is a cube upholstered not in nubby nylon but in cotton printed with a charcoal brick pattern.
For nearly a decade, Medina and company subcontracted for local vendors and five-star hotel chains, building custom seating and side tables. Three years ago, they launched Sólido.
“We’re still doing big jobs,” Medina says. “But we also get to work with the customer who comes in with an idea for just one chair.”
Suggest to Medina that Sólido has caught on quickly with high-end designers and big-deal corporate clients, and he demurs.
“We’ve only been doing this for three years,” he points out. “People say, ‘How come I’ve never heard of you when your work is so good, and you’ve got all these big-name clients?’ And then they want to come to our shop to see if we’re legit. I’m not offended by this at all. I understand. They have a responsibility to check us out, and we open up the doors to them.”
That kind of generosity and transparency is great, says Scottsdale interior design firm Est Est’s director of operations, Blake Sutton. “But at the end of the day it’s more about the work getting done and getting done well. A lot of times you’re designing with someone, and you ask for one thing and you get something else. But Estevan listens and produces what you’ve actually described. That’s pretty rare.”
Sólido’s business is maybe going a little too well. “This is our third building,” Medina says with a laugh. “We keep outgrowing our space. We settle down, finish remodeling, and then we get a big job and have to find a larger space.”
It’s rare for a designer to work in several different media, Medina admits. “We do upholstered pieces; we do metal; I work with a stone fabricator. That’s not typical.”
Patience is also key. A client may show up with a design that’s pretty but not structurally sound.
“Then our job is how to build it but also make it so you will not fall off when you sit down. Maybe the chair is too small, or the angle won’t be comfortable. Maybe you need a wood stretcher for support, and we have to help you understand why.”
Medina likes to hire artisans from places where carpentry is as much a tradition as a trade. “There are villages in Mexico where you start working in wood as a child. You can’t pay for that kind of expert training, where the worker isn’t just making a thing, he’s putting his own self into it.”
Right now, Sólido is putting their own selves into a terrace renovation at downtown’s Kimpton Hotel Palomar, a job involving all-new custom banquettes and yards of terrazzo tile. Next, they’ll design and build nearly 300 pieces of furniture for the Village Inn Hotel in California’s Russian River.
“People can come watch us build these things,” Medina says. “We keep the doors open and welcome visitors. It’s one reason why we have a lot of return customers: We have no secrets, so people feel like they’re part of the process.”
“We do upholstered pieces; we do metal; I work with a stone fabricator. That’s not typical.”
—Estevan Medina, senior project manager
Sólido, Phoenix, solidollc.com