Casco Bay Furniture features D Ross – Designer Extraordinaire

We have all admired a beautiful piece of furniture, a sofa, a dining room table, but have you ever wondered how it goes from concept to reality? Surely it must be a complex process.

Think about it. Take a sofa, for example. Not only does it have to look good, it has to sit good for the vast amount of people—with all of their different sizes, heights and shapes—who are considering purchasing it,

A quality sofa is also expected to last along time, decades even. It has to take the abuse of kids, grandchildren, teenagers, cats, dogs and other assorted creatures. I decided to contact our staff designer, D Ross of  Hickory, North Carolina to learn more about how this is accomplished.

Ross how long have you been in the furniture industry?
I started in the industry over 30 years ago. I began my career at Ethan Allen in product development. Over the years I have worked for Century and Lexington. Currently, I am the lead designer of a large, high-end manufacturer located near Hickory, North Carolina. We produce upholstery, leather, and case goods. On my own time, I work in my own design firm, D Ross Designs. I have engineered and designed many of the sets at Casco Bay Furniture.  I also work with several independent designers assisting them in product development, engineering, and the detailing of their frames.

Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
My biggest inspiration is from antique and classic furniture. However, antique furniture is not proportioned for modern living. I am also inspired by nature…a bird feather or the shape of a leaf. Many classic designs such as a rolled arm sofa have been around for decades. Even so, each style has to be rendered, engineered, and computer graphs created before the finished applications are applied..

How do you start working with the client?
The first step is rendering. Usually the client will have an idea which I have to bring to life. After we talk, I generally email a sketch of the concept. Oftentimes I can get it right the first time, but on occasion, numerous sketches are sent back and forth until the client has what they want.

What do you have to think about in rendering a design?
Dimensions are the central factor. With leather upholstery, for example, I design from the inside out. I first consider the depth of the seat and the distance between the arms.

The pitch or angle of the back is critical in seating. Over the years, I have developed a formula which I use to create the proper pitch.

You also have to know the spring up as different spring systems will sit differently. An eight-way, hand-tied, hand-knotted system—such as the one you use at Casco Bay Furniture—will sit differently from a “no sag.” Sometimes, there can be limits to the spring up, if for example, if you have a tall leg.

I also have to keep in mind the pattern maker, as they can mess up the design. And I have to be aware of the type of padding that is going to be used.

In many cases, I have worked for the client for years. One of my designers works for Precedent, Lexington, and CR Laine. We have worked together so long that I know what he wants.

What happens after you render a design?
In the next step, my renderings have to go into the computer.  I have an extensive assortment of designs in my computer library. Oftentimes I can take an existing design and modify it.

I have a unique computer program I have developed, in which every part of the frame is color coded. I can look at each part from any angle. Not many people do this. That’s why my drawings are so sought after and why I get so much work.

I do think there is something to be said about using pen and paper. I think you get a better result from a drawing by hand. But, I simply don’t have the time do everything by hand, so I use auto cad, which gives me a great result. Generally I use “Solid Works 3D” software. With this program, I can draw each part of the design individually and then assemble it looking at it from every angle.

What’s next?
After the drawings are completed, the frame is then built, the patterns are made and the fabric and or leather is selected and applied. At this point,the project is for the most part out of my hands. At Casco Bay Furniture I know that you have an excellent pattern maker. This makes my job easier.

Ross, any final thoughts?
I am very passionate about my work. I live, eat and breathe this stuff.  I also like to review the finished product. I am usually asked and often give suggestions on prototypes before they go to market, especially concerning appearance and comfort. I also attend the High Point Furniture Market in the spring and fall. I enjoy seeing my competed work. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

Ross this has been very interesting. Thank you very much.

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1 Comment

  1. Linda Shiminski

    I am impressed by what i see on your site…seems like quality with affordable prices. I would like to learn more about your company. Where is your furniture manufactured? Do you have a store or on-line only? I live outside of Portland Maine where we have Casco Bay, the name of the bay off of Portland harbor. Where do you get your name…any association?
    Any other information on your company and products not found on your website is appreciated .
    Thanks, Linda

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