Take two young guys with college degrees in architecture and public policy. Mix in frequent moving from apartment to apartment, and you have design inspiration. Such were the ingredients that led to the Floyd Leg, a surprisingly stylish metal clamp that solves a furnishing dilemma for urbanites and millennials around the world.
After Kyle Hoff, 27, received his master’s degree in architecture from the University of Michigan and became professionally transient, he quickly realized that tables resist relocation. Traveling light means unwieldy furniture ends up on Craigslist. That observation became Hoff’s necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention moment, and he began toying with creating table legs to-go.
“It was born of thinking, ‘There has to be a better way,’” Hoff says. “It wasn’t so much like there was a moment and the clamp was it. It was the broader idea of furniture and how people live right now.”
When Hoff left a large Chicago architectural firm for work in Detroit, he (easily) brought his prototype leg along for the ride. His job change and move were about a desire to work on ideas of a small focus that could, as he says, “come to fruition of my own power.”
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Enter Detroit coworker Alex O’Dell, 24, a Michigan native with a degree in public policy who had been working on films about people living in cities. O’Dell thought the clamps were practical – and there was a good story behind them.
“The legs are a lot about expressing your creativity,” O’Dell says. “They had a lot of potential in terms of how we live in cities.”
Hoff and O’Dell launched a Kickstarter campaign in January 2014 to fund production and quickly learned their idea had legs, so to speak.
They met their goal within two days, which, instead of being a champagne moment, was more like, better “brew up the coffee,” O’Dell says. “There was excitement and then the reality.”
The reality being that they had to figure out how to produce 2,000 sets and deliver them around the world. (Their legs and brackets arrive packed in a black nylon bag with, appropriately, a carrying strap.)
While they waited for their funding, they tapped their personal credit cards and devised a made-in-America manufacturing plan.
“We got in the car and drove 15 miles to meet face-to-face with our manufacturers in metro Detroit,” Hoff says.
The resulting product, named for Hoff’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather – all named Floyd and all steel-mill workers in his native Youngstown, Ohio – is gaining traction.
Floyd Leg will soon have seven staffers based in a collaborative space in a former Detroit warehouse, where a rolling dry-erase board papered with brainstorm sticky notes divides their office from the next. Local manufacturers laser cut, form bend, weld and sandblast the cold rolled sheet steel clamps before they’re powder-coated in one of five colors: red, yellow, blue, black or white. (Red is the most popular.)
The legs, brackets and utility sets (the last includes ratchet straps to support larger pieces, such as the plywood Ping-Pong table in their office) are shipped worldwide, often to 20- and 30-somethings in London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo.
Floyd Leg has grown beyond the novelty of its initial blue-collar chic, a reverse-snob appeal that comes with a Rust Belt address and a regular-guy name. Hoff and O’Dell have managed to tap into a desire for furniture that’s adaptable to various lifestyle needs. Small-space dwellers can combine Floyd Legs with a surface that’s custom-cut or selected to fit a small niche or corner. Satisfied buyers send Hoff and O’Dell snapshots of their Floyd Legs paired with a variety of surfaces.
“You see everything: wheels, drawers, old hatches that have floated up out of the water from ships that sank hundreds of years ago, old floor vents, typesetter cases” – even Legos, O’Dell says.
Inspiration continues to come from the founders’ own domestic experience. O’Dell, for example, is still young enough to share a century-old Detroit house with four roommates. His attic quarters, he says, help him relate to Floyd customers.
“My room,” he says, “has become a place of experimentation.”