Twin brothers, Robert and Christian Meier have carved out a unique niche for themselves in the competitive world of high-end furniture. Immigrants from the German state of Bavaria, the brothers found a home in San Francisco and a business that linked them to their father and grandfather. Today the furniture crafted by Meier Brothers Furniture Design has earned numerous awards, been featured at countless shows and recognized in many articles, and can be found in galleries all along the West Coast.
Robert and Christian's barnwood rustic line uses 100-year barnwood or aged mahogany with iron accents.
The boys grew up in the suburbs of Munich, but spent time at their grandfather's mountain hut in the Austrian Alps. Their background in woodworking goes back two generations. Their father was a woodcarver, and their grandfather was both a woodcarver and all-around craftsman working in wood, metal, stone, and paint - often in the service of church building. Initially, however, the brothers decided to follow a different career path.
"We always liked woodworking and thought it was a fun thing,." Robert Meier recalled, "but we went into mechanical engineering in Munich."
Then, around fifteen years ago, the Meier brothers decided it was time to pull up stakes and live in a foreign country. During their travels, they found issues with most places that kept them from settling down, until they arrived in California.
"When we came to San Francisco, we really liked it. It was much nicer than Bavaria and we settled down here in the Bay area."
The change of climate and geography also inspired them to reconsider woodworking as a career and business. They brought a few hand tools and chisels from the old country, but had to buy all new power tools. Getting started wasn't easy.
"This took a long time and it was a very hard road to make a living making very expensive furniture pieces. No one knew us, and no one wanted to show our work in their galleries. Slowly, but surely, we got our work into shows and began to win some competitions, and people began to see and like our work. A local newspaper wrote about us, then bigger newspapers wrote about us, and we slowly got more and more clients following our work. It helped that we were in the high-tech capital of the world, and we eventually gained a few wealthy clients who told their wealthy friends and it goes rolling along like a snowball."
Their tablecloth tables honor their grandfather's carving tradition
Grounded in Old World techniques, the brothers developed a furniture style that was anything but Old World.
"In the old country we grew up with antique furniture, and we never liked it." Robert explained, "It was dark and heavy, and we wanted to do something very different."
Robert finds it difficult to define the style or look they've developed, but thinks you can always spot a Meier Brothers piece. It incorporates some Shaker joining techniques, but it's all pretty much their own invention. Some pieces incorporate metal elements - which is part of their family and professional background - and all are made from solid wood.
An example of the Meier brother's new line of furniture.
Overtime the brothers developed specialties in the business. Robert works in the main shop where the furniture is built, while Christian takes charge of sanding and finishing in a separate area. The brothers are busy and usually working one year in advance on their projects, but they've never considered hiring employees.
"We could use some," Robert noted, "but we are so busy we'd never have time to keep them on schedule and look at their work. We are too picky about how our end product looks."
Robert described their shop as a modest property in the upper hills, where they both live & Christian with his wife and daughter. They arrived with business visas, and, recently, Christian got his U.S. citizenship. Robert still has his green card, but plans to pursue citizenship as well.
The brothers are currently working on a new line that Robert described as "very modern" and it should soon be available for viewing on the their web site.