Handcrafted stair of patina’d steel and black leather. Photo: Audrey Hall
Bozeman’s Brandner Design
From where does an artist’s inspiration spring? Some say from the past, others from dreams, and still others from the landscape that surrounds them. For Jeff Brandner and his team at Brandner Design, inspiration comes from all of these sources to create functional, structural art with an architectural bent.
The Art of Function
“The core of our business is design,” says Brandner, who has a fine arts degree in painting and sculpting as well as a degree in landscape design. His team designs work that is architectural, sculptural, and functional for corporate, retail, and private residential projects. “It was always in my blood to build things,” he says. Growing up with a contractor as a father, it seemed natural that he would bring his artistic talent to the building industry.
Brandner believes that there is a need for art in human spaces because it has the power to inspire people who experience it. Adding utility to art makes his work even more meaningful. “Building functional art for me is really exciting,” he says. “The bulk of our work creates something that people will touch and feel and relate to on a daily basis.”
Indeed, creative details are embedded in the structural integrity of the firm’s work. Designing anything from staircases to bed frames to sculptures, the team takes the principles of shape and form and fits them into personal spaces.
“We want our work to help change the way that people feel about their space and give them a feeling of comfort or excitement on a daily basis. Finding exactly what fits our clients’ visual and perceptual needs is hugely rewarding.” The collaborative element of their work makes Brandner Design stand out in its production process. They are always open to challenge and innovation in order to custom design exactly what their clients need.
The Rhythm of Problem-Solving
“Our clients come to us with a problem that they are trying to solve, and it’s our job to help them find the solution,” says Brandner. Working in Bozeman, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, he is amazed by the diversity of his customers’ needs. “Our job is to help those clients—whether they’re architects, interior designers, private owners—define, engineer, and build whatever it is that they’re looking for.”
Since moving to Montana from the New York City area in 2005, Brandner Design has grown into a nationally-recognized firm known for their sophisticated products and wide-ranging scale of projects. They work in a variety of different fields, including woodworking, metal working, and fixture and furniture design, as well as large-scale architectural projects.
“We have 35 employees, most of whom are skilled artists in one field or another,” says Brandner. “We can provide any service our clients call for from ideation, to production, to fabrication, right down to installation.” They also build and design everything they create in-house. Their 33,000-square-foot facility houses a full wood shop, cabinet shop, fabrication shop, laser, metal forming machine, and finishing studio for wood and custom steel finishes like patinas, or sprayed or lacquer-based finishes. Brandner has built the ideal all-in-one artistic problem-solving stop, and he’s not planning to scale back anytime soon.
Above: Custom kitchen with integrated wood and steel details. Photo: Peter Gibeon. Below: Custom guillotine fireplace door. Photo: Audrey Hall
The Endeavor of Innovation
Using elements like steel, wood, leather, and glass together in the same designs, Brandner Design melds themes from varied materials, regions, and eras. “My style tends to be more of a modern, industrial style. The slight artistic elements that went into the structures built in the Industrial Age influenced me as a young artist, and have appeared in a lot of our work,” says Brandner, who notes that much of his inspiration pays homage to his urban, East Coast upbringing.
With that influence, and a boundless creativity, his work has found a home in the West’s contemporary mountain space. “We pull elements of that era and add a sophisticated, modern touch to it,” Brandner says. “We love making beautiful welds, beautiful connections, and seamless interfaces between materials to add refinement to the industrial look.” For Brandner, Montana had to be the place to settle.
“There’s such a rawness here, and an untamed frontier for art and architecture. The space for creativity has expanded so much in the past ten years, and we’ve been at the forefront of that wave, which has been super exciting for us,” says Brandner. He loves working in Montana for its concentration of cultured clients who find just as much inspiration in the landscape as he does. In many ways, the spirit of his work mirrors that of an open frontier.
“We’re constantly exploring new designs, new media, and artistically challenging ourselves while meeting the needs of our clients,” says Brandner, who emphasizes the need for teamwork in creative spaces. “My name may be on the sign, but this is more than me. We are a collaborative team of excited, talented people who look to answer questions and solve problems for our clients. That is success to me.”