Hill Ties: A Life BaDesign

I am honored to have BaDesign featured in the winter/spring issue of Hill Ties, a publication put out by my alma mater.  The Hill School is a private school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania that:

Prepares young men and women from across the country and around the world for college, careers, and life.

The “work” of The Hill School is completed through the body of learning processes and experiences through which the young men and women of The Hill grow into well-educated young adults. This growth is accomplished by the experience and knowledge gained through the liberal arts and sciences: thinking critically, writing effectively, speaking forcefully, and solving problems analytically.

Within a family school environment and a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, we challenge our young people to work hard; think and reason; be fulfilled; serve the common good; and be prepared to lead as citizens of the world, uniquely guided by our motto, “Whatsoever Things Are True.”

My years at Hill were quite influential.  The article (see link below) speaks to that fact.  With one school age daughter of our own, and a second only six months away from kindergarten, Jennifer and I find ourselves reflecting on our own educational experiences and planning for the future of theirs.  We recently attended a Hill School alumni event in San Francisco at which the new Headmaster spoke about the increasing financial challenges faced in the private secondary school system.  One of his goals as Headmaster is to make the admission process at Hill “need blind”.  This means that an applicant’s financial means would only be revealed after acceptance decisions were made.  The school would then find a way to meet the financial needs of every student admitted.  That same evening, the Headmaster admitted that he had no choice but to break his pledge not to raise tuition for the 2013-2014 school year.  Regardless of whether Hill becomes need blind or not, the private school system is, and will remain, out of reach for the majority of our population.  However, limitations can sometimes lead to creative solutions.

Currently, Jennifer and I are face to face with the urban public school system in Oakland.  Yes budgets are meager and teachers are overworked and sometimes under-trained.  The methods used for preparing students for standardized testing are often charged with supressing creativity and critical thinking.  In the midst of these hurdles we are seeing motivated parents donating their time, experience, and energy to work creatively within and also push the boundaries of the politically flawed and financially strained system.  This year we were lucky enough to join a community of people at Urban Montessori, an Alameda County public charter school.  The founders of Urban Montessori were driven to bring self-directed learning to a diverse group of children.  Montessori teaching principles are combined with “design thinking” methods.  As defined by Urban Montessori, design thinking is: using a systematic process to understand people and situations, define problems, and come up with innovative solutions.  The school is not exempt from standardized testing, but the method by which children are prepared to pass these tests is intended to not interfere with the development of innovative methods of learning.  As challenges in the public education system grow, so too must exceptions to the rules.  Able parents will need to engage and support in whatever way they can the function of their child’s education, whether inside or outside of school.  In my opinion a hands-on, self-guided yet systematic, design thinking approach to education would be invaluable for all children to navigate the rapidly changing environment that lies ahead.

To read some brief thoughts on my own creative influences, business and family click here: BaDesign Hill Ties

–Branden Adams

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Dogtown Gets a New Look

Refectory layout
Laying out the wood for the Refectory Table

Our Dogtown neighborhood of West Oakland is changing its look with the addition of pop-up arts venues like Peralta Junction (only open for two more weekends–go check it out!) and Kinetic Steam Works Roll Out (happened last weekend). On cue with the neighborhood, BaDesign recently gave the Dogtown Farm Table an upgrade prompted by a commission from Bio-Logical Capital.  Bio-Logical Capial is a “land investment, development and conservation company” that recently opened a new office in San Francisco.  We designed and made conference tables for the two meeting rooms in their new location downtown.  The criteria for the first table included the use of reclaimed wood, a length of 19′ and a design that complimented the character of the space.  Limited access to the second floor conference room prompted a variation of the Dogtown Farm Table (it can be disassembled for transport). But this iteration of the Dogtown had to be more refined to accommodate men in suits, women in fine woolen garments and modern office chairs. As a result, we selected only vertical grain tongue and groove reclaimed timbers and gave the top a charred and oiled finish for a sleek look that retains the character of the re-purposed wood. The original saw-horse style base was swapped for two asymmetrical steel piers constructed of interlocking plates . The result is the Refectory–perfect for a holiday feast with friends and family if office parties are not your thing (for reference, a 19′ long table can seat 14-18 people).   Contact us for orders and custom options.

Details on the second table are yet to come.  

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BaDesign Plants a Parklet

parklet planting
Oakland’s first Parklet was unveiled today–Park(ing) Day 2012— at Farley’s East.  The Parklet Program was launched last year in Oakland and is modeled after San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks initiative.  We had the honor of helping bring Farley’s Parklet project into fruition by selecting and helping install the plants:  a combination of Lamb’s ears, Italian and French strawberrys, and a dwarf Strawberry tree (hanging planters still to come)!

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On a Mission : Small Business

pstool 3

PALLETstool : seat supports made from repurposed wood pallets, recycled felt padding to replace traditional polyurethane foam, and leather upholstery from scrap material (as shown).  Solid hardwood seats made from pallets also available


Thanks to a program sponsored by Chase and LivingSocial called Mission: Small Business℠, your support could translate into a $250,000 grant for a small business such as BaDesign. But we need at least 250 votes by June 30th to qualify.  To vote:

  • Log in to www.missionsmallbusiness.com with your facebook or twitter account
  • click “Support” on the home page
  • look for BaDesign under business name and vote for us!
It only takes a minute of your time and could mean a huge opportunity for a small business such as ours. Meanwhile we’ll be working on our business plan which includes setting up a manufacturing facility for creating high quality furniture from repurposed materials, purchasing new equipment to make our processes more efficient and hiring local skilled labor.  Thank you for your support!

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East Bay Open Studios at Jack London Square

open studios @ jack london square

Last night the Oakland Indie Awards were held at the Kaiser rooftop garden. We are pleased to announce that BaDesign won the Greenie Award!!! Scavenging for shipping pallets and repurposing the wood into high quality, modern furniture earned us the title of “environmental hero”.

Come see what environmental heroes do this weekend and next (June 2-3 & 9-10, 11AM-6PM) at Jack London Square’s Market Hall where we will have PALLETproducts and more on display as part of East Bay Open Studios. 30 additional artists will be showing their work at the Market Hall (55 Harrison Street).

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BaDesign featured as one of Oakland’s Environmental Heroes

green business

 BaDesign was recently featured in San Francisco Business Times as one of Oakland’s diverse green businesses for our PALLETproducts furniture line–contemporary, high end furniture made from wood repurposed from shipping pallets.  Thank you to Stephen Lautze at the City of Oakland for the nice write-up. 

Green Oakland Business

We’ve also been nominated for this year’s Oakland Indie Greenie Award.  The Greenie is given to “our environmental hero[es], immersed in sustainable practices.”  If you want to see some of the goods that heroes make, we’ll be exhibiting furniture at the Market Hall at Jack London Square the first 2 weekends of June (Saturday and Sunday) as part of the East Bay Open Studios.  See you there!!!

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PALLETform – the video

So what’s PALLETform?  We’ll unfold the story behind PALLETform in the next few blog posts, but for now watch this video.

Credits to photographer Steven Poe, our Dogtown neighbor.

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Water Jet Cutting

We realize that we’ve been focusing alot of energy on our new furniture pieces as of late.  The architectural furnishing side of the business is feeling some neglect.  So, this is the first of a series of posts that take a look behind the scenes to see how Ba designs and fabricates… 

One of the projects we are currently working on is a new office space for John Wiley and Sons Publishing in San Francisco.  GCI contractors hired us to fabricate a series of black anodized aluminum panels to adorn the walls of the space.  These panels are defined by cutting away portions of the aluminum to form a positive/ negative vegetative pattern.  The cutouts allow light from nearby windows to fill the negative space of each panel.

To achieve a precise pattern we employed water jet cutting technology. With the use of extremely high pressure, water and garnet (an abrasive) these machines can consistently and accurately cut just about any material in a wide range of thicknesses. 

To get the job started a digital file for each panel is loaded into the computer that runs the water jet.  One at a time the 4′ x 12′ x 3/8″ thick aluminum panels are layed on the bed of the machine.  The cutting nozzle traces one edge of the panel to establish a reference for the cut.  The nozzle begins each cut by penetrating the full thickness of the material with a “pierce”.  As shown in the image below the pierce is characterized by a cloud of water vapor, aluminum dust and abrasive.  The vapor cloud is accompanied by a deafening hissing sound.    

Once the pierce has been made the noise subsides and the nozzle begins its cutting path.  The number of pierces, thickness of material, quality of cut and length of the cut path determine how long it takes to complete a project.  Some take minutes and some take hours.  

When the cutting is complete it’s time to remove the cutouts, lift the “skeleton” off the table and hose it off. 

The panels are currently being anodized and are scheduled to be installed next week.  Look for finished photos on our site in the near future.

Contact us at info@bafdf.com for information on how we can provide design and fabrication services for you.


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Aardvark on CH + D’s 2011 Hit List

The Aardvark table that we completed just a few months ago is a finalist on California Home and Design’s 2011 Hit List.  Please cast your vote for the Aardvark by September 10th.

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Farm Table for Sale

This past spring, we made a 17′ long farm table and 4 accompanying benches for the SF Garden Show’s Modern Homestead exhibit. The table and benches are now for sale. (Photo below courtesy of Studio Choo.)

dogtown farm table and benches
The steel sawhorse-style bases of the Dogtown Farm Table and Benches are a nod to the multi-use aspect of the neighborhood we live and work in.  Our office and fabrication shop are located in the Dogtown neighborhood of West Oakland – historically a mix of industrial businesses and residences.  Until a few years ago, the building that houses our office had the name Atelier Chienville (Dogtown Studios) stenciled on the facade.  And, the Dogtown Neighborhood Association annually hosts a Dog Show.  As if that weren’t reason enough for the Dogtown name, the wood for the table came from Dogtown Mill in western Marin.  Robert from Dogtown Mill salvaged this wood from the roof of Northgate Mall in San Rafael, CA when the mall was remodeled in 2009.  We chose this wood for table for it’s thickness (2-5/8″),  rich patina and tongue and grove profile.

We took great care to de-nail and clean the wood  in a way that would retain and enhance its natural patina.  Reclaimed wood comes with irregularities.  Some are desireable and some are not.  To accomodate some of the irregularities in the timbers and to add visual interest, we laid out a patchwork pattern to attain the desired 17+ foot length.  As always,  proportion, color and texture were all considered in the layout of the wood to achieve a balanced composition.

Additional photos of the Dogtown Farm Table and Benches can be seen on our website.  Because of the wood species, this table would be best situated in an indoor setting, e.g. a winery, barn or very commodious dining room.  Please contact us if you or someone you know might be interested in purchasing the Dogtown Farm Table and Benches.  Woof!!!

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