Nashville Artisans: 1767 Designs
In between the pallets of wood, prototypes, workbenches and wooden beams scattered across Patrick Hayes’ expansive, warehouse-esque studio, your eye begins to catch pops of color and intricate patterns – pieces and parts of what will eventually become works of art. In a way, the studio is a visual representation of his company’s mission: making beauty out of the things so easily discarded.
If you live in Nashville, you’ve likely slept under a ceiling of Hayes’ work, set a drink down on his bar or strolled across his custom flooring on your way to the hottest new rooftop lounge. The owner and founder of 1767 Designs, Hayes and his team transform reclaimed wood into beautiful and unique pieces that have made their way into hotels, bars and countless homes of those who have secured a piece of their signature style.
The Old Hickory Village studio is a milestone for 1767 Designs: their first formal workspace in more than three years of practicing their craft. Though their Instagram reaches more than 28,000 people and their market is global, until February of this year, Hayes and his team have worked wherever they could: one-car garages, apartment balconies, freezing old barns in the dead of winter.
It’s all part of the journey that has taken Hayes across the country and to a city that he's literally claiming a piece of, one block of wood at a time.
1767 Miles From Home
A Huntington Beach, Calif. native, Hayes moved to Nashville in 2014 after graduating from college. With a background playing in bands and a degree in business and entrepreneurship, he hoped to pursue a creative endeavor of his own; instead, he found a job market that was less than lucrative and a music industry that was saturated.
So he did what so many creatives in flux do: began picking up restaurant shifts at night to pay the bills, leaving days free for boredom, a stroke of genius or maybe a mix of both.
One day, he noticed a pile of scrap wood in his neighbor’s yard. His only experience with woodworking had been a few functional projects such as coffee tables; but with time to kill, he offered his neighbor $10 for the lot and began tooling around on his apartment balcony before his restaurant shifts each night, experimenting with various designs and patterns.
Within four months, he had quit the restaurant business and was woodworking full-time. His wife named his new company for the distance between his hometown in California and their new home in Franklin.
“We saw so many names like ‘iron and wood’, ‘this and that’,” Hayes said. “I was stepping into a world I knew nothing about. I thought ‘why are we trying to put ourselves in a box that we might not fit in six months from now?’ [That name] leaves room for the tools and the materials to change, but at the core of it is design.”
Other than their easily recognizable geometric patterns, 1767’s designs are anything but boxed in, constantly experimenting with unique techniques and processes and creative mixes of metal, wood and color. Hayes and his team create “series pieces”, or seasonal collections of smaller works produced in bulk for sale to the general public, as well as fully customized pieces. Sixty to 70 percent of their work is custom, commissioned by clients ranging from couples looking for unique pieces for their home to full-scale large installations for major companies and organizations.
“It’s all been Instagram,” Hayes said, crediting the social media platform with the bulk of their brand recognition.
Instagram and Urban Cowboy.
A Functional Gallery
If you ever visit the Urban Cowboy B&B, tucked away in an old Victorian in East Nashville’s Lockeland Springs neighborhood, you will immediately be struck by a floor-to-ceiling mosaic of intricate, Southwestern-style wooden design opposite the bed and breakfast’s entrance.
Building this wall was 1767’s first large-scale commissioned project, the one that propelled the business forward into what they are today. It pushed the boundaries of the team’s creativity and practical skills, setting them up to do the custom interiors and large pieces that now make up the bulk of their revenue. That wall took Hayes and two other people three weeks of working 12-hour days to complete. Today, they can do the same type of project in a week.
The 1767 Designs team has also installed floor-to-ceiling rooms at Urban Cowboy (by floor-to-ceiling, we mean installing the actual ceiling), the bar façade and tables in the Urban Cowboy Public House and the floor of the Thompson Hotel lobby. Hayes calls these settings a “functional gallery” for their work, a stage that has been the catalyst for people seeing and recognizing their designs throughout the city.
Made From Nashville
Not only are there pieces of 1767 Designs’ work all over the city; there is a piece of the city in every one of 1767’s designs. All of the wood used in their pieces is sourced from right here in Nashville, salvaged from homes and buildings that are being demolished as the city grows.
“We say our pieces are made from Nashville, and yes, they’re made here, but they are also literally from the city,” Hayes said.
He describes it as taking something being thrown away and making something beautiful – a way to preserve a part of the changing city that has welcomed him and supported him.
Though the booming real estate market in Nashville has forced artists like Hayes to the outskirts of the city in search of affordable places to work, in a way, that growth is literally providing the raw material for 1767 Designs, while fostering a community where creative entrepreneurs can thrive.
“I don’t think I would be able to do this anywhere else,” he said. “People want to support local businesses so much that it let’s us get to a level where we can stick around.”
“It’s a delicate dance of staying true to what made you who you are but still embracing growth,” Hayes said. “We have to be careful.”
He’s talking about Nashville but could just as easily be talking about the business. He understands the importance of not moving too fast and making sure you’re ready for the next step.
From adding more artists and woodworkers to the team to bringing in people to operate the business day-to-day, 1767 Designs has become a full-fledged operation – one that is both exciting and challenging.
Hayes is living in the tension between wanting to push forward and stay true to who they are, between figuring out how to scale and finding people he can trust enough to replace him, between artistry and running a business.
Though it’s a far cry from working all hours in freezing cold barns, it’s part of the journey of being a creative entrepreneur – one that requires tenacity and perseverance at all stages of growth.
“Every time I’ve wanted to throw in the towel because it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, something great happens,” Hayes said. “It’s not an overnight success. It takes time being in the trenches. It sucks in the moment sometimes. You have to outlast the rest.”
“Everyone Brings A Song To The Table”
Today, 1767 Designs has grown to a team of eight people. Hayes still does a lot of the design, but he says it’s become a collaborative process with each craftsman’s voice in the work.
“If you think of one of our collections as a CD, each piece is a song. And everyone brings a song to the table,” he said.
Though there are no formulas, 1767 Designs has managed to maintain an unmistakable style, primarily due to the emphasis they place on design and innovation. Most of the pieces for their collections are done freehand, with the artist experimenting and playing around with new designs. They usually go through three or four iterations until they arrive at what they want, not being afraid to try things or even fail sometimes.
For custom pieces, Hayes creates digital renderings of the design and works with the client to deliver what they want. He views working for clients not as limiting, but as another form of collaboration, like co-writing a song.
“You can still be an artist even if you’re doing it for a client. You’re still getting to bring what you do to the table and create something someone wants,” he said. “To be a creative entrepreneur, you have to be able to sell your stuff.”
One thing that sets 1767 Designs apart is their commitment to originality and unwillingness to copy trends.
“In a world where people want exact copies of what they see online, we refuse to take what people think looks cool and copy it,” he said. “We do woodworking, but we take it from a design perspective first. We want to create something you’ve never seen before.”
As for the future, Hayes has no plans to stop anytime soon.
“Why have a Plan B if Plan A is working?” he said. “I don’t have other plans; I just have next plans.”
He is always forward thinking, looking at what’s next.
“It’s become so much bigger than me,” he said.
One of his current projects is the studio space itself which is nestled northeast of town on the banks of the Cumberland River. Unlike Nashville’s hottest neighborhoods, now being taken over by developers and bachelorettes, Old Hickory Village is still unassuming, Southern, with space to create.
Hayes and his team are working on building out a showroom in the front of the studio building, along with a small co-working space for other artisans. They want to pioneer an artists’ community in Old Hickory Village, creating affordable space for people who are starting out.
Hayes’ weeks are still filled with long days and hard work. It’s when he takes the time look back, to appreciate the special moments – like seeing his work in the Thompson – that he realizes just how far he’s come.
1767 miles to be exact.