Jason Radcliffe didn't see 24-foot-long steel tubes inside his family's fabrication warehouse in Avon. He saw metal waiting to be welded into a sleek desk, a filing cabinet or even a table. So Radcliffe carved out space there for 44 Steel, his line of streamlined-meets-chic furniture made from the same materials from which his family builds industrial processing equipment.
STEEL AWAY: The 37-year-old's pieces mimic the strength and style of late 18th- and early 19th-century machinery, crafted from stainless steel, aluminum and wood, then modernized with hot colors such as magenta and cobalt, and raw textures. A band saw, grinder and gas welder are the only tools Radcliffe requires. "I like to keep things simple," he says.
FRIENDS FIRST: Radcliffe officially launched 44 Steel in 2005, but he'd been making custom designs for his friends for years. One requested a steel awning. "He was like, 'I just want it to be industrial, raw.' We just left it to rust," Radcliffe says. "It's still there today, so we must have done a good job."
BEST-SELLER: In 2009, Radcliffe brought his Mouse Desk (starting at $1,200) — a stylish table with a single drawer that disappears into its lines — to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City. He'd sold none the previous year, but went on to sell 11 during the fair. "Since then," Radcliffe says, "business has doubled ... every year."
FO SHO: In New York City, customers scoffed when they realized Radcliffe came from Cleveland. "I got a little mad about it," Radcliffe admits. He launched the Cleveland F*Sho, an annual furniture show, that fall. Five designers and 250 guests attended. Last year, 30 designers and 2,500 people came. Display space costs designers just $50. "I want to make sure the younger kids have a chance, just to show them this is totally doable," Radcliffe says.
Constructed from hot-rolled steel and black walnut, 44 Steel's Foundation Desk (starting at $1,400) has adjustable legs and corners that are welded but not ground down. "[It] shows the construction of the joint and the weld," Radcliffe explains.