“I … think I’m here?” I say when I call Conrad Freeman after pulling up to his workspace off North Foster Drive.
“Does it look like it’s been condemned?”
I survey the dusty warehouses with peeling paint, the rows of rickety garage doors, the old boats rusting on trailers. “Yep.”
“Yeah; that’s it!” he confirms cheerfully.
Once he’s met me at the gate, he leads me to the run-down garage out of which he’s recently launched his furniture brand, Freeman Handcrafted. He explains that the collection of makeshift workspaces in this slightly less trendy part of Mid City is owned by a guy named Carl, a retiree who specifically wanted to rent his warehouses out to young creatives.
The workshop’s musty rafters and scuffed-up walls are beautiful and inspiring in their haphazard, gritty character. Finding it has been one of many ways things have fallen into place on Freeman’s journey toward becoming a self-made craftsman. A man of faith, he considers it God’s plan.
“Made to make,” he says.
Freeman is a lifelong artist who stumbled into furniture design while studying wood and metal sculpture at LSU. After graduating, he learned on the job with local company Ford Thomas Furniture and drew resources, knowledge and inspiration from other upstarts like Barndog Mill Heirloom Cabinetry in Zachary and Mid City Handmade.
After years building tables, shelves and desks in his own cramped garage, Freeman took the leap earlier this year to rent a bigger space and take Freeman Handcrafted on as a full-time career. Here, he has the room and freedom to hone in on a signature, midcentury-inspired style.
“It’s that World’s Fair kind of fantasy but also grounded. Things that are very functional but pushing design,” Freeman says of his artistic point of view. “The angles are beautiful, and it’s all about the lines. I’m very drawn to clean, well-designed, geometric pieces.”
He cites Bauhaus’ modern curves and angles and furniture of the ’60s like the Eames chair as eye-opening influences, while drawing on slightly rustic materials that nod to his country roots.
Freeman Handcrafted is still a new operation, and he’s starting slow, with commissions of tables, desks and cabinets for local homeowners and offices as well as a project for Red Stick Spice Company. He hopes to eventually have a stocked showroom.
In the meantime, be on the lookout for smaller pieces, like his handcrafted cutting boards, on sale at the Mid City Makers Market next year.
This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of 225 magazine.