Meet Katie Katzenmeyer, a new designer with an affection for old pipes! We happened upon her Etsy shop, Stella Bleu Designs, and instantly fell in love with the repurposed designs. Her interesting lines and configurations have turned basic plumbing materials into artistic shelving units with a unique personality.
We reached out to Katie to learn more about her inspirations, future projects and enlisted laborer (ahem...her husband). Keep reading for an insiders' perspective on how she turned her unusual interest into a profitable business, and flip through the slideshow below to check out her designs.
When did you first get the idea to turn industrial pipes into artistic bookshelves?
I was an art major at Mississippi State, so this is the kind of stuff I like to do anyway -- anything artsy and design-focused. During college, my husband and I always wanted nice things and expensive stuff we couldn't afford, so we always gathered random things in our apartment that we made. I started designing with pipes once we moved to downtown Dallas because we lived in a big industrial loft with exposed pipes everywhere. I love mid-century furniture, so these pipe designs fit in perfectly with our style. Everyone said, "You should sell that" or "You should put that up." So, we made some designs with pipes and just starting making products and said, "Well, let's try Etsy," and it's really taken off since late-August.
What's been a favored but unexpected benefit to selling your designs?
Custom designs for people have really amazed me. People are so creative without realizing it, and it pushes me and makes me think. I have tunnel vision with my designs sometimes, but then customers say, "I had this idea, what do you think?" The new perspective is very inspiring and it brings more awesome ideas out in me.
What is your design process? Do you start working with the materials right away or do you map everything out?
I have to draw everything out. What I do when I create a new design is think of something and just start drawing it and drawing it. I'll look back through all the ideas and decide how to make it out of the materials I use. I figure out what to buy. My husband does all the labor. It's pretty tough -- he has a full-time job, but I keep him up all night playing with the designs and joining the materials.
Where do you find all the pipes?
I always use local materials. There are local dealers in the area that I have contact with. Also, scrap yards. I'll go and try to find as many supplies there before moving on to dealers or shops.
The inspiration and style is obviously very urban, but do you think it's versatile too?
I think they can work with anything. Personally, I love the mix-and-match style. Our whole house is made of thrift store finds or things we happened upon by the side of the road, so I love mixing industrial with modern and then adding a really cool antique piece. I have mostly urban clients, but right now I'm working on a custom piece for a lake home and I think it will fit perfectly.
What new projects are you working on? Anything you are really excited about?
I'm always working on new designs, [but] it's mostly just what I have time to do with all of the orders coming in. I love old, retro hotel signs -- the ones that look like big arrows. I have a bookshelf that's an arrow with lights all around it in the store. I also have a book of designs that I work on all the time, while I'm just sitting around. One of the main things I want to create that I've had drawn out for a while is a wall-mounted desk and bookshelf. I can't wait to get that one out -- I need someone to order it so I can allow myself to spend time working on it. With that, I'll use old barn wood. I really want to work on more things with salvaged wood.
Click through the slideshow below to see some of Katie's designs and be sure to check out the Stella Bleu Designs Etsy shop!