Local designers create stunning furniture that will add panache to any room.

Mario and Cathy Costantini

La Lune, Milwaukee

Forty years ago, Mario and Cathy Costantini opened an interior design showroom next to the Pfister Hotel, almost on a whim. “We thought it would be fun,” says Mario.

In addition to their decorating services, Mario soon started crafting furniture. “My father was an upholsterer and I helped him after school, so I had a little knowledge of furniture construction,” he says. That’s how La Lune Collection was born.

Their big break came when Ralph Lauren’s interior designer spotted their rustic pieces in a New York City showroom and wanted them for Lauren’s home in Montauk, New York. (He’s still a customer today.) “We thought, ‘Hmm, if Ralph Lauren likes us, maybe we’ve got something here,’” says Mario, who still designs every piece. Cathy handles much of the office work.

La Lune sources poplar and willow from northern Wisconsin, and the designs are inspired by carpenters who “took wood in the raw rather than cutting it up in boards,” says Mario. “We’re more about the past than the future.”

The Costantinis in La Lune’s Riverwest showroom, where customers can view the collection by appointment. The furniture is also available
online at lalunecollection.com; photo by Matt Haas

Lisa Brobst

Square One Design, Cedarburg

“I’m not trying to design furniture that’s trendy,” says Lisa Brobst, owner of Square One Design in Cedarburg. “I’m in it for the long haul.”

Brobst views her handcrafted wooden tables, stools and benches as art first; the furniture function plays a secondary role. “Every piece is kind of a sculpture,” she says.

Brobst’s main inspiration is the work of the late American woodworker George Nakashima, who incorporated natural wood edges in many of his designs. But she also finds ideas for her work in unlikely places.

“Inspiration comes from everywhere, even a park bench on the side of the road,” says Brobst. “I’ll go walk the dog and tell my husband I’m working on a design.”

Steve Lacey industrial-design class at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design turned Lisa Brobst on to furniture making. Her pieces can be found at Sadler Gallery in the Third Ward, or online at squareonedesign.us; photo by Matt Haas

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Ben Sherwyn

Snacks Modern, Milwaukee

After 16 years living in San Francisco and Oakland, Ben Sherwyn was ready for a change.

His girlfriend, Ella Dwyer, has Wisconsin and Michigan roots, so the couple relocated to Milwaukee in 2015, in search of lower rent and an easier way of life.

Under the Snacks Modern line, which he launched in the fall of 2017, he crafts mid-century-inspired furniture and lighting inside a former tannery in Bay View. “I can see the lake from my building,” Sherwyn says.

This fall, he released storage solutions in hand-carved organic shapes on which long lines from his gouges are left visible, creating rhythmic shapes.

“There’s such amazing access to lumber here. Suddenly I had access to elm and black walnut and all these other expensive woods,” he says.

And that name? “Snacks” is a slang reference he and Dwyer give to a cool find in furniture or art; the “Modern” describes his aesthetic.

“The practice of meditation, storytelling traditions from the East, and the connected arts and crafts remain a big inspiration in my work today,” says Ben Sherwyn. The furniture and light fixtures can be seen at Sherwyn’s Bay View studio by appointment, or at snacksmodern.com; photo by Matt Haas

“Welcome Home!” appeared in the October 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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