Before a product ever makes its way to retail stores and into consumers’ homes, countless hours go into designing, refining, building, testing, and manufacturing the furniture we sell at BDI. Behind the scenes is where you will find BDI’s creative and talented design team, who work tirelessly to develop attractive, innovative, inspiring, and functional furniture.

One of those skilled team members, Jeff Bare, has worked with BDI for six years in the role of Product Development Manager. Jeff serves as the liaison between the manufacturing process and design in his position.

When not in the design chair, Jeff loves spending time with his wife and three boys and is an avid outdoors enthusiast who loves to camp and mountain bike. In an alternate universe, he’d probably be designing trails as a landscape architect.

We had a chance to talk with Jeff to learn a little more about how he got into this field and what inspires his design ideas at BDI. Read more on his journey below.

TELL US ABOUT A FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY.

I grew up in the Western Maryland area and have been here most of my life, but I had a wonderful opportunity to travel with my family to Spain when I was 16, and that trip really stands out: the food, art, beautiful countryside, and architecture. I really learned to appreciate the blending of art, culture, and design while I was there.

"I had a desire to take my design experience to a new level, and I knew furniture would make the perfect next step."

Jeff Bare

HOW DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR LOVE OF DESIGN?

It was career day in high school. A representative from the Art Institute came and talked about industrial design—a great combo between art and engineering. I always had a love and appreciation for art, sculpture, and photography, and a knack for numbers, so the way this particular artist spoke about industrial design just clicked and made sense to me.

I went to Philadelphia University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial design. I studied many disciplines within industrial design, but I didn’t leave school knowing the exact category of industrial design that I wanted to get into.

During my first internships and experience after college, I grew to love working with materials, especially wood, metal, and glass. My first job was designing retail fixtures and displays at IDX, which allowed me to work a lot with these materials. I had the opportunity to combine them to make something functional, sustainable, and long-lasting.

Over time, I became more comfortable with these materials, making plenty of mistakes along the way. But in the end, I became more proficient in designing structures with a high level of functionality. However, I desired to take my design experience to a new level, and I knew furniture would make the perfect next step. But where could I go that would give me that experience, let me work with wood, metal, and glass, and keep me close to family? That list of companies isn’t even a list; it was BDI. So, when I saw that BDI had an opening for a Product Development Manager, I jumped at the opportunity.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST DESIGN FOR BDI?

The Margo Collection was the first design that went into production for BDI. Designing this collection allowed me to work with controlled motion, color, and mixed storage all in one collection, which was a challenge. In the end, I love the versatility and breadth of the Margo collection and how it can function in multiple spaces and various uses.

Serif is my most recent design. It makes use of a pneumatic cylinder to easily adjust the height of this laptop table, which has become a growing category for us as more and more people are looking for versatile work-from-home solutions and mobility.

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR DESIGN INSPIRATION?

I love traveling and observing different cultures—how they do things differently. The mixing of different cultures creates new approaches. Plus, architecture from around the world really plays into what ultimately inspires me.

But sometimes, when I’m looking at a blank page, I do have to dig to find inspiration.

Mostly, my goal in design is to create furniture that solves problems for consumers in their everyday lives.

You also have to look at what’s in the marketplace, and see what’s missing or where a unique application would bring a new experience to the consumer. But really, there is no better teacher than working on something and developing, testing, iterating, and finding what works best and what needs to be improved.

Until it’s built and you get to touch it, work with it, and use it, there is so much more than can be informed by it. I generally head into the design of a new piece with a set of core functions that the piece needs to fulfill, and then balance that with aesthetics and not asking the design to do more than it can.

It also comes down to making a workable design that can be successful in the marketplace. In the end, design is a balance between what is marketable and what pushes the envelope.


HOW DO YOU STAY ABREAST OF THE LATEST TECHNOLOGIES, AND HOW DOES THAT INFLUENCE YOUR DESIGN?

I do a lot of cross-market research into other industries like automotive, architecture, and contract office. There are often innovative technologies or applications used in those spaces that could offer solutions for furniture as well. I also love listening to tech podcasts and learning about what’s new or changing in the market.

IS THERE A PERSON YOU ADMIRE OR HAVE STUDIED?

I had a great mentor at IDX, Nedim Savas, who was the company’s design director. Since we had manufacturing on-site, Nedim allowed me to see how a product was made, firsthand, and how my designs affected that. It was an amazing learning experience.

"There are often innovative technologies in (other) spaces that could offer solutions for furniture."

Jeff Bare


WHAT FUTURE WORK CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO FROM YOU?

This past year, with all my boys schooling from home, and me partly working from home, my home office setup has been something that affects my everyday life. 

A big part of my focus now has become cross and multi-functional designs that let you mix work and entertainment in various spaces around the home. I’m interested in how everyday furniture can play many roles and solve the challenges that homeowners and home-based professionals face every day.

FINALLY, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING WITH BDI?

I love the BDI team. We take design seriously, but not ourselves! This has allowed for a great environment for creativity and collaboration. I have a very supportive team at BDI, and our culture allows for fearless exploration into the unknown.