Rosie Kovacs is nothing if not self-possessed. Her custom design studio, Brush Factory, is much the same. Specializing in furniture and soft goods, the studio was formed in 2009 by Kovacs and her business and life partner, Hayes Shanesy. The pair currently run Brush Factory from their home in Brighton, a lesser-known industrial neighborhood in Cincinnati situated roughly halfway between Northside and Over-the-Rhine.
Products available include sturdy canvas bags splattered in paint (a play on the "artist’s canvas" adage); elegantly simple “disc-o” necklaces fashioned from pieces of wood and home goods such as bottle stoppers (called “bottle rocks”); coasters, coffee scoops and shelves. A new T-shirt, white with black letter simply spelling out ‘OTR USA’ is available at Park & Vine.
“Our neighborhood very much shaped our relationship with each other, and the Brush Factory, really,” Kovacs said. The two share an apartment-cum-studio in a former bank building, constructed sometime in the 1930s. “The bank," as it’s affectionately referred to, now houses the creative hub that forms Brush Factory.
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati Design, Art, Architecture and Planning school (DAAP), with a degree in fashion design, Kovacs designs the “soft goods”--fashion and household accessories--sold through Brush Factory. Shanesy is also a graduate of DAAP, with an industrial design degree, and creates their custom commercial products and furniture.
Brush Factory's beginnings
Before the Brush Factory, Kovacs opened a soft goods boutique in Oakley, specializing in tailoring and custom dressmaking. She quickly found that the middle of the recession in Cincinnati were not the right time or place for such a business.
“I feel like everything we do is a little too soon for Cincinnati,” Kovacs said. She and Shanesy refocused, realizing that they didn’t want to be shopkeepers, but rather be creators. They streamlined their offerings, paring down to two accessory lines (Brighton Exchange and Villager) and their staple custom commercial fabrication work.
The Brush Factory is so-called because its warehouse (about two streets away) was home to a brush manufacturing company for more than 100 years. When Kovacs and Shanesy took over the space, they found hundreds of old brushes everywhere.
It is rather a novelty in the Cincinnati design world: products are sold mainly online, with a smattering of local stores (including Park & Vine and Substance, both located on Main Street in OTR) carrying a few select soft goods.
Kovacs’ degree and prior pursuits would lead to the natural assumption of more fashion-y offerings from the studio, but the duo have taken a decidedly more formulaically practical and ultimately rewarding route by simplifying their focus on the design elements.
“Whenever there’s a focus on something, you’re able to get into it and experiment with restraint,” Kovacs said of the Brush Factory realignment. “Restraint is good for me,” she smiled. “Our Brighton Exchange line is where we can truly experiment with what we’re passionate about.”
"Simple is best"
The products offered by Brush Factory are purposeful, useful and graceful.
“The essence of most of our products and projects go back to simple is best,” Kovacs said. “There’s something reverent about the cut-and-dryness of that. You can see the way it was made; it’s elegant, it’s easy on the eye.”
About the “disc-o” necklace and it’s attractive simplicity (it’s a wooden circle on a string), Kovacs said:
“Everybody likes a piece of wood. Everybody can relate to wood. It’s a tactile thing... It’s got form and texture and can be really refined.”
Charles and Ray Eames are inspirations to Brush Factory’s current business and design trajectory. The couple revolutionized the modern architecture and furniture genre in the 1940s to 1960s, by upholding the ideals of craft as artists while developing techniques of mass production to make affordable products that retained the coveted elements of uniqueness and high design.
“Number one design rule,” Kovacs said. “Form follows function. You need to be able to solve a problem. We both went to design school--that’s what you’re taught to do as a designer: solve a problem. You figure out the most efficient and most elegant way to make something.”
The renaissance of Over-the-Rhine and continuing development of Downtown Cincinnati have brought Brush Factory even more opportunity to do just that.
- Salazar Restaurant commissioned leather menu covers and wooden table tops for its location at 1401 Republic Street.
- The Boca Restaurant Group has Brush Factory products in two locations, Boca and Sotto.
- Parlour, a salon in Walnut Hills, has elegant wooden salon stations from Brush Factory.
- Please, a pop-up restaurant now centered at the Carriage House Farm in North Bend, boasts a table from Brush Factory made to seat thirteen.
That her business plays a role in fleshing out newly-conceived spaces is not lost on Kovacs.
“It’s about creating a brand within a space,” she said. “Everything is branded now. Business owners will be moving to branding everything within their space and making the entire experience match. That’s where we want to go. Creating the message of the space, and creating a brand identity within a space. It’s a fine line between interior design and actually making the stuff.” Kovacs smiled. “We’re kind of a one-stop shop.”