My name is Bill Simpson and I am the designer/builder of DUX outdoor furniture. I started out in my Dad’s cabinet shop when I was about 8 years old. My Dad was a good teacher and my two brothers and I learned that only the highest quality standards were acceptable. When I got older, my Dad and I decided to get our Contractors license. When it came time to choose a college, I decided to go to Clemson University where I got a degree in Design from the College of Architecture. Being a cabinet maker and contractor put me in the rare position of being able to build what I designed. As a result, I found that I could never get comfortable in professional Architecture life, being mostly office work, with no actual hands-on building. Therefore, for most of my life, I have had some sort of wood shop close by so I could design and build things. Most recently, for almost 15 years, I have been building cabinets, but found myself more interested in furniture design. And several years ago, when my wife and I bought an old dairy barn to renovate (Dream Rock Silo), I got a chance to build some outdoor furniture when I decided to make some chairs for around our fire pit. After many prototypes, I finally had a nice comfortable folding chair made from red cedar. I was very proud of those chairs and felt like I had found my purpose. But after only a few years, when they started turning gray and deteriorating, I was very disappointed. But I didn’t give up. I started looking for a material that would last much longer. There were plenty of Adirondack chairs around that used the recycled plastic bottle material but I found it had a rough texture and just didn’t have the quality or strength I wanted. I kept looking until I found HDPE(High Density Polyethylene), a marine grade polymer that is very dense, very strong and more aesthetic. It lasts longer outdoors and can be recycled, however unlikely it is that it would ever need to be. While doing this research and pursuing my outdoor furniture “hobby”, my cabinet business was very busy. I invested in a computerized router system to streamline my cabinet work. It proved to be a very good decision. Since HDPE material comes in sheets, not boards, I was able to make designs that could be cut out using my new system. That system made it possible for me to design with more freedom and flair. I wasn’t constrained to straight lines because I wasn’t using narrow boards but instead, I had a 4’ x 8’ blank canvas!
What drives me…
American made used to mean something. But that was 30-40 years ago. We used to have appliances that lasted 30 years! Things were made with quality and the people who built things took pride in their work. Things were actually handed down from generation to generation because they were so well made. They lasted that long. Working for our dad, he taught my brothers and me that quality was the most important thing. And we learned that lesson very well, for fear of the consequences if we didn’t. It probably wasn’t the best way to teach that lesson but we certainly got the message that anything less was unacceptable. Today’s products are simply not quality; just look at our over-flowing landfills for the evidence of that fact. I call it the “throw away” economy. If we really wanted to improve our environment, we should buy things that last more than a couple years and end up in the local landfill. My wife and I are on our third cordless vacuum in as many years. I remember when vacuums lasted 20-30 years. And it’s not the packaging, products these days look nice and flashy. But the parts you don’t see are substandard, break easily and simply don’t last. Some might say it’s intentional, but that’s probably just one of those dreaded conspiracy theories. After all, why would anyone make a product designed to last only long enough to get it out of the store before it needs to be replaced?
Okay, I’ll get off my hobby horse. All this was just to point out that I miss the days of quality made products. I designed my furniture to last. I’m sure it will be here long after I am. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it, producing a product that someone can enjoy for many years. It’s not about making a quick buck. Of course, making money is important if for no other reason than to be able to keep producing more products for more people to enjoy. These are not cheap products. They are made with the best quality marine grade HDPE and assembled with 316 stainless steel screws, glider hardware and swivels. I want my furniture to last, whether it’s on your porch or on the beach. And I want them to last a lifetime. I know styles change so I have made my furniture to have a timeless classic design. There are no “modern” or abstract ideas put forth here, just good design with comfort being the driving influence. It’s hard to make an ergonomic design that doesn’t look a little funny. I hope you don’t see an “ergonomic” chair but rather a nicely designed piece of furniture. But when you sit down, I hope you feel the ergonomic factor. I started with a rough pencil sketch of a rocker design I liked. Then I spent the next couple years having our guests test it for comfort. I kept adjusting until I had the magic response, either a smile, or the highly sought after “AAHHHH, this is great!” Comfort was my primary concern, then durability, then design/style. The material I use makes it relatively easy to do all three at a very high level. It’s a great material that easily contours to the shape of the human body. I even created special forms that I use to bend the seat and back slats by hand to the specific shape required to get the most comfort. With those custom forms, I can get the exact same shape every time. Every chair or rocker we make will have the same comfort factor from here on out.
Maybe I’m a little over the top on the subject of quality. But really, if you want to do something, why would you do something half-assed, as my Dad used to say. I say, be proud of what you do and do it to the best of your ability. I love designing and building outdoor furniture, and will always build the best quality I can.
DUX outdoor furniture started as a very fun hobby but has turned into a dream business. My main purpose from the beginning was and still is to make furniture that is very comfortable but has a distinctive style. My wife Karen and I created Dream Rock Silo bnb, and she is the host. We asked hundreds of our guests to “have a seat” so I could get feedback on what I could do to improve the comfort factor. After months of adjusting, I believe I have finally achieved it. My goal is to use clever thoughtful design elements to enhance the end users experience. I include unique features that are not usually found in mass marketed furniture. Things like decorative handles on the backs to make it easier to move furniture around. And I put wheels on the chairs and loveseats to make them easier to move as well. I designed a “rocker rail” for the bottoms of the rocking chairs for a smoother rock but it can be easily replaced if it ever gets damaged. So you will always have that same smooth rock that you bought it for. Of course, I added duck feet for fun. But even they have a purpose. Being wider, they keep the legs from sinking into the ground when you sit on a chair or bench. Then I added a “comfort strip” to the front edge of the seats of chairs and rockers. This keeps the back of your legs comfortable. Have you ever sat in a chair only to have the backs of your legs “pinched” or scratched by the sharp edges of the seat slats. This eliminates that problem and makes your relaxing time truly relaxing!
I continue to create new designs because of how people have responded to our furniture. Furniture making is probably where I was headed all along, but just didn’t know it. And while it took a while to get here, I feel very fortunate to have arrived. Many never do. I believe much of that is due to my amazing wife. I would probably never be able to tell this story without her continuous love and support. Since she is a designer too, we have worked as a team on virtually everything including DUX. She has encouraged me and contributed to my crazy ideas all these years. I love creating with her and we will continue to work together to create unique and fun unusual projects. Living together in the southwestern corner of Virginia in the mountains, we are living a dream while I pursue my passion.