Maker ~ Christian Descoteaux ~ Providence

Artist name: Christian Descoteaux
Shop name: Christian Thomas Designs

Our work: 
We are a design/build company with a focus on building furniture and furnishings, from reclaimed and sustainable materials.

2.The story on how I came up with my name.
When Christian was about 15 years old, he would draw out designs, that he later spray paint on dirt bike helmets. That led to coming up his own signature for these designs he would create. Initially, he was thinking CTD, his initials, but then after a bit if brain storming , it evolved into CTDesigns. Fast forward 5-6 years, Christian had to register as a contractor and had to come up with a name. He still loved the idea of CTDesigns, but decided that Christian Thomas Designs sounded and felt more complete and polished.

3.How I became a professional Designer? Crafter?
Christian grew up in the carpentry trade. His father, Tom (Thomas) Descoteaux, was and still is a contractor. At 12 years old, he started earning money by helping his father with carpentry chores. He was taught at an early age that he had to work for anything he wanted and earn it. Besides in stilling a wonderful work ethic in Christian his father also taught him about the importance and value of reclaiming and repurposing materials in his work. At one point, Christian remembers how he and his father tore down half of the interior of their house (made out of all old wood) and saved most of what they took down for future builds. So he has worked and lived in a workshop for most of his life.

Fast forward to his early 20’s, he returned from traveling abroad for 6 months. It was the height of the recession. Christian had planned to return to university studies, but decided to start working for myself doing interior carpentry. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. It had roughly been 6 yrs since I worked full time in carpentry. But whatever, I dove in.” After a few years of working for himself, he started looking for a changed in focus. He really put time into thinking about what was and will make really making him happy. “What was more fitting to myself.” He knew that he wanted to continue working with his hands. And the turning point was when he was asked to build tables for a local Providence restaurant named Tortilla Flats. He realized that he loved making furniture soon after that. He spent roughly the next 4 years making furniture as a side project for friends, and clients through word of mouth. Until recently, where we applied and received the Design Catalyst grant, through DesignxRI and the City of Providence. It allowed us to redevelop the business and focus on it full time. We also a smaller grant through RISCORE (A a volunteer organization of working and retired business owners, professionals, and executives with experience in all aspects of business management.) and Sam’s Club.

4. Where do you draw your inspiration?
I would say a lot of my inspiration comes from design work with clients. As I sit down and design custom tables, vanities, etc. with my customers, I am ultimately building something FOR THEM. I guide them through the design process to their vision. However, they also rely on my years of experiences and skilled eye to see what they can’t see or to put my own signature design on it. Moreover, some designs are created when the client decides to go in a different direction from my recommendations, but I’m still left with the design ideas I came up with for their piece. So those idea stay in the back of my mind or “back burner” until I eventually make those pieces. It might take me a couple of years to get the time, to make the piece, but they eventually come out.

5. What’s your favorite item to create?
I don’t have a favorite item to build, but I do feel incredibly satisfied when I create a piece that has been stuck in my thoughts for years. If I had to choose it would be the Ernest table. Made out of reclaimed Heart Pine wood, framed with custom made steel wrapped legs (Built and welded by Christian) Heavy, Classic and Modern all at the same time.

It is named after his Pepe, Ernest Descoteaux. Someone that he admires, adores and also a reflection of history just like the reclaimed wood it’s made out of.

6. What’s your best seller?
We have two. The Ernest Table and the Industrial Desk. The Ernest (coffee) Table is one of his very first original designs. We have created 5 or 6 different version for customers, with different types wood and steel patinas.

7. How long have you been in Rhode Island?
I’m one of the few designers in RI that grew up here. I am from Manville, a small town in Lincoln, RI.

8. What do you {heart} about Rhode Island?
Some of my favorite things about RI is the fact we are so close to the ocean. I can go surfing in the morning and be back in time early enough to still have a productive day. I also love that I am surrounded by other folks who are chasing their dream. It seems like there are so many people here that are willing to take that risk. Finding niches and developing products. It becomes a great network. I find it inspiring and intoxicating.

9. Favorite place to take out-of-towners?
I take them to Newport. It has its own special uniqueness to this area. If the timing is right, I try to take them to one of the many festivals /fairs that makes Providence so fun.

10. Any advice for new/wannabe makers?
My advice to you: “Don’t give up!” Chasing your dream is not going to be easy or fast. You’ve got to keep with it and be persistent and patient. There are times that you’ll feel exhausted, defeated and that it’s endless. But you’ve got to believe in yourself and just keep going!

11. Please include anything else you’d like to add:
Both Christian and I grew up in Rhode Island, and pretty much in Providence. We love how much the city, state has transformed and grown. It is a very proud state, who supports its local businesses, both through its growing design community and small business development centers. We also love how much Providence has brought awareness to being eco conscious and to the reduction of waste to a forefront. Conservation and sustainability is what also drives our designs. And having access to local suppliers that meet our needs are vital. Ultimately, we are super excited to have our business start and grow in RI.

Coming up for us:

Our new and first ever production line, is now up on our website. Clients and customers can pick from a catalogue of items online, and also still customize their piece(s).

Here are also links to DesignxRI and a video we submitted to the Small Business Championship sponsored by SCORE and Sam’s Club.


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