It wasn’t until William Graeber closed his interior design business and moved to Hawaii that he realized how much he wanted to build furniture.
“The furniture there is horrible, and I think that was a big motivator – being around all the natural resources that were available and seeing how bad everybody’s furniture was there,” the Edmond resident says. “It was all wicker and junk. I started having the thought that all I wanted to do was build furniture. So I packed up, came home and started planning this.”
Now, Graeber owns Rust & Rot, a name that comes from his belief that materials don’t lose their beauty because of deterioration, oxidation, damage or age. He searches through old industrial building and barns, looking for pieces of metal, tractor parts or anything else he can incorporate into furniture.
The result is a custom-built piece of furniture with a lifetime guarantee, unlike what people can find in most other stores. Being able to provide unique pieces was one of the top goals Graeber set for himself when he was planning Rust & Rot.
“It was sad to see everybody kind of having three choices of the exact same thing,” he says. “I want to do stuff that people have never seen here – or possibly anywhere. I look at what people like and then come up with a completely new version of it.”
Graeber says he has enjoyed woodworking since he took a wood shop class at Edmond North High School, and he began designing and building custom furniture when he was 19. Some of that was out of necessity, however, and he says at the time he never imagined he would make a career of it.
“In high school I thought I was going to be a rock star,” he says. “I played in bands all through high school. It’s one of those that spurs it, because we were all poor band kids. We had one little warehouse space, and we were all halfway living there and practicing, and none of us had any money. So I was building our speaker boxes and chairs and whatever else.”
Graeber also used his developing skill to purchase the midcentury style of furniture he enjoyed at a price he could afford, going to yard sales and buying old pieces that he would refurbish and reupholster himself.
While he may not be a rock star as he once expected, Graeber certainly isn’t disappointed with the choice to start his furniture store.
“It’s a dream come true,” he says. “This is all I’ve wanted to do more than anything for 20 years – be able to hang out in a workshop with my best friends and just break stuff and make stuff and have no real rules or anything. Every morning I wake up and have 50 ideas in my head, and I can’t wait to start working on them. It’s pretty amazing.”