Tucked underneath Route 1 in Chelsea, MA, a humble old brick building discreetly houses one of the Boston area’s most exciting fabrication shops. Founded in 2013, Erik Rueda Design Lab (ERDL), is a joint effort run by Erik Rueda, CEO and Melissa Hulburt, Design Principal. Rueda, a Northeastern University architecture grad, had been working in the construction industry when he saw the potential for launching his own fabrication company. Together with Hulbert, whose background is in interior design, they run a 15-person operation that designs, engineers, and fabricates furniture and millwork for a host of diverse clients and projects.
ERDL’s has worked with architecture firms like CBT, with whom they collaborated on a 2017 IIDA New England award-winning office space for Shawmut Design and Construction. In these situations they like to join the design team early, develop details with the architects and talk about fabrication upfront. It’s the best way to ensure a great final product. They’re also often called upon by large furniture bidders such as Environments at Work and Total Office to provide the custom pieces that are part of a furniture/millwork package.
Most exciting, though, is how often the work just speaks for itself. After Paul English, of Kayak fame, sat at an ERDL-design conference table, he connected the company with his interior designer to fit out Blade, his Boston startup incubator. That partnership lead to several more projects for ERDL, including the artfully designed offices of PillPack, a new online pharmacy.
About their shop and staff. ERDL’s home is a 2-story former metal foundry in an industrial area of Chelsea, just north of Boston, and it still functions like one today. They share the ground floor of the building with Sincere Speciality Fabrication and Casting, a metal working shop. It’s a fantastically collaborative arrangement for the two companies. Need a steel base for a newly finished custom walnut table top? Done.
ERDL’s staff bring their own unique skills as well. Led by Jack Daly, Director of Operations, the crew comes from a variety of backgrounds, including Boston’s prestigious North Bennet Street School and Boston Boat Works, where building forms and frames for complex curved structures is just part of a normal day’s work. Overall they’re an incredibly industrious group. Hulburt has also launched a separate retail furniture line, Glos | Grain, with Rueda giving input on the fabrication.
ERDL’s most exciting project isn’t for a client at all. Right now they’re actively renovating the second floor of their building into a new “design-focused collaborative maker space” called Foundry 214. The ideal tenant make up is a varied group people in the field who can share projects and bring revenue to each other: an architect, an interior design firm, an engineer or two, someone in the real estate business, etc. It’s a grander version of the collaborative work they’re already doing downstairs. Construction should be done soon, and they plan to have tenants in as early and June 1, hopefully filling the space by the end of this year. Think about it. What’s better than working above the shop that’s fabricating your design? For more info, reach out through their website or Neue Guild member profile. Also, be sure to have a look at their Instagram feed to see what they’re up to most recently.