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By Andrea Mills | Photo: Frank Ishman | April 27, 2016
Ben Hanisch, the force behind The Last Workshop, has a famous comedian girlfriend—but his beautiful bespoke furniture deserves its own time in the spotlight.
To say wakeboarding sparked a career in bespoke furniture design may sound like a tabloid headline, but in the case of local artisan Ben Hanisch, it was a genuine starting point. It wasn’t so much the sport as it was the off hours he spent during his North Shore high school years working summers at a wakeboard camp building floating shelves and a custom closet for his room. “I did not study,” Hanisch admits. “Most of what I know is self-taught trial and error. I would say my passion comes from the appreciation of well-crafted, timeless designs.”
That passion grew into The Last Workshop, the Chicago- and Des Plaines-based company he founded that employs like-minded childhood friends to design and build custom bed frames, tables, cabinets and more from lovingly chosen locally sourced wood. “From sourcing materials to techniques in fabrication, I really enjoy pieces that are built around the idea of lasting a long time,” explains Hanisch, whose designs reveal a clear appreciation for details. And while its product collection has to date been customized one-offs, their cohesive theme of clean-lined, modern silhouettes paired with a rustic sensibility adds up to a signature style. It features a sophisticated timelessness that’s likely to translate well on the East Coast. In a move inspired by Hanisch’s status as the boyfriend of comedian, award-winning actress and director Amy Schumer, he’s currently planning a new studio and showroom in New York.
Being Schumer’s love interest has some perks; there’s plenty of buzz surrounding the expansion. Hanisch plans to showcase a larger product line with more white and less sawdust in the background, and the visibility is sure to mean the days of commissions coming from word of mouth are long gone. Hanisch shrugs it off in his casual, humble way, but there is little reason to doubt that The Last Workshop is on the cusp of becoming a Chicago design success story.
“I’ve been lucky enough to do a little traveling lately, and I’ve been getting inspiration from outside the workshop or computer,” he says. “There are a lot of amazing things in the world, and you will never know what you might run into unless you get your ass up and get out there.”
Walnut, slab furniture, Best Made Company, Coalatree Organics (clothes for the outdoors)
Pallet wood furniture, showing up late, poor gun control, vaping