by Amy Azzarito

Before we get started on our sneak peeks (coming up later this afternoon!), I wanted to take a little time this morning to share the design work of Kartwheel, a custom wood shop in Austin, Texas, headed by David Clark. A North Carolina native, David was raised by a furniture-designer father and an interior-designer mother, so it’s safe to say that design is in his blood. But David didn’t start out building. He attended Savannah College of Art and Design with a focus on graphic design and then spent five years designing a music and culture magazine in San Francisco. After that, David relocated to Austin to apprentice under a master craftsman in an effort to return to his woodworking roots. He now makes everything from furniture and lighting to complete environments — he even built the furniture for one of our favorite Austin stores, Spartan. — Amy Azzarito

Image above: Kartwheel built a 350-square-foot photography studio in the back of a residence. The studio has a fully equipped dark room and a loft space that functions as an extra guest room.

Image above: The bathroom to the 350-square-foot photography studio. I wanted to add some character to warm up a small-sized bathroom. My approach was using found objects and reclaimed materials while mixing them with the classic white sheetrock walls. The lighting fixtures I made are old work lights that I ganged up to make a hanging light. The sink was designed solely with space conservation in mind. While using the longleaf pine and metal, I chose to expose the plumbing to keep it feeling light and airy. The back wall is old longleaf pine pulled from an 1800s church here in Texas. The hanging towel racks are old handles off of old wood tools.

Image above: When Kartwheel was asked to build a photography studio in the back of a client’s house, the footprint we were working with was tiny to begin with, not including the city’s regulations/setbacks. The studio has a fully functioning dark room for processing and developing the client’s work. We chose to use a stair system that would raise up so she could have more space while photographing. We chose to go with 8′ doors with flu glass to keep it open to the outside. When the French doors are open, it feels like you are outside. It’s a great space.

Image above: These are the stairs that lift up on a pulley system. The counter weights used are old window weights that had been discarded [due to the] modern windows replacing them. The wood is also longleaf pine salvaged from an old building.

Image above: This is a light I built using Douglas fir, climbing rope and a large mirrored bulb. [It’s a] simple design to cast a dramatic shadow on the ceiling, letting that be the mood-setter when in use. The climbing rope was inspired by 1970s climbing gear. They had such good style back then. The use of color is a force not to be reckoned with.

Image above: Spartan had a major need for shelving and areas to display products they were selling. Currie Person approached me to have a go at the task at hand. I used reclaimed pine and old oil-drill pipe to make the tables. And old pine for the shelves. Again, I wanted to give warmth and character to a space that completed the products being displayed. I chose to add a small graphic on the shelves to throw off the traditional-style shelf. Also, I’m way inspired by Native American and hobo art. Love that stuff.

Images above: David’s work for Spartan.

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  • Such ingenuity and creativity…reusing old window pulleys and old church wood, the retractable staircase…I hope the world appreciates David’s work…and he gets lots of projects as a result of this profile, which also makes me want to move to Austin!

  • Gorgeous! I always love a tiny space and wood and exposed pipes. Charming and useful…thank you for introducing me to the world of Kartwheel!

  • everything looks awesome. i love that David is using salvaged materials. i wish i could afford to work with someone this creative on my own austin bungalow.

  • Not often a place or space for a parent to comment, but David’s creativity and ingenuity would make anyone proud – much less a parent. I’m envious!!


  • A gift…a real gift, inspiring, imaginative, creative, as well as practical. A combination hare to find. Congratulations!!!

  • I love it all! The little details, his use of space, etc. The use of the hobo symbols made me smile. What a clever man!

  • I love the retractable stairs. But how are they attached to the loft. The whole scene is amazing!

  • The staircase is wonderail. Do you have any information on how much weight to use in relation to weight of the staircase? Our school is building a tiny house in woodshop. I’m advocating for a counter-weighted stair case, instead of an attic folding ladder.

  • Omg I love the light it looks very nice, can you put the way you did it? I like play with the light in my house decoration it make everything look different. Thanks for sharing Regards.

  • I also am in love with the staircase, we are building a small house, about 800 sq ft with a loft, and I would like a staircase like this. I’m wondering as the poster above how you discovered how much weight it took, do you ever take on custom orders?

    • Did you ever build your staircase Katherine? I too would love to do something similar to this in my lofted garage. I would really like to know what was used for the stair hinge?

      • Hello. Were you able to find out what kind of hinge was used for this staircase? I just purchased a house and would love to use the same technique to get to the loft. I have researched online but cannot find anything that looks comparable.

  • I’m also inquiring about the hinges used on the staircase? Wondering where they can be purchased? The staircase has so many awesome elements – beautiful, practical, unique!