Designing Dreams: Robby Simon’s Journey From Tech to Timber

In the vibrant heart of Atlanta, amidst its pulsating rhythms and bustling streets, Robby Simon is quietly forging a revolution. Not with loud protests or grandiose declarations, but with wood, a chisel, and an unyielding passion for design. Simon, a self-taught furniture designer and builder, is crafting more than just furniture; he’s constructing a legacy, one piece at a time.

Robby Simon’s journey is not your typical success story. It’s a narrative rich with determination, resilience, and the transformative power of art. “I’m a dad, a husband, and a furniture designer and builder, born and raised right here in Atlanta,” Simon shares, his voice tinged with pride. His path from a tech job at MailChimp to creating bespoke furniture pieces for icons like Soledad O’Brien and Tyler Perry is a testament to the unpredictable ways in which our passions can shape our destinies.

Simon’s foray into the world of furniture making began during a time of global uncertainty—the pandemic. With a background that diverged significantly from craftsmanship or design, Simon’s entry into this field was anything but straightforward. “In the tech world, they’re willing to give you some space to grow,” he reflects on his early days. Yet, it was this very space that allowed Simon to explore, to dream, and ultimately, to discover his true calling.

The road to mastery was fraught with challenges. Finding a mentor, learning the basics of woodworking, and navigating the complexities of design were hurdles Simon faced head-on. His perseverance led him to Robell Awake, a fellow black furniture maker in Atlanta, marking the beginning of a transformative mentorship. “This is huge, you know?” Simon recalls, recognizing the rarity and significance of finding a mentor who shared his background and aspirations.

Simon’s dedication to his craft and his community is evident in every piece he creates. The opportunity to design furniture for Soledad O’Brien and Tyler Perry was more than a professional milestone; it was a deeply personal achievement that connected Simon to his roots and to the stories of those who came before him. “My grandma had died while I was making the chairs. She never got to sit in anything, but she’s the one who told me about Tyler Perry when I was a little kid,” Simon shares, his voice laden with emotion.

The feedback from Perry and O’Brien was a moment of profound validation for Simon. It wasn’t just about the comfort or aesthetics of his furniture; it was about recognition, about being seen and appreciated for his artistry and dedication. “It was like, man, this is every yes, that everyone ever said to me in private,” Simon reflects on the experience.

But Robby Simon’s story is more than just a tale of personal triumph. It’s a narrative that underscores the importance of representation, legacy, and the power of design to transform lives. Simon is not just building furniture; he’s crafting a legacy that bridges the past with the present and opens up new possibilities for future generations.

As Simon contemplates the significance of his work, he emphasizes the importance of exposing young black men to vocational skills and the world of design. “Everything around you is designed,” he points out, highlighting the omnipresence and impact of design in our daily lives. For Simon, design is not just about aesthetics; it’s about empowerment, about shaping the world around us, and about reclaiming narratives that have been lost or overlooked.

Robby Simon’s journey from a tech employee to a celebrated furniture designer is a powerful reminder of the impact one individual can have. Through his hands, ordinary materials are transformed into extraordinary pieces that carry the weight of history, culture, and personal triumph. Simon’s work is a testament to the art of making and the enduring legacy of those who dare to create, to dream, and to inspire.

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