Designs by Nature 5

Getting Inspired by the Outdoors with MTN LAB design

From the outside it is hard to decipher what is “work” and what is “play” at MTN LAB design. Finding inspiration for Harris Hine and Rudy Unrau (founders of MTN LAB design) is a constant and always-changing endeavor. Whether it’s skiing backcountry runs directly from their shop, mountain biking trails they have built throughout the property or carving a marble sculpture, inspiration, passion and a connection to nature drive this start-up out of Conifer, Colorado.

MTN LAB design is a design and lifestyle studio based in the Colorado Rockies. Started by Unrau and Hine in the spring of 2015, this small shop is building everything from sculptures and furniture to custom motorcycles and boats. Sourcing most of the materials themselves from right here in Colorado, common materials used at the LAB include carved pine roots, marble, local river stones and wood slabs responsibly sourced from the Front Range.

“The hunt for materials is at the core of our design process,” says Unrau. “We get to explore Colorado’s landscapes in pursuit of materials, inspiration or sometimes just a view. You can really get to know a lot about a 200-pound rock as you carry it several miles up a mountain.”

“When designing a product or sculpture that has not been specifically custom ordered, we seldom have anything in mind when we start,” says Hine. “There is unbelievably beautiful stuff stockpiled throughout the property. We’ve got piles of marble and stone stacked up the sides of the driveway, and the sheds are all full of wood. It’s like we take it all out and go, ‘does this work?’ In the end, the materials always figure out what they want to be.”

Unrau and Hine have lived in New York City, Oregon and British Columbia, but have found the best location for MTN LAB design is a hideaway in the mountains where they explored as kids.

“Our immersion in nature is the driving force that influences and inspires our work,” says Hine.

After a year, Unrau and Hine have found ways to grow individually as designers and as a business while still maintaining what makes it all work: collective creativity and talent.

“We’re finding that as we grow, we are constantly diversifying.” Unrau says. “We didn’t start MTN LAB design to be pinholed as a particular type of design firm; we wanted to create something that is greater than the sum of all its parts. We have the workshop, tools and ability necessary to build anything we can dream of …  why would we want to build just one type of thing?”