For many of us, when we hear Brookside, Waldo or Crossroads, we think of those iconic Kansas City-area neighborhoods.
For Mike Crist, those names represent much more—they are lines in his home furnishings business, Walter Carmichael & Co.
Since 2014, Crist and his small team of two employees have created home accessories as well as furniture for both residential and commercial customers. Walter Carmichael’s lines include chairs and tables as well as trays, wine holders and other décor.
‘It has just snowballed’
Walter Carmichael—composed from the maiden names of Crist’s mother and mother-in-law—is the third company for the local entrepreneur. There’s Stonebridge Outdoor, a landscape and outdoor living company, as well as Stonebridge Collective, a retail brick-and-mortar store. Stonebridge Collective opened last September in Grandview, selling items from both Stonebridge Outdoor and Walter Carmichael.
Crist said Walter Carmichael was a natural expansion of the work he was doing with Stonebridge Outdoor.
“The idea came from the need our clients in the outdoor space expressed,” Crist said. “We would do small specialty items … and from that point, we started developing and fabricating lines of furniture that were attractive and unique.
“It has just snowballed. I love being creative, and this allowed us to do more.”
Jonathan Willard and Mike Wood are Walter Carmichael’s two designers; Crist focuses on the sales and marketing. Woodworking is done at the company’s Pleasant Hill, Mo., facility. Willard and Wood fabricate the pieces at facilities in Grandview, Mo.
“The predominant material (we use) is red oak, but we can change that up,” Crist said. “Each piece is made through a hands-on process—we are not an assembly line. The pieces have up-to-date styling and durable joint work that is unique.”
In addition to Brookside, Crossroads and Waldo, Walter Carmichael has three additional lines: Prairie, Westport and Westwood. Crist said naming the lines for area neighborhoods was a bit happenstance.
“I can’t say that any of us are architects or interior designers and weighed this out,” he said. “We work in a lot of neighborhoods, and ultimately we took names that embodied those pieces and lines.”
There are standard pieces in each line, such as end and dining tables, with variances in style.
“Styling is really important to us, as well as quality,” Crist said. “We wanted to create things that could be an heirloom and passed down.”
The Crossroads line, replete with wood and metal, is very popular these days, Crist said.
Residential, commercial solutions
Walter Carmichael also does custom work for both residential and commercial clients. Its work is evenly split between the two sectors.
“If it is not in our line and they can describe it to us, we can create it,” Crist said. “Some folks we did a project for asked for a custom arbor, so we built this really attractive arbor that’s in the entry into their outdoor living space.”
Recently, Walter Carmichael designed and built products for the new C-level offices at the Cerner Innovations Campus.
“Their design aesthetic was focused on natural wood accents and using local makers throughout the facility, which was a perfect fit for our brand look and feel,” Crist said.
A focus on details is one of the things Crist said sets Walter Carmichael apart from other furnishings companies.
“We believe paying attention to the smallest details throughout the fabrication process is what attracts the discerning client to our products,” he said. “We also love the fact that our staff is talented enough to design and create anything you can imagine.”
The Made in Kansas City movement has provided a great atmosphere for Walter Carmichael to thrive, as well as two internal factors.
“I think it’s our passion for giving our clients what they want, and Jonathan and Mike’s creativity,” Crist said. “We frequently put items in front of them that probably should be shot down, but they have an impressive ability to look at them and make it happen.”