Maker Story: Lane 17 Design Co.

  • Name: Alex Forbes
  • Business Name: Lane 17 Design Co.
  • Year: 2016
  • Type of Products: custom cabinetry
  • Price Range: $7,000 +
  • Website:
  • Workshop: 2020 Lakeside Ave E, Cleveland, OH 44114
  • Open by appointment only.

Can you tell us how you launched your business as a maker?

As the founder of Lane 17, I began this journey 4 1/2 years ago in a one car garage. I started with cutting boards, moved into small pieces of furniture, then larger pieces, commercial packages and now growing into cabinetry.

It has been a wild ride of significant highs and even more significant lows. I have a business background so the furniture and cabinetry trade was a major learning curve to experience in real time with real customers. I have made thousands of mistakes, but I always make an effort to learn from those mistakes and fail forward. Now I’m fortunate to work with a group of driven, multi-faceted individuals who are behind everything we do. They include Jason, Tyler, Jackson, Cole and Goose, our “Barketing Manager.”

What’s the most significant change you’ve recently made in your business?

Custom furniture is great. The passion behind it is the entire reason I started Lane 17, but it’s a tough business to compete in. To achieve the level of quality we pride ourselves on, we must face extreme inefficiencies, long lead times, poor cash flow, etc. This mixed with brutal overhead from a premature shop relocation led to the inevitable. Last February we were faced with the decision to either close up shop or get our shit together, double down and change our business model.

Our solution? Sell all of our massive machinery that was geared towards solid panel processing (table tops) and replace it will smaller/cheaper machines to continue to operate. We sold our kiln and 150+ slabs in an effort to gain back floorspace, reduce overhead and become more focused with our business. Then, we purchased a cabinet-centric CAD/CAM program and Jason got to work climbing the steep mountain that is the cabinetry manufacturing learning curve. Cabinetry completely changed the game for us and single handedly saved our business.

Why do you think this shift in your business model helped so much?

Cabinets are manufactured more efficiently, have a scalable process and are in more demand than custom furniture. We started doing built-ins, kitchens, bathroom vanities, etc and it took off. So much so that we hired 3 awesome guys and felt the pressure of growing too quickly. We were making mistakes, not hitting deadlines and still had cash flow problems.

Hundreds of hours in training and prototyping later, countless mistakes and obstacles to overcome we are finally honing in on our craft on this side of the business. Primarily from an efficiency standpoint. 

Fast forward to today and we are slowly digging ourselves out of the trenches, implementing LEAN manufacturing principles to everything we do taking it one day at a time. We have altered our course and plan to bring the best cabinetry and furniture to the market that we can. We’re proud to offer cabinetry configurations and finishes that most manufacturers do not but with the same quality you’d expect from our furniture roots. For now, we are solely doing full custom but plan to see our cabinetry product line roll out this year!