Kari Merkl is the designer and founder behind Merkled Studio – a Portland-based design and manufacturing company that hand-makes modern and multifunctional fixtures and furniture for homes and commercial spaces. The brand’s line of sleek, modular shelves, hooks, and their innovative Shook (a shelf + hook hybrid) have officially arrived in the Design Milk Shop, using playful colors and a multifunctional design that’ll make all of your 2022 organization goals a modern and stylish reality. I got the chance to (virtually) sit down with Kari and hear more about Merkled, and the concepts behind her craft.
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What led you to start Merkled Studio?
I studied architecture and I did that for a couple of years, and I realized I had a lot of curiosity towards objects and furniture, so I moved into that direction. I also had a background in metalworking and machining, and I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to see come to fruition. So, I just started slowly doing my own stuff. And eventually that became something that seemed sustainable to be an actual business.
What inspired you to create the Merkled Shook?
The original product in the line was a coat rack, then that led to coat hooks. Then it became obvious that there should be entry shelves for keys and then shelves. I realized that there wasn’t really anything that existed that combined a shelf and a hook. And it just seemed like the simple, modern solution is to integrate it. That curiosity led to the product.
And then it just became obvious that it [the Shook] was versatile for so many different things. So, curiosity led to it and kind of functional curiosity – like what could be more functional, a shelf is great but what else could make it even better?
Do you have any tips on how to style the Shook at home?
Well, I think what’s really neat is when I see clients mixing and matching, because you can mix the shelves and the hooks really easily, and put a shelf on top and a shook on the bottom. It works great in the bathroom for hanging towels or it works really well in the kitchen. If you want to do something different you can use a shelf on top and then a Shook on the bottom. You can even mix and match the sizes – there’s a 16 inch and there’s a 24. I like it when I see clients tiering them or putting the shorter one on the top and the longer one on the bottom, so the taller things come up on the side.
Can you tell us about the materials you used for the Shooks?
So all of the Merkled shelves and shooks are made of aluminum, and that was a decision that came from wanting something that could be both indoor and outdoor. It’s very light, and it’s very buoyant and strong. It’s all water jet cut too, which is also really great because it sandblasts the end of the hook so it’s really smooth. And when it’s powder-coated, it’s just very durable. So even though it’s aluminum, it’s really light but also really, really strong.
What’s something people might not know about your products?
I think something people might not realize is that everything is made and designed in a 20 mile radius, so everything is made in the Portland, Oregon area. If it’s not bent in house, we work with a break former in the Portland area. We’ve also worked with a water jet company for the last 18 years, so our vendor relationships are really important to us, and I think that’s very valuable.
What’s your favorite product in your collection for Design Milk?
My favorite product, I would say, is the Merkled Shook. It’s very versatile, it’s very neat. It works great for many different spaces in the house or your outdoor space. I really like things that are modern and functional, and it serves both of those really well. I think my favorite color in the line is definitely the mint green. I probably didn’t see it lasting as long as it has, but I’m really glad that it’s still a color that people are excited about and it still excites me, which is also important.
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What’s the best advice you received in your design career?
I think the best advice that’s really stuck with me for at least 20 years is to not be coveted with information. I think why that served me really well is that if anybody needs vendor information or material information from me, I’m really generally really happy to give it. And I guess karmically it’s come back to me as well. And to stay curious as well. We’re a design studio that is also a manufacturing studio, so sometimes it’s helpful to take some risks once in a while, and to stay curious about new materials, even if it’s out of your comfort zone – that’s been helpful advice. It can be harder to listen to, but it’s good advice too.
Small Merkled Entry Shelf
This modern entryway shelf is full of carefully considered details. Like the durable aluminum hardware that can withstand indoor and outdoor use, the shelf that accommodates your mail and can’t-leave-home-withouts, the cork lining that buffers the sound of noisy items and prevents scratching, and the multiple hooks designed for everyone’s keys and hanging essentials. Available in black, white, grey, and Kari’s favorite mint green – you can’t go wrong with one of these at your doorstep.
16” Merkled Shook Shelf
A sleek, sensible way to store your belongings, we love the genius design of this shelf + wall hook hybrid. Not only does its minimalist, no-frills profile blend seamlessly with existing home decor, there are countless ways to make the Merkled Shook your own – use it for added storage in the kitchen, for a pop of color in your bathroom, at your entryway for keys and leashes, the list goes on.
Merkled Wall Hook
Merkled’s durable Wall Hook can be used in conjunction with Merkled’s shelves and shooks or arranged solo to create a minimalist display on your wall. Unlike most wall hooks, the Merkled hooks come in left or right varieties, giving you even more ways to mix and match, creating a more personalized experience. The Merkled Hooks come in a range of fun, playful shades but we like the violet best!
>>> For more Merkled Studio, visit the Design Milk Shop here! <<<