Meet the Furniture Designer Who Discovered the Beauty of Concrete

Maker Ben Uyeda of Homemade Modern opens up about what inspires his passion for DIY—and shares with us his latest how-to.

Ben Uyeda Homemade Modern


Meet Ben Uyeda, a champion of smart, green, and affordable design. With a pedigree in architecture, he’s also an award-winning designer, lecturer, blogger, and co-founder of ZeroEnergy Design and, a company specializing in green house plans. And when he’s not doing all of that, he teaches and inspires folks to build beautifully simple, streamlined furniture at Homemade Modern. It makes you wonder if he’s some sort of home improvement superhero! We interviewed him to find out why he does what he does, the tools he can’t live without, and how his industrious and ingenious family inspires his work. Plus, click through to see a gallery of some of his most incredible DIYs and one insanely easy video tutorial.

The reason I started doing what I do is…
The median household income in the US is about $55k a year. Most people simply can’t afford well-designed furnishings made from real materials, and most designers focus either on doing custom work for the wealthy or lower-quality plastic goods designed for mass production. I love the work that my architecture firm, ZeroEnergy Design, does, but learning that the average house designed by an architect costs almost twice as much as the average sales price of an American home made me want to find a new outlet for sharing affordable design ideas. I love the idea of showing that we can all afford nice things; some of us just have to make them ourselves.

I feel most at home when I am…
Making! I have always associated the concept of home with sense of domestic industry and production done with and for the people you care most about. Whether it’s making dinner or the table on which dinner will be served, I feel home is the place where you make nice things with family for family.

I’d define my design style as…
Modern, industrial, and pragmatic with a dash of whimsy.

Related—Project Showcase: Ben Uyeda’s Modern Furniture 

My first job was…
My brother and I started a cookie business when I was 8 and he was 10. We drew order forms by hand and delivered them door to door. People in the neighborhood could fill out what kind of cookies they wanted and at what time they wanted them delivered. We charged $1 for a dozen cookies and made a killing! Since then, I think I have had every service industry job at some point in my life and quite a few different construction jobs.

My main sources of inspiration are…
Wow, this is hard, I feel like there are so many awesome designers and makers out there, but, if I had to narrow it down, I would group them into categories.

In my professional life, architects like Samuel Mockbee and David Adjaye inspired me to critically consider not just what I am designing but who I am designing for.

Visual inspiration comes from some of the amazing design bloggers and Pinterest curators. In particular Satsuki Shibuya, Jonathan Lo, Victoria Smith, and Myan Duong have provided awesome visual fuel.

Daily inspiration comes from my family. In particular seeing their drive towards self-sufficiency and responsible consumption inspires me. My parents are constantly adding to their suburban homestead—four chickens are the most recent additions. My brother Nathan has an amazing ranch in Argentina and is always building cool things. Most recently he devised a way to use heat from a compost pile to create hot water for his guest house. If you are ever interested in an educational vacation full of animals and sustainable homesteading, book a vacation in one of his guest houses.

My best DIY success is…
The Bucket Stool! I shared this idea about a year ago, and it has been made by thousands of people on five different continents.

Homemade Modern's Concrete Stool


My favorite material to use is…
Concrete in general, but Quikrete Countertop mix in particular. Concrete is such an amazing and cheap material. What other material is less than $5 for 80 lbs and can be manipulated without power tools?

One tool/material I haven’t mastered (but want to!) is…
A sewing machine! Far too often we segregate tools into disciplines like sewing, woodworking, and blacksmithing while the really cool opportunities are in mixing these pursuits together.

My all-time, go-to tool is…
My Ryobi 18 volt drill. I use it for everything from driving screws and drilling holes to peeling apples, blending smoothies, and mixing pancake batter.

Related—Project Showcase: Ben Uyeda’s Modern Furniture 

A recent project I’ve finished is…
I built an outdoor fire pit out of Quikrete 5000 as a 40th wedding anniversary gift for my mom and dad.

Homemade Modern Concrete Fire Pit


To me, failure means…
That you have a mess to clean up and more work to do.

Want to DIY like Ben Uyeda? Make your own DIY plywood “Flip Desk” like this one:

To get the latest from Ben’s workshop, follow him on Instagram!

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Interior Design