KilterDesign | Mean What You Build

5/6/2014 | Amy Tibbals
David Luhr


Friends, our design community continues to grow at a rapid pace. Truth be told, said commune, with its progressive ideas and innovative leanings, has been firmly rooted in this salty soil since Brother Brigham declared prophetically that this is the place. The big-brains and creative-types are coming out of the woodwork in droves these days¹, adding to an already impressive pool of design thinkers and doers². Rustin Ostler of KilterDesign proves to be no exception. Recently, I trained my little eye-balls on his design shop in the fantastic corner of our city known as Rose Park, just off American Beauty [look closer] Drive - needless to say, they were not disappointed.

On a crazy-windy day [let's all make a sad face for my perennials], I met Rustin at KilterDesign HQ where he played gracious host and I the looky-loo with the dropped jaw. He gave me the grand tour of the studio-slash-shop where he, when not architecting, fabricates some damn sublime design. One might say that KilterDesign's bread-n-butter is custom wood furniture, but that would put Rustin in a pigeon-hole he wouldn't feel comfortable in. A bird like this has got to spread its wings! Translation: Kilter can and will design anything. The research and design studio's work runs the gamut, according to their website [link below], from "product design, intimate installations and custom furniture to small-scale residential and public spaces, with a focus on contemporary and modern design". Though his shop be humble [see photos below³], his passion for design is vast, his craftsmanship drool-worthy and his personal, community-based philosophy, incredibly refreshing. Rustin is ardent about his craft[s] and oozes enthusiasm for design. The man walks the walk, too. When you study his wares as he shares his design ideals, it’s better than a Scorpions three-fer on an Arrowblock-party-weekend5.

It’s apparent that Rustin is as modest as he is talented, quick to point out that though KilterDesign is his baby, it’s really a group of designers, architects, artisans and craftsmen -- a collection of passionate people. Obviously, this is something that makes our COLLECTIVE hearts all a-flutter; a philosophy not unlike our own. KilterDesign is the real deal, but don't take my word for it. Read on for his refreshing insight and enlightened views on all things design. Dude says what he means, and "means what he builds”. I mean it.

Read any page on this blog if you need proof. Which you don't.
2 No complaints here. Okay, maybe just one -- not enough of 'em are involved with the renovation of my house.
3 David Luhr took these fine photographs. David has Titus Andronicus facial hair that made me feel embarrassed for mine own, paltry chin, instilling in me the worst of the seven deadlies -- beard-envy.
4 Utah's classic. 103.5. The Arrow.
5 No, really. It's that good.


I've done a poor job describing what you are all about. Who the heck are you, Rustin Ostler? I like to think that I am part artist, part architect. Part meaning, I have no fixed title -- different experiences make who I am. I hope that people see Rustin Ostler as a piece of wood that has developed over time, with knots and flaws, but solid throughout. Not a piece of particle board covered up with a shiny veneer.

In your words, what is this KilterDesign? We design and build just about anything. As far as the name goes – it’s simple, “out of kilter” or “off-kilter” means out of balance. On the other hand, kilter means balance, or good working condition. KilterDesign is balanced design, taking into consideration all aspects of what influences design and how design influences who we are.

I love the stuff you have on your website. That 400 House! How do you guys do what you do, and how do you do it so well? There is a great deal of talent out there and much to be learned from each other. However, people often do their own thing and rely on their own experience. Experience is good, but [while] working collaboratively, we have far more depth than we do on our own. As each project develops at Kilter, we seek out talented craftspeople and collaborate with them to produce the best possible outcome.

How long have you been involved in design? How long have Legos been around? Well, I’m not that old, but one of my first toys as a child was Legos, so I would have to say I’ve been designing for a while now. Building with Legos eventually lead to a Bachelor’s degree in sculpture and then a Masters of Architecture. My designs are improving since my Lego days - I can tell because I have a much harder time getting the furniture pieces apart with my teeth.

How would you describe your design aesthetic? Clean, simple, lasting, with a history, soul and meaning to every piece.

You must be one busy dude, how do you stay motivated and passionate? Look around! There is enough happening in our own community to keep us passionate. We are inspired by the people around us, and by what they are doing.

You’ve got some impressive stuff – everything from product design to custom millwork. What is your favorite design medium to work with? One that works. Sometimes it is a rendering or a sketch. Other times it’s experimenting with physical materials.

Where can I see and/or get my hands on some your design? On our website,, skate shops, local galleries, and soon in a handful of retailers. You can also call us and still talk to “real people” if you prefer.

You mentioned that I can see your design in skate shops. Powell-Peralta or Santa Cruz? It would have to be Powell-Peralta because that was where I first started -- Lance Mountain, Mike McGill. The Bones Brigade were the kings of the half pipe (wood and sculptural, no surprise right?) Oh, and by the way… skateboarding is still not a crime.

What are you working on these days? The Coyote Chair, the Selfie Mirror, and watching my kids play soccer.

Your site mentions that you mean what you build [love it]. What does that mean to you? Though I can’t take credit for coining the phrase so succinctly -- I borrowed it from my friend and admired craftsman, Wells Mason -- I have always had the idea as a guiding principle in all of my projects. Don’t waste time or resources; if you’re going to build something, do it right, and do it with purpose. My goal is to continue to “mean what I build” in all aspects of what I do. For me, it’s not just a way to work, it’s a way to live. I’m always trying to build my designs, furniture, spaces, family, community, and relationships in a meaningful, honest way.

KilterDesign | 801.598.9966 

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