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Built to Last

The average person might not see much in the underside of a table, but Ben Young ’09 finds meaning in these neglected areas.

“The first things I notice are the materials,” he explains, “and also how it’s built and constructed—whether it’s a piece that’s maybe going to fall apart in three to five years or a piece that you can see from a distance was built for a lifetime.”

The pieces of his own future fit into place at the Yale School of Management, where he met roommate Frederick Kukelhaus.

“We were commiserating over the frustrations of buying cheap furniture,” Young says. “We found out that we both built furniture as a hobby.”

The two opted to build their own desks and tables, which garnered admiration from friends and family.

This led them to co-found the handcrafted e-commerce furniture company Hugo & Hoby, named for their craftsman grandfathers.

“We started the business partially to solve our problem,” Young jokes, but Hugo & Hoby is tackling an even bigger one: bringing beautiful, well-crafted, and affordable furniture to ever-wider audiences while maintaining a network of local craftsmen and a commitment to sustainability through environmental initiatives like their partnership with 1% for the Planet.

“We obviously want to create products that people like, but there’s so much more to what we’re doing,” Young says. “We’re utilizing renewable hardwoods, supporting our domestic crafters, and building a brand that our customers can trust and products they’ll cherish for a lifetime.”

The Swarthmore community is already enjoying Young’s handiwork—he’s crafted and delivered four tables to campus: three to Trotter and one to the Worth Health & Wellness Center, with more College furniture to come.