Hands On Design



WORDS: Dominic Testa | IMAGES: Courtesy of Design It Yourself and Maxwell Cutri

Donnie Criswell is in the business of translating inspiration to reality. The man behind Design It Yourself Custom Furniture, now entering its sixth year, knows what it’s like to have visions of products that don’t yet exist. He’s been there.

 When Criswell moved to Boulder from Athens, Georgia, he had no formal education in the design or manufacture of furniture. Working for his daughter’s school district, however, left time in the afternoons for creative experimentation. Back in Athens he’d built a few tables, and he remembered the satisfaction that came from working with his hands. He began to tinker, with no real entrepreneurial expectations.


Design It Yourself owner Donnie Criswell (right) with sales director Steven Wiskow at their 5850 E. Evans location which serves as both showroom and workshop.

He started with reclaimed wood pieces. He posted ads offering to turn people’s old cedar fences into furniture for their homes. His scope started to expand — and quickly. “I’ll always remember that first experience where I’d had an idea for what I wanted a piece to look like, I’d picked the materials, I’d put it together, I’d finished it, I’d marketed it online, I’d communicated with customers, and I had a buyer come to purchase it. I was really energized. It was like seeing the world in a different way.”

 From those humble beginnings Criswell has fashioned a business designing and building heirloom quality furniture for a range of markets. Dividing their work about half-and-half between commercial and residential, it’s not unusual to spend part of a day working with architects on large-scale projects for their own clients, and another helping off-the-street design enthusiasts create a special one-off piece to suit a specific vision for their home. To ensure flow, they develop not just drawings, but also 3D renderings for every project.


A look at the consistency of brand achieved via Design It Yourself’s work for Corvus Coffee Roasters new DTC location.

Recently, Design It Yourself has worked with locally based companies like Corvus Coffee Roasters to outfit their new DTC location with a series of custom built stools, chairs and tables that help the coffee shop create a brand consistency. For a remodel of Cap Hill staple The Park Tavern they’re providing a unique bar top created from box car flooring and an industrial metal base. And they’ll be continuing that theme throughout with dining and patio tables.

Design It Yourself also offers a surprising number of online products for buyers who need parts to finish their own projects. And Criswell even developed an app called DesignBy, which allows customers to price tables (and soon headboards, media cabinets, bookshelves, and more) for a specific size, color, or design. “It’s a more fluid way to look for custom furniture,” he said. “We believe in the power of the technology and how it relates to our clients’ experience. We think it differentiates us.”


 That commitment to technology may even push his company into the realm of virtual reality and augmented reality. A proprietary mix-and-match tool is in the offing, and Criswell is clearly committed to staying ahead of the curve. But for all the technical horsepower, at its heart, Design It Yourself is really about bringing ideas to life. Donnie Criswell knows the process well.

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