Material Moment

Modern Matter co-founder Katherine Mulford takes us on a tour of the luxury hardware company’s early beginnings, the successes along the way, and its road map for the future.
Kat Mulford and Lee Lesley stand in front of samples of Modern Matter Hardware.
Kat Mulford and Lee Lesley co-founded Modern Matter over a decade ago. Photo courtesy of Modern Matter

FLOWER: In the beginning, there was jewelry. Can you take us back to where it all began? How did you and co-founder Lee Lesley get together? What was the genesis for Addison Weeks, and how did it evolve into Modern Matter?

Kat Mulford: Lee and I have always worked with gemstones. Initially, we made jewelry for our friends and then started a website to sell the designs. When designer Barrie Benson asked us to translate one of our cuffs into hardware for a credenza she was designing, we came up with 10 designs, all of them studded with gemstones. We showed them at High Point, they were a huge success, and a hardware company was born! People were looking for novelty and unique designs in hardware to complement furniture.

When it comes to your design collaborations, what do you and co-founder Lee Lesley look for in a partnership? What do you find attractive?

We are always looking for a partner who is passionate about design and has new ideas they see missing from the marketplace. When we designed the collection with Barrie Benson, we literally were designing hardware based on jewelry. We had no idea what the parameters in hardware design were so we were able to think outside the box. We had to figure out how to integrate new materials into metal and make them not only decorative but usable.

Gold floral hardware with gemstones laid out on a table.
Modern Matter released a series inspired by nature, creating beautiful floral pieces. Photo courtesy of Modern Matter

Now when we’re collaborating with other designers, we’re looking for that same excitement, for that same newness. We’re looking to expand into new categories and to think about not only knobs and pulls but also what’s needed in the world of hardware that we can put a new spin on. We love working with different and new collaborators because they know the needs. Designers are constantly out there in the field, so they know what’s missing and what needs a fresh take. We’re always trying to reinvent things—everything from latches to finger pulls to door knobs.

A bathroom has light blue wallpaper and a pastel teal dresser sink.
Though small, the Modern Matter hardware in Kara Cox's Nursery Bathroom in the FLOWER Baton Rouge Showhouse adds a sweet detail to the feminine space. Photo by Paul Costello
A gold knob with a purple jeweled center on a blue cabinet.
Modern Matter Venezia Collection hardware by Michelle Nussbaumer contains elegant details, creating an interesting moment in the Baton Rouge Showhouse Dressing Room. Photo by Paul Costello

Your most recent launch with LA-based duo Pierce & Ward is an intriguing intersection of architectural silhouettes and organic materials. It’s equal parts handsome and bohemian and evokes an eccentric yet chic aesthetic. Tell us about that collection and how it came to be. What are you most impressed with?  

I stalked them! I have been following Pierce & Ward’s work for a while now and have always admired their creativity and love for creating authentic, lived-in spaces. Like Modern Matter, they are inspired by vintage items, so it was a perfect fit. They have a distinct aesthetic and wanted to incorporate woods and unlacquered metals into their collection. They also think about hardware in unique ways—they love to install door knockers on interior doors and use fun brackets in bars—which was exciting to design for new categories.

Handcrafted using 100% solid brass and gemstones, your hardware is very much the jewelry for the home. Tell us about where you source your material and how long each piece takes to make.

It really depends. Each piece is a work of art. Artisans use hand-crafting techniques and high-quality materials to create intricate pieces that will transform interiors. Every gemstone is a semi-precious, unique stone that is hand-cut, hand-polished, and set by us. Each piece we design is made to create everyday luxury, feel good when you touch it, and be treasured for years to come.

Modern Matter knobs from the Dogwood Collection
Knobs from the Dogwood Collection. Charlotte designer Barrie Benson translated her love for the dogwood flower into this eye-catching design. Photo courtesy of Modern Matter
Modern Matter Lane Knob, McCoy Pulls, and Edgewood Elliptical knobs
Lane Custom Knob, McCoy Custom Pulls, Edgewood Elliptical Knobs in clear and tortoise, and Horn Custom Knobs. Photo courtesy of Modern Matter

From New Hampshire to Virginia Beach to Charlotte, Modern Matter is a women-led company with employees sprinkled along the East Coast. How would you describe your company’s makeup, and how has it benefited your business?

From our beginnings in jewelry, Lee and I have strived to create artisan-quality products that enhance people’s everyday experiences. So finding the right team to carry that mission was essential. And we are so fortunate to have found a dynamic group of women that foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

Talk to us about the process between you and your designers. You seem to never shy away from a designer’s idea no matter how uncharted or challenging it might be to implement. You seem to have a let’s-do-it, can-do attitude that gives way for total creative expression. How has that way of operating worked for the company so far?

This is my favorite part of our business. We are always willing to try new things, and we value the ideas that are brought to us. Being open-minded and looking at hardware in a new way is what sets us apart as a company. Of course, we sell kitchen hardware, but we also sell handles in the shape of snakes and with mother-of-pearl.

A laundry room has cream cabinets with linen curtains at the bottom.
Amanda Smith Fowler used pulls from Modern Matter's Alexandria Collection by Sarah Bartholomew in the FLOWER Baton Rouge Showhouse Laundry Room. Photo by Paul Costello

What won’t you do?

There is nothing we won’t do. But we are constantly studying industry trends to see what needs to be added and what needs our fun spin. We continuously endeavor to create new designs in silhouettes and materials that will transform a category.

There’s no question Modern Matter is innovative and ahead of the curve. How do you plan to remain that way? How will you continue to set yourself apart?

We will continue to explore new materials and maintain the highest luxury quality of our products. In the next year, we plan to expand into new categories like bath and door hardware.

A bathroom has a free standing bathtub and an iron statue.
Arianne Bellizaire used Modern Matter's Porter solid brass pull ring and Alexandria diamond backplate to add sophisticated details to the Primary Bathroom at the FLOWER Baton Rouge Showhouse. Photo by Paul Costello

What do you love most about this work? What are you most proud of?

I am so proud of everything we have learned over the past few years. We have really grown in all aspects of our business. Our team is incredible, and our innovation and creativity is unparalleled. We do not lack ideas!

It can’t all be fun and games. What are some of the challenges you face, and how are you able to navigate through them?

We constantly challenge ourselves to create innovative designs and use new materials. Our latest collaboration, launching this spring with California-based design firm Pure Salt, will introduce many new materials, such as hand-stitched leather, woven rattan, and acacia and steam beach wood. Sourcing can be difficult, but we don’t accept “that can’t be done”; we are always breaking the status quo to create innovation.

selection of hardware from Modern Matter's Pure Salt collection
Pure Salt's collection for Modern Matter brings California-easy and laid-back luxury to interiors with a hardware line inspired by organic elements and forms.

Tell us about your involvement with FLOWER’s Baton Rouge showhouse. What were some of the highlights and takeaways?

We are thrilled to be part of this exceptional project and feel privileged that our hardware is showcased in numerous stunning rooms. Seeing our hardware so gracefully integrated into extraordinary spaces like the ones featured in the Baton Rouge Showhouse is one of our favorite parts of being in this industry. We are inspired daily by how designers utilize our hardware to enhance and transform interiors. We love how Arianne Bellizaire used our Venezia Collection by Michelle Nussbaumer to create a jewelry box dressing room. It perfectly translates the glamour and refinement of these pieces.

Blue cabinets hold colorful handbags.
The gold hardware of Modern Matter's Venezia Collection by Michelle Nussbaumer adds a pleasant contrast to the blue cabinets in Arianne Bellizaire's Dressing Room in the Baton Rouge Showhouse. Photo by Paul Costello

If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you love to see Modern Matter housed? It could be a historic landmark or an iconic hotel. In your dreams, where do you envision your hardware? 

I am blown away by the interiors that incorporate our hardware. The creativity in the homes is beyond my wildest dreams! We have a collaborator, Mark D. Sikes, who has worked on The White House. That’s huge to think our hardware could be in The White House!

A green cabinet has gold painted accents and knobs.
Clementine Knobs by Mark D. Sikes and Venezia Custom Knobs by Michelle Nussbaumer perfectly complement the gold painted details on the Baton Rouge Showhouse Living Room's wet bar, designed by Ashley Gilbreath. Photo by Paul Costello

What’s your favorite flower?

Dahlia, because they have so many different petal shapes, flower forms, and captivating colors.

Sponsored by Modern Matter

By Ashley Hatham Cox

See more from Modern Matter on their website and on Instagram.