Made in Atlanta: Concrete Ideas

Michelle Bradley uses industrial materials to craft her fast-growing furniture line

When Michelle Bradley was an interior designer and couldn’t find—or afford—the right piece of furniture for a project, she’d often design something herself. In 2003 she took the leap to become a full-time furniture designer by opening Bradley Hughes on Miami Circle, starting mostly with custom upholstery. One day a craftsman who worked with concrete walked in, and an edgier look was born. Bradley started designing iron tables with concrete tops, as well as sink basins and fireplace surrounds.

“We’ve definitely helped make concrete stylish,” says Bradley. “When we started, there weren’t many designs with clean lines that used unusual materials.”

The company soon evolved to include all sorts of metal tables—at first with a dark finish only, then in gold, silver, and a variety of colors—plus acid-washed mirrors, hand-printed wallpaper, and pillows. Everything is made by regional artisans, which appeals to local companies—such as Spanx and Chick-fil-A—that want to support fellow Georgians when decorating their corporate headquarters.

The designs are just modern enough to thrive next to antiques in Buckhead living rooms or to mix with contemporary furnishings in Downtown lofts. “People say our designs are fresh,” says Bradley. “Things that nobody else has.”

That might explain why, even in a down economic market, the company has been nearly doubling its sales each month. Bradley just opened an additional showroom at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (which, like her original Miami Circle location, is wholesale only), while also offering some favorite pieces at retail establishments such as the Mercantile and Pieces. Retail prices might run $220 for linen pillows by fabric designer Phillip Barlow or $1,800 and up for a side table with an iron base and four-inch-thick concrete top.

Bradley’s favorite line to design is lighting, such as the signature Lucille fixture with curves that enamored set designers for the Sex and the City movie, or her Ralphie light, a drum pendant that resembles lace made out of metal.

Bradley, who is the sole owner of the company (“Hughes” references painter Donna Hughes, whose work is sold at the showrooms), is hoping to expand to other spaces around the country. Creatively, she’s working on a new line of high-gloss lacquered furniture.


Photograph by Patrick Heagney