Condo patios are notoriously under-utilized. Now, Hollis+Morris founder Mischa Couvrette and his brother Dylan plan to change that
Hollis+Morris founder Mischa Couvrette’s second business started alongside his first – he just didn’t know it at the time. When launching his inaugural furniture collection, he shared a workspace with Box Design, whose Lego-like patio systems, built out of ipê, can be rapidly assembled on site. Now Mischa and his brother Dylan have taken over, with plans to build on Box’s previous success with their own designs, including outdoor furniture, pergolas and insulated planters, to recast even the smallest condo patios as lush outdoor retreats. Over coffee (and, things being as they are, over a phone call), we talked to the Couvrette brothers about their new venture.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Designlines: So what prompted the sale of Box?
Mischa: [Box founders] Mark [Broere] and John [Gomes] are just spectacular and creative, but they were in their twilight years and grew the business to as big as they had wanted. They always talked about what they could do if they were younger, had the energy to do more, put a lot of money into marketing and advertising and grew a bigger team – all that kind of stuff – what could the Toronto city-line look like? I think that was what really motivated them. They’re interested in seeing what Dylan and I can do with this business.
Designlines: What was that moment like – buying a business during a pandemic?
Mischa: It was a bit of a shot in the dark. I hadn’t talked to these guys a couple years, but we set up a Zoom call a month-and-a-half into the pandemic – when things are kind of going crazy – and Dylan and I are of course talking about how it’s kind of an insane idea to buy a business during all of this, which at that point felt a lot scarier than how it feels now. But at the same time, Mark and John had created this efficient, beautiful system, and with Dylan’s experience in construction and management, and my experience with growing a business and in the design community, it just felt right.
Designlines: Tell me about the existing system. What’s it like?
Dylan: We actually build all of our decking pallets, planter boxes, trellises and even the pergolas in a shop, then deliver this jigsaw puzzle that we put together on the roof. Installation basically takes half the time that a traditional installation takes because everything is already built. And since there are a lot of rules and regulations with condo boards that prohibit drilling, Mark and John created a system where everything is floating, which makes for easy installs. It’s essentially part of the furniture – if you want to move it to another condo, you can do that.
Designlines: So what are your plans with Box Design?
Mischa: We’re going to take a bit more of a Hollis+Morris approach to the product, like creating families of products and selling it to end-users and trades alike. So not only are we going to install the big design projects, but we’re going to piggyback off of that and produce furniture lines, too.
One of the first products or products that we’re launching is a pergola system that was inspired by a few of the pergolas that Mark and John built, and that can be built off of. So you can add heaters and lighting, and choose the different woods for the patio canopy. You can have it open, you can use the sunshade – I mean, there are just so many different working components to it. But the basic structure is standard, with this sort of Lego-like approach to adding and subtracting pieces to really make that outdoor living space as comfortable as you want. And now it goes without saying that the pandemic generated this desire for more usable outdoor space, and that’s one of the ideas behind all of this. Over the next few years, the outdoor world is going to need good design and good quality manufacturing and materials more than ever. BOXDESIGN.CA