The following is the latest in a series celebrating Nest Studio’s 10th anniversary. In this edition, we look at the company’s history through the eyes of its first hire, Chief Operating Officer Jessica Burne.
What’s in a name? For Jessica Burne Davis, a wild coincidence that would change her professional life, and perhaps the hardware industry itself.
Skimming a local online message board in 2014, she spotted something jarring – a job posting under her name, Jessica Davis.
“My first thought was, oh my God, what did my kindergartner do? Did she post by accident on this message board?” she recalled. “After my heart freaked out for a second, I realized I was actually reading a job post that was ideal for me by someone with my exact same name.”
That person was Jessica Davis, the founder of Nest Studio. “Jessica B.” would become the first-ever hire at Nest Studio, using her maiden name Jessica Burne (which she was already accustomed to using professionally) to avoid confusion with customers. Together they proved that two Jessica’s were better than one, combining different but complementary skill sets to build Nest Studio from a basement operation to a worldwide trendsetter in the design industry.
Prior to joining Nest Studio, Burne graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in finance and began a career at JP Morgan. Initially in the company’s private banking division, she was soon moved to a group formed to assist clients with investing in fine art collections. The work would regularly expose her to extraordinary homes and works of art.
“I always gravitated toward the business end of beautiful things,” she said.
Enter Nest Studio. At the time of the job posting, Burne was interested in returning to work after taking a few years off to start a family. Although it wasn’t related to fine art, she recalled seeing the beauty of the hardware and feeling a strong spark of interest.
Nest Studio COO, Jessica Burne (left) and Founder Jessica Davis (right)I
Doing it All
As one half of a two-person company in the early days, Burne oversaw work ranging from shipping packages to sales in order to get the operation off the ground. It’s an experience that’s given her insight into every aspect of the company, which today comprises multiple departments that she oversees as the Chief Operating Officer.
“It’s been so rewarding to me but also invaluable because not only can I help manage, I can help train and I understand down to quality control or packing all of the challenges and how to troubleshoot them,” she said. “It’s unusual to have someone who’s had every single role in a company.”
It should come as no surprise then that Burne has a hand in virtually every step of a collection’s life cycle from design to distribution. Her favorite phase is the beginning, where “the magic happens.”
A new Nest Studio collection is typically born of a Jessica Davis sketch -- sometimes detailed and sometimes less so. (Burne recalled one product being inspired by a doodle they found in the white space of a magazine). The two will then collaborate to flesh out the concept’s size and dimensions and create a model with Sketchup that can be used to 3D print a prototype that they can hold and handle.
“The scale and ease of use is something that we consider early in product development,” she said. “The tactile feel of the hardware in someone's hand can be as important as the beauty of the design.”
A collection will then move on to the production stage, which she considers an exciting challenge. Nest Studio’s goal is to produce hardware that lives up to our highest quality design intent, but finding manufacturers who grasp that vision and have the ability to deliver it isn’t always easy. Case in point: One of the hallmarks of the best-selling Transparency series is a complicated assembly that is meant to invoke the Machine Age and Art Deco design.
Nest Studio’s Transparency CollectionI
I“There are manufacturers who say, ‘We can stamp the metal instead of using screws.’ But it doesn’t look good if it takes away from the original design,” she said. “We’d much rather have authentic pieces than value engineer the things that make them so special.”
Nest Studio COO Jessica Burne (left) and Founder Jessica Davis (right)
A Successful Partnership
Burne is a self-described Excel spreadsheet “geek” and analyzes sales figures to determine if Davis’ design intuitions are indeed backed by empirical data. For example, she pointed to Davis’ early embrace of satin-brass finishes at a time when few others offered similar products. A decade’s worth of data has shown it to be Nest Studio’s top and most consistent seller.
“What makes the partnership so successful is that Davis has this innovative ability to forecast trends,” Burne said. “And what I love is being able to see the concrete data on the back end that supports that.”
Although choosing her own favorite collection is too hard (“They’re all my babies!”), she concedes Organic is the nearest and dearest to her heart. It was the first that she was involved in from conception to production and its influence from the British sculptor Henry Moore brought her back to her professional art collecting days. Burne has several Nest Studio collections in her own home, including Organic in a powder room, Classic and Deco in her daughters’ bedrooms, and Facet in her kitchen, the room she considers “the showstopper” of the house.
Jessica Burne’s kitchen featuring Nest Studio’s Facet Collection
Jessica Burne's home office featuring Nest Studio's Classic Collection
Looking back on the decade, Burne attributes Nest Studio’s growth to two key factors. First, it maintains a flexible and nurturing work culture that has allowed it to attract and retain employees with great skill sets relative to their job titles. The second: innovation.
“People don't initially expect cabinet hardware to be innovative but our collections are,” she said. “There’s nothing like what we put out and we’ve been able to consistently differentiate ourselves because we truly live at the forefront of design.”