15 under 40: Clarke Titus


It was a home-renovation project with his wife, documentary photographer Bryan Meltz, that spurred Clarke Titus’s interest in designing the industrial-modern light fixtures and furnishings he now produces under the label Rough South Home. Available at Atlanta MADE and West Elm Atlantic Station (as well as Etsy and his own e-shop), his one-of-a-kind pieces employ old and new materials—gathered from Southern lumberyards, factory salvage and even his own backyard.

What’s the concept behind the name Rough South Home? It is a nod to the materials that I am drawn to and it also references my past travels to major southeastern cities where I spent awhile building, renovating and maintaining retail stores. This allowed me to see and learn a lot.

Where is your inspiration coming from right now? I started RSH in 2011, and have mostly focused on custom furniture; that has always been my passion. But that is piece by piece, and often times unconnected work. I have always wanted to create my own small batch line of connected pieces, a grouping of my best designs made from the same materials with the same finish and present them all as a cohesive unit.

My first collection will be out in early summer and all of the pieces are made from local forest-free rift and quartersawn white oak and natural steel. Great material is always inspirational, and the wood from Eutree and the work itself are both so motivating for me.

What is your favorite design object of all time? That’s a really tough call. Does the printing press count? I think the Emeco navy chair is up there—clean, utilitarian and stands the test of time. Seventy years later and it’s still around and fitting in wherever you put it. A good chair is so hard to make, and I love making good chairs.

Whose work of the past do you hold in high regard? I love the naturalism and respect of materials that Nakashima cultivated, but the whole Shaker movement is an amazing pool of inspiration that is really a life’s study in its own right

What books do you constantly refer to? Ray and The Tennis Handsome by Barrah Hannah. However, all of his work is a huge influence for me. I always reach for his work and compare everything else to it.

Proudest professional moment? I’ve been really fortunate to have lots of great moments, but I think I am proudest of making something from nothing and being right here, right now. I can’t imagine doing anything else and I am so excited for the future.

To view more of Titus’s work, visit roughsouthhome.com.

{This year’s 15 under 40 class is presented by Mathews’ Furniture Galleries