Better than IKEA

IKEA makes beautiful, cost-effective furniture—almost everyone can agree to that. But the instructions of how to put their furniture together? Questionable.

What if you could still have the beautiful furniture, but it was made with the love and care of your grandpa, and the directions were clearly marked and had real instructions with them?

Gordon Hansen does just that.

Ninety-one-year-old Gordon has four daughters, ten grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He has proudly made a piece of furniture for each daughter and grandchild, and is now making furniture for each great-grandchild. He designs and builds each piece himself, sometimes he’ll deliver the piece himself, sometimes he’ll take it apart, writes clear instructions of how to put it back together, and ships it to each child.

“I like to keep busy and be creative,” Gordon said. “It makes me happy to build something with my hands. But I’m not just about making something—I’m making something that lasts.”

Gordon makes it all: bookshelves, desks, coffee tables, benches, chests – even boats! Be it cherry, oak, walnut, pine, maple, or birch—he carefully selects the wood depending on the piece of furniture. Also, on nearly every piece he makes, he marks the date he made it, who he made it for, how old he was when he made it, and his name.

“My grandfather was a carriage-maker in Denmark,” Gordon said. “I think I inherited my love of woodworking from him. He immigrated to the United States back in the 1870s and settled in Grand Rapids, and was employed in the furniture industry as a craftsman and designer.”

With an engineer’s eye, an artist’s creative touch and the love of a grandpa, Gordon’s pieces are all unique. Growing up in west Michigan, he spent a lot of time at his family’s cottage on Lake Michigan. There, he designed and built two sailboats for the family to enjoy. He has incorporated his positive memories of the swirling Lake Michigan into his furniture by adding wave-like curls to the tops of book shelves and desks.

“I’ve been making things since I was 13 years old,” Gordon said. “I suppose some of the furniture I first made is now almost an antique!”

Gordon earned his undergraduate degree in Engineering and his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Michigan (U of M). He began his career in the business office of U of M, then worked at Albion College, and finally served as the Vice President of Cleveland State University before retiring in 1984.

“Even though I’ve worked at different colleges, I’m still a Michigan fan and always will be,” Gordon said.