This story originally appeared in the December 2017 issue with the headline “Modern in the Country.” 

Bertram, a speck of a town about forty miles northwest of Austin, with fewer than 1,500 residents, bills itself as “home to the annual Oatmeal Festival, a Dollar General, and a new motel.” Recently, though, the burg’s palpable stillness has been interrupted by the constant buzzing of a MIG welder at the Hibler Building, on South Gabriel Street.

Built in 1934, the grain mill turned blacksmith shop is now home to a most unexpected endeavor for such a middle-of-nowhere place: a modern-furniture store founded by former Austin residents Kelly DeWitt Norman, 28, and Travis Norman, 35. “It’s just too expensive to try and open anything in Austin . . . and we feel this energy right now among people our age with creative ideas who are thinking, ‘Maybe we should check out the country,’ ” Travis says.

After marrying in 2015, the couple joined forces under Kelly’s design and fabrication business, KKDW, with Kelly helming the woodwork and Travis the steelwork. They booked big Austin projects like the design and build-out of kitchen store Kettle & Brine and the sleek cherrywood tables they made for dining hot spot Mattie’s at Green Pastures. But on a drive through the Hill Country in their white 1968 Chevrolet pickup, the couple began tossing around the idea of opening a modern-furniture showroom for a new line of pieces including sofas and bed frames.

After a friend cut them a deal to rent the Hibler Building, they began renovations in May, raising the roof two feet to make room for clerestory windows; they also installed a pair of steel pivot windows and added a room in the back for workshops.

The KKDW store, which opened in mid-December, features pieces like an eight-foot sofa in buttery saddle leather, low and long credenzas in solid oak and cherry, and steel furniture in powder-coated hues. Kelly says, “Our hope is that it will encourage others to take a Sunday drive in the Hill Country to come see us.” 

102 S. Gabriel.