words and photos by Colleen Hanke

The tall, narrow building that houses Hazel Tree Interiors would appear unremarkable, except for the massive mural of a sprawling tree on the side. 

This image is what inspired the name of the company. Co-owner Karen Starr says it came to her in a vision after brainstorming for a name.

“I went to bed that night and I woke up in the middle of the night after having this dream where it was like… it kind of flashed across the sky and like, this kind of neon thing, it said ‘Hazel Tree Interiors.’ And then there was in this vision, a tall skinny building with a tree painted on the front of it. So, it’s kind of weird because a year later is when we found this building and decided to put a tree on the side, you know?” Karen says. 

“And I was like, ‘what the heck is a hazel tree?’ I woke up so jazzed by this because it felt like this zap of inspiration in the middle of the night. So I Googled it, like, ‘hazel bushes, hazel tree.’ They are associated with imagination because their branches are really curly and really wacky. We’re imaginative and very wacky too, I guess, so it fit.” 

Imaginative and wacky barely begins to describe the atmosphere of the Hazel Tree studio. There are many flights of winding stairs that just keep going up, with seating areas and desks on all the landings. From the outside, the building does not look large enough to hold all of these nooks and crannies. Everywhere you turn, there is a piece of local artwork or a sample design.

Hazel Tree Interiors designs all sorts of spaces — everything from residential homes to commercial spaces to outdoor public spaces. One of their most notable projects has been the Lock 3 Christmas tree for the past few years. Recently they wrapped up work on the Generator space at Bounce Innovation Hub. 

The common element in many of their designs is their commitment to repurposing salvaged materials and giving them new life.

Karen has been in the design industry for 15 years after transitioning from a career in musical theater production. She opened Hazel Tree Interiors with her husband, Jon Haidet, nine years ago.

“When we found this building, it really allowed us — because we had the space to — it allowed us to have a showroom of locally made furniture, lighting, home décor pieces, local artwork,” Karen says. “It’s always been a huge part of our mission to support the local artists economy, make as many jobs for our artist friends as possible, and it’s also an environmental standpoint, trying to create things with resources as close by as possible.”

Hazel Tree tries to make sure every project is designed with the owner in mind. Each and every project is done in the style of the owner of the space, rather than the personal tastes of Starr, which makes for an eclectic portfolio. 

“There are certain designers that it’s like ‘Oh, I know who did that space,’ because it’s, like, a look. But with our design studio, we are always adapting to our clients’ style,” Karen says. “Our job is to pull their style out, not to put our style on them.”

Helping a client find their style and bringing their design ideas into reality is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, Karen says. She acts as a liaison between clients and local artisans to bring the clients exactly what they are looking for. 

If having your living room sofa crafted by a local furniture maker sounds like a bit of a convoluted way to go about decorating your home, you’re not alone.

 “It’s a lot easier to order something out of a catalog and have it shipped. This is the hard way on purpose,” Karen says. “But it’s really important. It’s so important to our local economy and it’s important to the environment that we focus local whenever possible. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly rewarding.”

Hazel Tree Interiors is located at 143 W. Market St. Their hours are Tuesday- Friday 11 am – 5:30 pm and Saturday 11 am – 3 pm.

Colleen Hanke is a Media Studies student at The University of Akron.

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