There's a place just 20 miles outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where decorative concrete artisans come together to produce beautiful concrete works with the help of Mike Samford and his son Ryan, who own and operate The Design Center. The artisans share more than just a passion for decorative concrete, because everyone who works at The Design Center, from the top down, has attention deficit disorder, or ADD.

"My father started [the company] eight years ago as an outlet for people with ADD to be able to do artistic things," explains Ryan, who spearheads marketing and sales for the company. "He has dyslexia and ADD...It's a challenge working with a group of people with ADD." Although Ryan can laugh about it, the challenges are real, and he adds, "When it comes to details, [people with] ADD have a hard time."
Like most people diagnosed with ADD, Mike exhibited the classic signs; he never paid attention in class, he always doodled, he seemed not to listen and had a short attention span. Although many would chalk that up to adolescence, those traits coupled with his dyslexia led Mike on a path that would eventually change his life.

After earning his bachelor of fine arts degree in commercial art from Sam Houston State University, Mike went back and got his master of art degree in jewelry and design, as well as a master of fine arts degree in sculpture from Northern Illinois University.
His education led him to Peabody College in Nashville, where Mike was associate professor and co-chair for the art department, and eventually curator for the Cowen Museum there. For a time, he worked in the corporate world as a gemologist and head of east coast replacement services for Zales fine jewelry division. His desire to return to his passion for art led him to appointment as vice president of development at O'More College of Design.

"It came down to a decision," Ryan explains. "Did he want to work in the corporate world, or did he want to work in art and sculpture? Art and sculpture won."
Along the way, Mike also recognized that many artists seem to have ADD tendencies, which helped him decide to design a place for people like him to come together to create with concrete.
After 35 years as a designer, architectural sculptor, contractor and fountain designer, Mike is still very involved in developing and managing architectural projects on a national and international level. He also assists architects, developers, interior designers and contractors in all aspects of design and manufacturing.

The Design Center offers water works, historical restorations, sculptures, pre-cast, signage, event and set design, rubber resurfacing, murals, concrete countertops, acid stained concrete, digital renderings on concrete, and stenciled concrete.

"We use a lightweight concrete and we make our countertops thicker (two and a half inches or more)," Ryan explains. "We don't make conventional countertops. We would rather use new technology, using lightweight components, to stand out in the marketplace."
The Design Center portfolio is a mix of residential and commercial, with lots of acid staining and concrete countertops for places such as Logans, a restaurant owned by The Cracker Barrel; Salsaritas, which is a Mexican-style franchise; and The Mellow Mushroom, a pizza franchise where The Design Center is creating custom countertops.
In 2004, Mike recruited his son Ryan to move The Design Center in the direction of product distribution, shipping anywhere in the U.S. Ryan says The Design Center is generating a lot of interest in concrete countertop inlays, as well as the use of polished glass instead of common aggregates. They also have an in-house CNC machine, which allows them to create pre-cast signs. "It's a good alternative to heavy signs, because we make them out of foam and spray [the concrete] on or in," he adds.

Along with mantels and the occasional sculpture, The Design Center is currently working on projects using photographic images that are acid stained onto concrete surfaces.
For Thoroughbred Motors, a high-end automobile dealership in Nashville, The Design Center sculpted a Pegasus horse fountain, as well as marble faux-finished columns. They also created a blue lapis concrete countertop, using 16 different shades of blue, for the Saab showroom. And customized mantels and fireplaces can be found throughout the dealership.

With a showroom/warehouse where customers can see samples of previous jobs, as well as an online portfolio of projects, Ryan says clients either know exactly what they want or are open-minded and let The Design Center design and execute new ideas. Either way, The Design Center's reputation for creativity and innovation keeps clients coming back for more.

The Design Center
Ryan Samford
208 Gloucester
Franklin, TN 37064
(615) 593-3511 Office
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