Furniture Studio Ali Sandifer Transforms Slabs Into Art

Their experience and backgrounds in architecture, publication, woodwork and upholstery enabled them to craft their in-house designs with intelligence, beauty and longevity.

Andre Sandifer and Ahir Ali

At Ali Sandifer, a Detroit-based studio, Andre Sandifer and Abir Ali transforms slabs of wood into functional works of art.

Andre Sandifer of Ali Sandifer Studio

A self-taught craftsman, Sandifer’s love of design and production led him to found the furniture company Oneline while he was a student; he ran it out of an Ann Arbor gas station in 2004. That company became Ali Sandifer, a wood furniture design operation housed in a Detroit firehouse near Boston Edison. This very goal was the inspiration for his furniture business, which he founded in 2004 and runs alongside his wife, Abir Ali, the other half of the company’s namesake.

“Typically I start off selecting the board for that piece; each hardwood is different,” Sandifer says. “Then, after cutting the hardwood, I determine what pieces go where.” It usually takes eight to 10 weeks to bring a piece of furniture from prototype to product.

The Mag. Photo Courtesy of Ali Sandifer

The Mag, for instance, is a coffee table with a built-in slot perfect for holding magazines. But if you’re picturing something that would sit in your grandparents’ house next to a doily-draped end table or something you might see in the latest IKEA catalog, think again. Sandifer’s furniture has clean, contemporary lines but is fashioned by hand out of domestic wood like walnut, maple, ash or rift white oak.

“Each piece that we have, the idea was to solve a problem. So what we noticed out of furniture, if you have a coffee table, there is no storage. We wanted to incorporate storage in each piece, because in furniture things become more of an object and we wanted it to be more of a functional piece.”

Ali Sandifer

Sandifer met Ali at the University of Michigan School of Architecture in Ann Arbor, where they were both students. Admirers of each other’s work and aesthetic, they soon began collaborating.

“We initially started furniture because we saw a need for storage. There are a lot of famous chairs and famous coffee tables, but no one in our eyes paid attention to storage components,” Sandifer says. 


Their experience and backgrounds in architecture, publication, woodwork and upholstery enabled them to craft their in-house designs with intelligence, beauty and longevity. Sandifer’s love for woodwork and upholstery began when he was teenager working for a cleaning company in Chicago. He recalls moments watching as raw materials were processed into furniture and times, as a young boy, disassembling and assembling furniture around the house.

The design duo names all their pieces, the most popular being Sheila and Edith, a slender long credenza and a bigger-bodied version. But there’s a long cast of understudies. Ali estimates they have hundreds of designs for pieces they never released publicly — some in sketch, some that made it to prototypes and some even fully built but not ready to be sold. Sandifer says a lot of the process is iterations, building the prototype, and then changing it again and again “until it feels right.”

“I loved the idea of making. For me I always say that the reason why I didn’t go into architecture and I went into furniture is the instant gratification. It takes years to have a building built, but with furniture the turnaround time is much quicker.”

As the company expands, Sandifer says he realizes being the only craftsman may no longer be ideal. For the future, he says they are considering partnering with a manufacturing company to meet demands.

“We would want to collaborate or partner with a larger manufacturing company, so that we can focus on being innovative and solving problems,” Sandifer says. 

Check out more of Ali Sandifer’s modern furniture designs at

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