Home / Home / Q&A with Bend’s MODERNFAB
Written by Teresa Ristow

Q&A with Bend’s MODERNFAB

MODERNFAB built in bar

Creating well-designed metal fabrications for homes, businesses and public spaces requires a clear artistic vision and refined technical skills. That’s exactly what Doug Wagner, owner of MODERNFAB, brings to the table. Wagner brought his business from Missouri to Central Oregon more than a decade ago and builds everything from fireplace facades to hand railings, furniture, cabinets, sculptures and all types of custom projects. He shared with us some of the stories behind his craftsmanship.

Doug Wagner of MODERNFAB Q: How did you first become interested in fabrication?

A: I started out building with Legos, which gave me problem- solving skills early on. Growing up in Missouri, I had access to my dad’s shop and metal-working tools, and also enjoyed sketching everyday objects, which taught me to have a trained eye. I found that working with my hands and using materials that I could get quick, visual results with was satisfying. 

How did your artistic pursuits lead you to starting your business, MODERNFAB?

After high school, I attended the Kansas City Art Institute, graduating with a degree in fine arts. A couple years later, I came back to the Art Institute as a staff member in the metal shop and taught a few elective classes. I started working on my own projects between classes. Before long, I was taking custom orders for metal fabrication projects, and the business was born.

How did you end up in Central Oregon?

In 1999, my wife Shelly and I took a road trip through the Pacific Northwest. While we really blazed through Bend at the time, we had heard “Bend is the new Boulder, Colorado.” We kicked around the idea of moving to Oregon for years, and finally in the summer of 2010 made the leap, along with our daughter, who was 6 at the time. Once we were settled, I focused on rebuilding my business with local clients.

How would you describe your design style?

Clean, minimal and modern details make me happy, hence [the name] MODERNFAB.

Walk us through the process of creating something start to finish. 

The process usually starts with a meet and greet with a client to define the parameters of the project. Collaboration happens among all parties involved to start understanding the design intent, materials, finishes and budget. I start with renderings to create a visual reference for approval, and then the project can be built and installed.

What is it like running your own business and working with clients?

I treat every project like it’s for my own home. This creates a sense of pride, ownership and gratitude, knowing I am building a project that will get visual attention or be used daily as a functional part of someone’s life. A lot of my work is about building trust with clients, which means making them feel comfortable and educating them about the process.

MODERNFAB fireplace screen

Do you have any favorite projects?

I build so much, it’s really difficult to have a favorite, but a few projects stand out in my memory. One of my favorite pieces was a permanent sculpture for Central Oregon clients who wanted the piece for their home in San Francisco. They gave me a desired size, a budget and a bit of inspiration, and I started designing. Logistical considerations included transporting the piece to California and installing it on the rooftop garden of a garage, so it couldn’t be too heavy. The finished piece was made of 3/8-inch thick aluminum, cut with a water jet and then triple-powder coated in a shiny bright orange color. 

Do you have any projects on public display in Central Oregon?

Several. A fun spot to check out is Stoller Wine in the Box Factory, which has some of my furniture, benches, a large facade cooler wall and drink taps. While at the Box Factory, also check out Modern Games where there are a couple large-scale tables and benches that I built. Then swing by Lone Pine Coffee Roasters downtown; I built the large steel- and-glass window front system that separates the sitting area from the coffee-roasting and bagging space.

What’s next for the company and your future?

I’d like to work toward more art-based sculpture work, in addition to keeping up with the architectural demand. I recently designed and built my own home, as well as a work studio on property on the outskirts of Bend. I won’t have to hustle quite as hard to pay rent on a shop since I can now work from home. I’m looking forward to spending more time on projects that inspire me creatively and artistically.  

Back to top