Work: Kitty carpenter

IAN POWER-LUETSCHER | Updated 7/2/2013

Purrrniture owner Darryl Michaelson makes and sells sturdy feline furniture.

Darryl Michaelson of Purrniture
Photo by Bre McGee

Q: How did Purrrniture start?

A: It started as a hobby. Most cat furniture is very poorly designed or poorly constructed without really taking into account that a 10- to 20-pound animal is going to use it as a jungle gym. So I set out to build my own, but my approach was to go get the strongest materials and see how creative I could be with it. There’s basically three items involved: recycled electrical reels, 4-by-4 posts and then tubes. I can still get about half of that stuff in a recycled way.

Q: And you taught yourself how to build everything?

A: Yup, I had two cats, so they were my demonstrators. I’d make something and then I’d see how it worked with them and I’d tweak it. I realized that I had a good supply of materials that make for an industrial-strength piece of cat furniture, and also I had a pretty decent bunch of designs going. A lot of other cat furniture is really square and boxy, while mine, because of the reel being round, has a more modern look.

Q: Do you still have a stand at the Minnesota State Fair?

A: This will be my 23rd year.

Q: How many cat furniture designs do you have now?

A: I’ve got 17 different designs. My first year at the fair I realized that all of my furniture was large and intricate and not everybody wants something like that. That’s when I realized I had to develop a line of furniture for every price point and also every person’s need.

Q: When did the store go down to just one day a week?

A: In 2009.

Q: Do you think when the light rail opens up, business will turn around?

A: Yeah, it already has turned around pretty good. The light rail will make a difference, too. And along with the light rail they’ve been developing a lot of empty commercial buildings around here into apartments.

Q: Your furniture ranges in price and size, right? It could fit in a smaller apartment?

A: Right. I have what’s called a Basic Pedestal, which is just a simple 2-foot post with a little top on it, up to what I call a Chateau Royale, which is if each cat wanted its own spot it could fit eight cats. My Basic Pedestal costs $30 and the Castle Royale, which is the largest one, that goes for $500.

Q: Do you sell a lot of Castle Royales?

A: Yeah, one went out the door this last Saturday. I mean it’s not gangbusters, but being open only one day I’m kind of limiting myself. But I probably average two a month.

Darryl Michaelson

Age: 46.

Lives in: Coon Rapids.

Job: Owner and chief designer/upholsterer at Purrrniture (2242 W. University Av., St. Paul.)

Employer: Self-employed at Purrrniture.

Hire date: Opened June 1991.

Education: Self-taught.