Cole Forge

A small business in the hills of Vermont on a mission to improve the way people heat.

Wood stoves for space heating, cooking, and domestic hot water.

My Design Philosophy

I’ve been around product design for my whole professional life and I’ve had a lot of great mentors. I’ve also owned some examples of really bad design. I’ve boiled my product design philosophy down into five key themes that I use to guide the design process.


The big environmental win of my stoves is the fact that they’re displacing fossil fuel burners in people’s homes, but I try to focus on environmental friendliness in their design as well.

  • Embodied Energy - How much energy did it take to pull this material from the earth and get it to my workshop?

  • Toxicity - Could this material potentially be harmful to folks that are making it, using it, or recycling it?

  • Durability - Long-lasting products do less harm. More on this later.

  • Low Emissions - Ensure that fuels are burned completely and minimal particulate is emitted.

  • Recyclability - Select materials that are easy to reuse or recycle.


I don’t want my stoves to be mysterious, shiny boxes, full of marketing gimmicks and “revolutionary new technologies” that haven’t stood the test of time. I want them to be intuitive to use and transparent in how they’re built. I want folks to be able to walk up to one of my stoves and understand everything they need to know about running it in five minutes.

Their aesthetic won’t be flashy with stainless steel accents and 35 different colors of enamel coating. They won’t follow the latest trends in home fashion design. They will look just as “at home” in a 1800s farmhouse as they do in a brand-new house and that look won’t wear out in the next fifty years.


Unfortunately, we live in a world of disposable products. There are lots of stoves that are built with thin sheet metal that has been stamped out and hurriedly tacked together to meet a bottom line. They do their best to hide shortcuts in the manufacturing process and their stoves need to be replaced in a few years. The quicker their stoves fail, the more stoves they can sell.

When you buy one of my stoves, you should be thinking about handing it down to your children or grandchildren so that they can heat their home and cook their food with it. They are designed to last for decades, not just a few years. In the event that something does break, my products are simple and intuitive enough that any handy person can fix them with materials from their local hardware store.


There’s a principle of permaculture that I’m really fond of: each element of a system should serve as many functions as possible. I make design decisions to ensure that my stoves are as flexible and versatile as possible. A typical wood stove might only be good at heating your home. A typical range might only be good at sautéing food. My designs can be used for everything from drying your clothes to heating your water and baking your bread.


My products aren’t on the bleeding edge of technological innovation, but they do tackle age-old problems in an innovative and clever new way. They also serve roles that you might not typically expect from a wood burning appliance. As my product line grows and expands, I’ll integrate appropriate new technologies to support my other four design principles.