Sculpting Light

Midland’s Distressed Design brings spaces to life

By Adam Lansdell


Sometimes life takes you places you never expected you’d go. Sometimes life makes you something you never imagined you’d become. As is the case for Anthony M Acosta, whom never realized it until later on that entrepreneurism was his destiny.

Acosta is the owner and head designer of Distressed Design, an artisan handcrafted lighting and furniture store that transforms space into place. The Midland-based shop opened in 2013 but wasn’t always in the cards. Acosta may have found his niche in designing lighting and furniture, but his craft was developed in the world of architecture. Acosta attended the University of Miami, where he obtained a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master’s of Engineering.

“I have always liked sketching and putting ideas on paper, but never envisioned actually building them. In architecture, you design the four walls of a room, the exterior, all the other details, but leave the space inside empty. It always felt incomplete,” Acosta said. “Starting out, it was purely a creative outlet. Converting these designs into real products, let alone a business wasn’t even on the radar. It’s funny, looking back it makes sense; both my parents and my brother are entrepreneurs, my wife’s parents are both entrepreneurs, so while I hadn’t ever considered opening my own business, perhaps it was inevitable.”

When Acosta moved back to Michigan with his wife and newborn, he saw it as an opportunity to start fresh. In 2013, with a bit of encouragement, he decided on rendering his designs into reality. Six years later the orders for his designs haven’t stopped.

The items you’ll find at Distressed Designs are industrial and rustic by nature. Each is a genuine, one-of-a-kind of piece that is assembled using primarily resourced and recycled items. Acosta seeks out interesting pieces from around the state and country to bring his ideas to life. For example, one of the store’s most popular pieces, the Bicycle Rim Chandelier, is crafted from bike chains and rims.

“I have always been drawn to industrial and modern design,” explained Acosta. “Being classically trained (in architecture) put me at odds with this, but I would find ways to apply the fundamental theories of proportions, ratios and classic elements in a modern way.”

Distressed Design meets a standard of quality and craftsmanship that is difficult to mirror. Acosta’s repurposed areas of expertise are apparent, as he works with the precision of an engineer and the creativity of an artist. One might stay that light is his paintbrush of choice for developing one-of-a-kind art. Acosta takes into consideration more than just the materials –  he envisions the bigger picture of how each will complement the space they’ll inhabit. He works directly with every client to ensure that pieces are made to meet the necessities of both the client and the space.

“Above all, my main focus is quality. You can have a perfect design and the best materials, but if you fail to properly execute, none of that matters,” said Acosta. “(My fixtures) are all different in their own way. I have always said, ‘If we paid as much attention to light as we do to the intricate details of art, light would be art.’ It’s not so much the fixture itself, but the light, the shadows, the way the space changes and takes on a new identity because of the light. That is the art. That is what I want each viewer to take away.”

Acosta’s designs aren’t just for home. They can be found on display at popular destinations throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region. The company has worked alongside many area businesses to transform their space through customized lighting and furniture fixtures. Most notably are at Bay City’s Time Property Office, Times Lofts, Old City Hall, both Ferne locations and the Village Chocolatier to name a few. However, his wares have been shipped and sold to homes and business across the U.S. and internationally.

“The compliments and recognition have been amazing. There’s nothing cooler than walking down the street and having the chance to point out my work to my kids and see their expressions,” said Acosta. “Walking in and hearing others talk about ‘how cool the lighting is’ is a close second.”

To learn more about Distressed Design visit