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With any celebrity business, a famous face only gets you so far. It takes a skilled behind-the-scenes team to translate star power into compelling products. And in the case of Houseplant, the weed paraphernalia brand led by actor Seth Rogen, credit for many of the company’s early launches goes to Castor Design. The Toronto- and (lately) Detroit-based team’s A-list clientele doesn’t stop there, either: It’s also the gang cooking up handsome kitchen gear for Matheson, a venture from chef (not to mention producer and cast member of The Bear) Matty Matheson.

How did a 15-year-old design studio otherwise best known for its lighting become the king of celebrity side hustles? To some degree, Castor has always been part of the in crowd. Long before Matty Matheson was on the red carpet circuit, he was making his culinary mark cooking at Oddfellows and Parts & Labour — both restaurants that were owned in part by Castor co-founders Brian Richer and Kei Ng.

Castor and Matheson’s rapport means the firm knows just how to season a grill press or pepper mill to match the chef’s taste. (For instance? “He likes knurling,” Richer says.) Over email, Matheson concurred. “We understand each other,” he says. “We have that passion for creating cool things — but cool things that work well.”

Two aluminum blocks, one with a finger hole cutout and a lighter on top and one with a circular ash tray indent. They are from Houseplant, a celebrity brand led by Seth Rogen. The designer behind the product is Castor.
Houseplant’s Block table lighter and stackable ashtray includes a leather-lined finger hole to improve ergonomics as you fire up.

As for Seth Rogen, Richer connected with him after hearing from a mutual acquaintance that the actor was looking for a product designer for Houseplant, which Rogen co-founded with his long-time creative partner, Evan Goldberg, and Goldberg’s cousin, Michael Mohr. The brand debuted in Canada in partnership with Canopy Growth Corporation back in 2019 but has since ended that relationship and currently sells cannabis only in California. Otherwise, its primary focus is on 420-adjacent homewares.

“Seth’s a very smart comedian,” Richer says. “He liked that what we do is timeless, rectilinear and uses good materials but also has some humour.” Case in point: a lighter caddy modelled and named after Rogen’s late dog, Zelda. Mohr (who is Houseplant’s CEO) appreciates that Castor’s style marks a departure from typical smoke shop fare. “Brian and the Castor team share our love and appreciation for nostalgia and nods to retro and innovative design,” he wrote over email. “And we love that they’re as obsessed with quality and craftsmanship as we are.”

To hear Richer tell it, it was easier to break into Hollywood than it was to get a product commission from a big design manufacturer. “For a long time, we weren’t perceived as the type of designer that could work with brands. We’re the punk scrap outsiders,” he says. Now, based on the strength of its early client work (which also includes past designs for EQ3 and Umbra), Castor is finally starting to book meetings with major furniture-makers — but it took Rogen and Matheson to get it there. “They’re creative people who have a good appreciation for other people who are creative,” Richer says. “And they’ve been willing to take a real risk to get behind this.” After all, as much as Houseplant and Matheson are their own brands, they’re also closely tied to the personal brands of their famous founders.

On the plus side, that means easy exposure to millions of followers. But Richer says that tension can arise when a fandom feels a disconnect between a celebrity’s everyman persona and the price points of their wares. “We’re accustomed to the Hans Wegner crowd,” he says. “But that’s maybe one per cent of design. There’s a whole world out there.” Early Instagram commenters were especially critical of the US$250 cost of Matheson’s made-in-China pan, but several of the brand’s products now come in below US$50. “We love social media,” says Matheson. “You’ll always receive feedback — the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid — and you’ve gotta roll with it. We encourage people to tell us what they think. It’s the best way for us to move forward.”

A cast iron cooking pan from Matheson, a homeware brand led by Matty Matheson. The designer behind it is Castor.
Matheson’s 10″ cast iron skillet features a knurled handle, plus a raised lip that makes it easier to pool sauces when tilting the pan.

Houseplant has undergone its own evolution. In addition to the half-dozen high-minded designs created by Castor, the brand now offers a lower-priced range of “By Seth” ceramics envisioned (but not produced) by Rogen himself, who is known to throw pottery between his times on set. This touches on another point. With celebrity brands, no matter how ingenious its designs are, many customers may still be buying in just to feel a connection to the company’s spokesperson. While the Houseplant team handles its own marketing, Castor takes the lead on promoting Matheson. At first, the studio struggled with how much to centre the brand’s star in that promotion, which got more interesting as the chef’s fame grew. “We did have rules like, ‘We’re not going to show Matty without his shirt.’ But that’s what people want. So we decided that we’ll do a thirst trap, but it’s got to be smart,” Richer says.

In the resulting Instagram post, Matheson is seated nude on a toilet with the brand’s pepper mill next to him and a book in his hands. “It’s Dylan Thomas, so at least there’s a bit of dignity there,” Richer continues with a laugh. For his part, Matheson is eager to have his cookware stand on its own merits. “We want our products to reach people who will truly use them and enjoy them because of how great they are, not just because they recognize my name,” he says. “I love hearing people get excited about the same things I’m excited about — like the lip of the pan and how it makes it so much easier to baste.”

Even with all the time it’s spending with VIPs, Castor isn’t abandoning its personal pursuits. The company plans to introduce a new light to its main product line later this year. (Richer credits Detroit, which he relocated to in 2020, with reigniting his spark for lighting.) It has also been releasing limited-edition products under a recently launched secondary division, [Sic]. The name is a reference to an editing term used to signal that a grammatical error in a quote was present in its original source. “We’re putting stuff out, mistakes and all,” Richer jokes. The drops range from practical A/V gear — a limestone turntable and speakers — to avant-garde science experiments like the Cloud Chamber, which sprays cooled alcohol vapour to showcase subatomic particles. “I’ve always had this idea that science is greater than design, so I’m playing that up a bit,” says Richer. 

A clear glass box with a black back panel resting on top of a large black cube.

There’s also the slim possibility that Castor will wind up with an executive producer credit on a future film. “The contract I signed with Houseplant said that I could pitch Seth three movie ideas, so long as they all starred Tom Hardy,” says Richer. While he burned through his first two pitches suggesting remakes of Withnail & I (featuring Tom Hardy in the titular Richard E. Grant role) and The Mighty Ducks (Hardy as Emilio Estevez), he hasn’t used his third one yet. But there’s a certain charm to the idea of a movie in which Tom Hardy plays a designer who teams up with an actor and a chef to take on the homeware market by storm. Rogen and Matheson could play themselves. 

Group Chat
A handy guide to Castor Design’s ever-evolving client base 
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Matheson
A portrait of Matty Matheson with products from his homeware brand Matheson. The designer behind the products is Toronto studio Castor.

Famous co-founder: Matty Matheson

Main focus: Chef-approved kitchen tools

A wooden bowl and an aluminum cylinder with a variety of patterns designed for zesting and squeezing citrus. The product is made by Matheson, a homeware brand led by Matty Matheson, and the designer is Toronto studio Castor.

Standout launch: The Kitchen Stick — a mortar and multi-purpose pestle that acts as a grinder, grater and juicer.

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Houseplant
A portrait of Seth Rogen with a series of ceramics and an aluminum lighter block.

Famous co-founder: Seth Rogen

Main focus: Clever, stoner-chic homewares

A lantern that looks like a retro thermos, with a green handle and aqua stripes on the top and bottom above a middle section that glows. The top features an aluminum ash tray. It's one of the products from Houseplant, a homeware line led by Seth Rogen. The designer behind it is the Toronto design studio Castor.

Standout launch: The Stack Lantern Ashtray, a portable lamp with an integrated lid for butts that’s perfect for lighting up on a patio or camping trip.

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[SIC]

Famous founders: Brian Richer and Kei Ng

Main focus: Surprise drops in limited editions

A trio of white table lamps with dish-shaped bases and round circular shades that are attached with phone cord-like wiring. The designer behind them is the Toronto design studio Castor.

Standout launch: The Up/Down table lamp, which features a reversible lamp head (with a power connector on both sides), plus a USB-C connection for charging devices.

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Castor’s 2024 docket also includes work for clients like NYC design boutique Coming Soon and Canadian hot tub and bath accessories brand Goodland, as well as a new light launching under the studio’s main line.

How Castor Became The King of Celebrity Side Hustles

The firm’s high-profile collaborations with Matty Matheson and Seth Rogen cater to design lovers and Hollywood fandoms alike.

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