Unique Furniture Design That’s “Out-of-the-Box”
Vintage Subway Scroll available at www.etsy.com
By Carly Clark
In the world of home design, furniture for general consumption often falls into two categories: high-end carefully designed and crafted pieces or cookie-cutter affordable pieces from a big box retailer. Options for well-designed and unique furniture with a moderate price tag are few and far between.
City Owl Vintage is filling that gap with creatively reused and refurbished industrial furniture. What’s great about this business model is that design and sustainability go hand-in-hand. The business is based on finding otherwise discarded materials and furniture and giving them new life in a residential setting. For consumers, this furniture is a way to break out of generic furniture design while also embracing recycled materials.
Ashley de Vries, co-owner of City Owl Vintage, explained the impetus behind the idea and gave some insight into how they got started. You can check out their furniture live at Brooklyn Flea on weekends, or on their website.
(1) When did the business start?
(2) How did the idea come about?
I’d been doing design work for about 6 years and my husband, Jim, had done art direction on films for a long time. We both realized that we could source better items than a lot of what we were seeing in stores. We both were really into vintage industrial and primitive furniture, so we felt that we had a good sense of our aesthetic direction. Selling at the Brooklyn Flea seemed like a great way to try it out without the overhead of having a storefront.
(3) How did the idea get implemented and turned into a business?
We used our savings to start shopping for items to see what was out there and really had no idea if it was going to work! We weren’t sure we could turn a profit, but we knew that we were finding great inventory.
(4) What do you consider your unique selling proposition? In other words, what makes your business special or different?
We find exceptional items that fit well with city apartment living. We focus on the aesthetic and the quality of the items, find the best prices and pass the good pricing on to our customers.
(5) Did you consciously incorporate sustainability into your business model? Why?
Yes. We are both pretty offended by the amount of new, disposable furniture and home design that is constantly churned out. We wanted to give people an alternative to shopping for newly manufactured furniture at big box stores, but make it easy by curating the selection. We were also seeing a lot of furniture parts that weren’t useful in their current condition, but were too nice to throw away. So we started making those into new furniture pieces–mostly using them as bases for reclaimed wood tabletops.
(6) Do you consciously incorporate design into your business? How?
Yes, we both have a very strong aesthetic. We particularly like items that show a lot of wear or that show good design sensibility despite having a utilitarian purpose. That’s one of the reasons we like the industrial pieces so much. They were intended as workhorse pieces of furniture but the designer took the care to make them beautiful, too.
(7) Do you have plans for the future?
We would like to eventually open a storefront and be able to carry some larger items. I’d also love to do more interior design projects that incorporate vintage items.
(8) What’s the most fun thing about running a business?
Going out on buying trips and meeting incredibly interesting and generous people all over the United States who share our love of design.
(9) What caught you by surprise about running or starting a business?
The positive reaction that we got and the number of nice people out there who are in business for themselves.