Interview With L.A. Furniture Designer Bobby Berk
You probably haven’t heard of Bobby Berk yet, the 31-year-old wunderkind who worked his way up from stocking the shelves at Bed, Bath & Beyond to helm his eponymous furniture design company and four stores in L.A. in 10 short years. His new line of playful yet sleek furnishings (many named for sitcom characters; witness the Mork and Mindy ottomans), are as witty as the designer himself. He blends a mid-century modern sensibility with smaller scale furnishings to suit today’s condos, and his line is now available in Canada through Urban Mode.
H&H: What inspires you?
Bobby Berk: I was always really inspired by my grandmother. I grew up in a tiny town in Missouri: it was not about design. But her home in Alvin, Texas was immaculate, a real “magazine home.” It was my ideal, perfect look. She had such amazing mid-century furniture, especially her sofa. Then we sat on it. And it felt horrible!
H&H: How have you improved on those styles?
BB: We use green materials and processes, for instance, the Tabitha sofa is filled with recycled water bottles that feel like down. The arm of the Cagney sleeper sofa folds down from the side, not the front, so you don’t have to rearrange your coffee table every time someone sleeps on it. The Jack chair is influenced by Knoll, but has thinner arms so it takes up less space. The frame of the Marsha bed sticks out only 1″ on each side so it’s great in compact rooms.
H&H: What makes your line unique?
BB: I love bold, retro colours and shapes. You can customize a lot of our pieces by adding a pop of colour on the shelves, or a cabinet door. I love the Process Blue from Pantone on the Jefferson credenza’s shelves and feet. We manufacture our pieces in North Hollywood, in the same factory as Barbara Barry. I feel like we can bring a lot of manufacturing back to the U.S. from China and demonstrate how good quality furniture can be affordable. Most of the furniture shipped from there is flat packed with no solid wood. We use solid oak or walnut on legs and a veneer on the surfaces since it can split in a dry climate.
H&H: What’s a SoCal trend that’s going mainstream?
BB: Definitely colour. For the past five or six years it’s been all about grey and earth tones. Having furnishings combine colour with a little wood is a nice way to ease into it.
H&H: You have achieved a lot in a short time. What’s your secret?
BB: Mountain Dew.
Read our interview with young Vancouver designer Sophie Burke.