A Conversation with Serap Demirag of Williamsburg’s VOOS
by brooklynmodern | July 28th, 2009
BrooklynModern: Why did you decide to open a design store in Brooklyn?
Serap Demirag: My partner and I are both trained architects, and I’ve been working in interior design and the furniture field since I graduated. I love furniture and when I decided to open a store, I wanted to do something I’m passionate about. The idea of opening a showroom that showcases NYC designers came to me once I realized that there are so many furniture designers here who do wonderful work. I wanted to share their work with the people of New York and the world. I asked my friend DC (who is a furniture designer in addition to being an architect) if he’d like to partner with me and he jumped right in. That is how we got started.
I have been living in Williamsburg for more than 6 years and my husband owns a french bistro here. So I inevitably wanted VOOS to be located in Williamsburg. Also, already having the stores like Future Perfect, Two Jakes and Carl Chaffee, Williamsburg has became a design destination which we thought would be helpful in the beginning. More than 95% of our designers are Brooklyn based and it is great to be so close to them.
Cortica by DFMD, 25″h x 20″w x 70″d , 100% Recycled Cork
BrooklynModern: How do you select designers?
Serap Demirag: At first we went to trade shows like Brooklyn Designs, ICFF and the AD home design show. We collected the names of all the designers whose work we liked. Then we started visiting their studios one by one, and asked them if they knew any other designers they thought we should contact. Most gave us at least one or two names, and by the time we opened the showroom, we had the works of more than 30 designers. Since then we added 15 new designers to the list of designers whose work we represent. We choose works that we personally like, and try to find pieces that are innovative, well crafted and beautiful.
The Pattern Lights by Levent & Romme, 28″h x 6.5″w x 6.5″d
White Watercolor Paper, Polyethylene Base
BrooklynModern: What are some of the themes you see in the Brooklyn furniture design scene?
Serap Demirag: The works vary tremendously from one another. Every designer has his or her own design sense, and choice of materials. That’s what makes the work so fresh. One common denominator is all the products are very well crafted, and have a story behind them. It’s pretty amazing to visit designer studios that look just like an ordinary warehouse yet produce furniture that is world-class. I guess it goes without saying but none of the furniture items we have are mass produced, each one of them is handmade.
Symbol Coat Rack, Desu Design, 6″h x 36.25″w x 1.5″d
Anodized aluminum, white powdercoated steel
BrooklynModern: Does sustainability play into your selection of furniture?
Serap Demirag: At its roots, local production benefits the local community and local economy while supporting the environment. So buying local is a wonderful way of helping the environment. In addition, most of our designers are very conscientious about using sustainable materials. We have pieces made with reclaimed wood, bamboo, 100% recycled cork, old sheet metal and scrap materials.
We would like to make furniture shopping more personal and emotional. When an end-user gets a chance to have a piece of furniture that he/she knows was made where they live and gets a chance to meet the designer, the whole experience is more fulfilling, more special. A sense of community is growing in certain neighborhoods of Brooklyn and it is a very organic transformation. We would like VOOS to be a hub for the design community of Brooklyn and the city.
DTL table by Um Project, 29.5″h x 33″w x 71″d
Corian and hardwood
BrooklynModern: What is your favorite part of owning a furniture store?
Serap Demirag: So far it is to be surrounded by these beautiful pieces of furniture everyday, and to witness the excitement of people who see them upon coming to the store. We are really happy to have met our designers. I cannot stress enough how nice each and every one of them are, enriching our worlds also on the individual level, not just professional.
BrooklynModern: Do you take custom orders?
Yes. We think that one of our competitive edges is that everything in the showroom is customizable. In most cases, the designers of the piece are also the producers themselves. So if you see a table you like in the showroom that’s too big or too small for your space, you can order it in any size.
We also do custom pieces of furniture and built-ins. We all know when you need a specific size or function in furniture it is very difficult to find it in stores. Here at VOOS, we help our clients to have that specific piece of furniture produced for them. This is how it works; they come to our showroom with the dimensions of their space and with an idea of what they are trying to accomplish. We sit with them, try to understand what they need and give them some ideas. Later, we bring the project to our designers and they bid on the job. As a result, the clients have access to a wide array of local fabricators and designers.