Richard Velloso’s furniture workshop and showroom is right around the corner from us here in Dumbo. This being Brooklyn’s tiniest neighborhood, it was impossible for us not to notice his roughly sophisticated mix of materials in the window of Olga Guanabara, and the dog that he named his shop after. It wasn’t long before we were working together to capture the spirit Richard defines as “martini meets a shot of whiskey.” We went down the block to discuss his studio life and exclusive collection with west elm.
What inspires you?
I guess one could say that the materials themselves – wood, steel, glass, concrete, stone or even rubber – inspire me. I love that furniture represents a gathering point for sharing precious times with family and friends. Of course I also get inspired by New York City and all the amazing mixtures that happen here: the old and the new, the industrial and the modern, the beautiful and the “ugly,” the rich and the poor, the intellectual and the simple.
What is your studio practice like?
Sometimes I have a very clear and fixed idea in my head. I draw it up and do whatever it takes to pull it off. Sometimes I come across a piece of wood, and I stare at the thing for days or months, just imagining what could be done with this “junk,” until one day something clicks. When it’s that sort of process, I call it “backwards creativity.” It’s looking at what is available in the studio and trying to figure a way to turn that thing into something that hopefully will look pretty cool.
What do you like most about working in Dumbo?
For starters, I also live in Dumbo too, so the commute is amazing. I walk out of my apartment and into my studio down the block. And of course I can take Olga to work with me everyday.
I love the fact that this used to be such an amazing industrial part of New York. The old factories, the cobble stone streets, the brick and the trolley tracks inspire me. The view of the two bridges and the East River are pretty fantastic too. Tourists flock here for a weekend afternoon, and I get to live here on a regular basis. That’s pretty cool.
What’s the story behind some of the pieces in your collection for west elm?
I spent last Christmas in Argentina, on a farm where we had these huge barbecues under these beautiful trees. The dining table set up was just some big wooden boards held up by saw horses. When I got back to Dumbo, I recreated my own version of that experience and shrunk it down to a coffee table and a side table for west elm. The design has an industrial quality to it, but with cleaner lines and a modern twist.
Images: west elm