podcast | Apr 1, 2024 |
Oliver Furth doesn’t believe in ‘no’

While other nine-year-olds were getting into Legos or superheroes, Oliver Furth was subscribing to Architectural Digest. The Los Angeles native was always interested in homes, design and architecture, and found himself snooping around construction sites and architects’ offices, doodling furniture plans in his school textbooks and even teaching himself how to read floor plans. He made his way to architecture school, only to quickly learn that wasn’t the path for him. “I felt like had I pursued architecture, I would have been one of 100 people drafting HVAC venting,” he tells The Business of Home Podcast host Dennis Scully.

Furth started working for Christie’s Auction House in the 20th century decorative arts department, where he began to see homes not from an architectural standpoint but from a decorating point of view. From there he got jobs under famed designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, then Michael S. Smith (where he got a “master’s degree in decorating”) and finally designer Greg Jordan. “[Greg] cared deeply about the way people lived. He was obsessed with the details of life, the way people would sit on a sofa, the way people would set their table—habits and peculiarities about lifestyle that I don’t know anyone before or since who has gotten those nuances,” he says. After Jordan’s sudden passing, Furth went on to start his own studio; 20 years later, he manages a team of nine and has been featured on both Elle Decor’s A-List and the AD100.

Beyond lifestyle and aesthetics, all of Furth’s past experiences taught him the value of teamwork. “The folks in my office, [and] also our teammates as contractors, builders, artisans, architects, clients—we’re all in this together, we all have a common goal,” he says. “I think so much of my own work is akin to being a conductor, and I’m bringing together hundreds of instruments and trying to bring out the best of each one. That could be the curtain maker; that could be the tile setter; and that could be the client trying to tap into what they want. The idea is to try to bring out the best in all of these folks and create one harmonious sound.”

Elsewhere in the episode, Furth discusses his new book OP! Optimistic Interiors, the importance of a consister aesthetic, the L.A. design scene and why he has no interest in product licensing.

Crucial insight: Design, says Furth, has a fourth dimension. There’s how furniture and decor fills a space—and then there’s how it makes people feel. “We’re not creating sculpture. These are homes that people are living in and need to relate to human beings,” he says. “I pay close attention to the way a chair feels when you sit in it. What does it sound like? What does it feel like when you place a glass on a table? Is it different if it’s made of stone or wood or resin? Can you hear the trees? Can you hear the birds? Can you hear the people in the other room? Something that I think is so important to our work is context. It’s not just what a client’s hopes and dreams are, but what is the context of this room.”

Key quote: “I’m an optimistic person by nature. I see the best in people; I don’t believe in ‘no’; I believe that there’s always a way to do it. I look on the bright side, and I think that people are coming to me for that,” he says. “I believe that building a home for oneself is an act of optimism. You are declaring to the world and to yourself, ‘I want to live a better life in this new home.’ I think that we have a responsibility to help someone see that potential through.”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by The Shade Store and Hartmann & Forbes.

The Thursday Show

BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus and host Dennis Scully discuss the biggest news in the design industry, including the shutdown of Pirch, Burke Decor’s recent issues, RH’s latest earnings call and a look at how Paris stays Paris.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Loloi and Chelsea House.

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