Rob Copley and Sean Robins, the design minds behind Van den Akker Antiques and Galerie Van den Akker, are making great modern design more accessible with Studio Van den Akker, the made-to-order furniture and accessories collection they introduced in October of 2011.
Since its launch, Studio Van den Akker has grown to encompass 45 pieces including case goods, seating, tables, lighting and accessories, as well as a collaboration with Seguso that includes pendants, lamps and vessels.
Rob Copley and Sean Robbins
This reporter stopped by the Studio Van den Akker store on the Upper-East side of Manhattan to browse the collections and talk with the brains behind the operation.
What was your expectation and vision for the line?
Rob Copley: For years, we heard from so many designers and clients of our vintage collection that they loved a piece or a set, but that somehow it didn’t quite work for their projects—for example, they loved a set of chairs, but only eight were available and they needed 10; or that they loved a particular piece but needed something at a different price point. Studio Van den Akker started as a way to bring the Van den Akker aesthetic to a made-to-order collection that would complement the vintage collection.
SR: When we started the collection after having concentrated on vintage furniture for so long, there was a lot to learn but we knew we wanted to focus on two things: bringing back high quality, handcrafted furniture at a reasonable price point and producing it in America. With those goals in mind we set out to create the line, which took about two years before we had the first samples in our showroom. We had no idea what to expect, so we started with eight pieces and decided to gauge our clients’ reaction.
Have your expectations been met? How has the line grown over these two years?
RC: Our expectations have been exceeded far beyond what we could have ever imagined. Right away we heard great feedback from designers and clients, and the collection grew faster than we ever expected—from those original eight pieces, we’ve grown to more than 50.
SR: Given that we had no expectations when we started we have been a bit stunned by the reaction. Our existing vintage clients really embraced the Studio Van den Akker and the collection has helped us connect with so many new clients. Although this started as sort of a side project, we’ve been really excited by the feedback we’ve received and now we dedicate a large portion of our time to growing the collection.
Studio Van Den Akker Club Chair
What are you currently working on for Studio Van den Akker?
RC: By mid-September we will have two new versions of our popular Barnett Arm dining chair—a side dining chair and a counter stool. We’re developing our first collection of lighting including chandeliers, sconces and floor lamps that we expect to present in our showroom by mid-October. And we’re in the process of developing a new collection of cocktail, dining and center tables.
SR: We have also been working closely with a new metal workshop and developing a partnership with a new glass studio. This has really expanded our design capabilities and as a result of these partnerships you will start to see several new tables, lighting and seating designs over the next several months.
You have a unique line of lighting with Seguso. How did that partnership come about?
RC: We met Pierpaulo Seguso when he visited one of our vintage galleries to see a vintage Seguso cocktail table that his grandfather made back in the 1940's. He loved our aesthetic and was especially enthusiastic about our Studio Van den Akker collection. That same day he suggested the possibility of working together, and that’s how "Seguso for Van den Akker" began. It was the first time in Seguso's 600 year history that they co-branded with anyone, and we are extremely excited and proud to be collaborators.
Studio Van Den Akker's Seguso Lighting
SR: We have always been open to, and enjoy, collaborating with workshops, studios and designers that we admire. We had always been huge fans of Seguso and the incredible quality and beauty of their pieces. Rob and I both own several vintage pieces of their work and they are among our favorites. So when a chance encounter led us to meet Pierpaolo, we jumped at the opportunity to collaborate.
Are you working on any other collaborations?
RC and SR: We’re working with a designer in Los Angeles to offer additional lighting and we have begun the process of a creating a line of rugs for a well-known company in the United States.
We have always been open to working with other creative people and there are two other partnerships that we have at the moment. One is with Pipim, a studio in Portugal that we have worked with for years in the vintage world. Last year they began building their own line of furniture and they asked if we would like to collaborate with them on products for the US market. After we saw the incredible quality of their work (pieces as all handmade and each is signed and numbered by the artisan who created it), we were excited to work with them. We now represent them exclusively in North America.
We also work closely with Pamela Sunday, who creates handmade ceramic lighting for our studio line. Pamela is a Brooklyn-based artist with an incredible imagination and exquisite attention to detail. We had been representing her sculptures in our vintage gallery for years and the studio line allowed us the flexibility to create the lighting line with her.
Any new showroom locations in the works?
RC: Yes! By November, the collection will also be shown in San Francisco and by the beginning of 2014 the collection will be shown in Los Angeles.
SR: We will also be expanding into Chicago in the near future, but after that we do not plan on expanding for a while. We are being very careful to not over-grow the collection, to keep our focus on quality and the design.
Studio Van Den Akker Model One Floating Credenza
Being an "on the street" showroom, is your focus to the trade or to the consumer?
RC: Our focus is actually on both. These days the clients of designers, decorators and architects are so much more involved in the process of their projects that even though the large majority of our business is through the trade, we are able to meet clients on a regular basis. Also, by being "on the street" we are able to work directly with retail clients who are not working with someone from the trade.
SR: We really try to be open to working with both the trade and the consumer. Our trade clients love the fact that our product line is flexible in terms of dimensions, finish, etc., but this can be difficult for an end client to navigate. So for that client, we offer design services as well as a selection of Van den Akker leathers and fabrics.
Tell us a little bit about the rebranding/streamlining that you plan to do for the Van den Akker name.
RC: We started out in one location, and as we grew we kept adding new "divisions" with different names to our company. It ended up being far too confusing so we are streamlining. Our vintage collection will now be under the "Van den Akker" name, and our made-to-order collection is under the "Studio Van den Akker" name.
What is your long-term goal for the brand?
RC: Our long-term goal for Studio Van den Akker is to grow the collection to the point that we feel our vision is being fully represented. We would like to have a full range of pieces in every category, enough so that a designer or architect can come in to our showroom and order everything needed to furnish an entire home.
SR: And world domination through furniture, of course!