On Saturday, May 19, Dering Hall joined with Desiron to celebrate the launch of Desiron Workshop, an innovative way for designers to take advantage of the company’s unique manufacturing capabilities.
Desiron Workshop represents the lastest vision from Desiron’s founder Frank Carfaro, who says, “We’ve always done customization work for clients but Desiron Workshop takes that to another level.”
The concept behind Desiron Workshop is simple: It encourages designers to conceptualize and create custom furniture collections, which are then manufactured by Desiron, just 19 miles outside of New York City. Carfaro explains, “We partner with the designer to create a private label line that they can source over and over again in their various projects. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to have designers come with their creative ideas and be able to match them with our quality handiwork and finishes to create completely original work, outside of the Desiron line.”
To highlight the depth and range of Desiron Workshop’s capabilities, Desiron recently asked Laura Bohn, Tim Button of Stedila Design, and Alan Tanksley to create small capsule collections. These pieces were unveiled on Saturday and are now featured on Desiron Workshop’s Dering Hall storefront.
“Tremendous thanks and appreciation must go to Laura, Tim, and Alan for collaborating with us on the launch of Desiron Workshop” says Vicki Glotzer, National Accounts & Design Director for Desiron. “Their striking designs allow us to showcase our wide variety of production capabilities. We are proud to be part of Dering Hall’s well-curated and talented design community, and look forward to developing collaborative relationships with other exciting designers.”
Frank Carfaro launched Desiron 15 years ago with a handful of handmade one-off pieces, many of them sporting curly ironwork and ceramic tops—a far cry from the sleek and modern furnishings the company is known for today. “I look back on those initial pieces and am so proud of how far we’ve come,” says Carfaro. “I started with just a couple pieces and one employee and now we’ve got nearly 200 items and a 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility filled with 50-plus craftsmen.” (However he still treasures, from the early days, a photo of the rapper Nas posing with a pair of overscaled Gothic candlesticks Carfaro custom-made for one of his music videos).
Desiron was conceived around a vision of creating handcrafted, high-quality, American-made furniture, built in a socially conscious and sustainable way. Carfaro and his team continue to deliver and continually expand on that vision.
Read on for more about Desiron Workshop, why it’s important to manufacture locally, and how a well-placed wall-mounted sea paddle can transform a room.
Q: Tell me more about how you work with designers to create capsule collections through Desiron Workshop.
A: We begin with designers’ sketches and inspiration, moving them over to custom line drawings and CAD files that we create internally for them. After all the finishes and drawings are finalized, we begin production on the items, handcrafting each piece in our New Jersey factory with a ten to twelve-week lead time.
Q: Can you call out some of your favorite Desiron Workshop pieces?
A: The way Alan, Tim, and Laura used Desiron Workshop capabilities are simply stunning to me, there’s no way I could pick my favorites. It’s so refreshing to be able to actually see what an interior designer can do when given the opportunity to have manufacturing at their fingertips. On the other hand, these pieces and ideas also cause us to stretch our capabilities as a manufacturer, expanding processes, and techniques that we otherwise wouldn’t have explored. It has completely overwhelmed my vision for what Desiron Workshop could be, and I’m delighted.
Q: What inspired you to start Desiron?
A: My grandfather was an ironsmith in Turino, Italy, so I’ve always had it in my blood. In 1997, I was working on Wall Street and needed a creative outlet desperately in the midst of the corporate hustle. So to quell my creative thirst, I made a piece of furniture and took it up to the Columbus Circle greenmarket. I just happened to sell the piece within a few hours. The next time, I took a couple more pieces, and those sold, too. Soon after, I had the idea to just bring samples of the furniture along with my sketchpad and to start taking custom orders from people. Interestingly enough, this is the same general model that forms the backbone of our business today, 15 years later.
Desiron Factory - Kenilworth, NJ
Q: Today, all your products are manufactured in your 30,000-square-foot factory in New Jersey, just 19 miles away from your Soho showroom. Is manufacturing locally important to you, and if so, why?
A: Local manufacturing is the crux of our business. We want to support our local community with jobs and make sure that we know exactly how our furniture is being made, and by who. We want to ensure that our materials and processes are socially conscious and that the people who handcraft our product are taken care of. Also, it’s so important to be in close proximity to the end product. I get the opportunity to see each piece, to go through the stages of building, and to look at the furniture before it leaves our factory. To be able to watch the process and make improvements on the fly is an amazing opportunity—and a very big part of why we locally manufacture. It’s the key to quality, and there’s nothing I like more than spending half of my week immersed in what we are doing on a very practical level.
Q: Tell me about the artisans who work in your factory—what are some of their specialties?
A: In our Kenilworth facility, we are blessed to have about 50 local craftsmen who are highly skilled in woodworking, upholstery, and metalwork. The head of our metal division, Jose, was actually my first employee back in the late 90′s, and he’s been by my side ever since. Most of our team members are from the Kenilworth area and have become like a family. The only time things get strained is at our annual Desiron soccer tournament—they’re pretty competitive when it comes to that!
Q: How has customization shaped your business?
A: Our made-to-order process was our saving grace these past few years. It carried us through the recession, during which, sadly, we watched a lot of our peers have to close their doors. We realized that if a client was going to invest in a piece of luxury furniture, it better be made especially for them, to their exact specifications. Our clients and designers want to put their individual point of view into the final product, so we work as a team to customize finishes, dimensions, and work out tricky technical difficulties that can arise with particularly complicated spaces.
Q: How do you define “good design”? A: Good design is relative. For me, good design has integrity in the way something is made, the way it transforms a space in an unassuming way, and how it feels like an extension of one’s personal style. Good design whispers to intrigue, rather than yells to convince.
Q: You are clearly an avid traveler—the bio on your company’s website cites “sailing the Figawi, racing cars at the Laguna Seca racetrack, spear fishing in Block Island” as some of your recent adventures. How does travel inspire or inform your work?
A: Being outdoors adventuring always inspires and informs my design but more so it allows me to relax, clear my head, and come back to the drawing board ready to brainstorm our next big project.
Q: For a client who loves your pieces but isn’t sure how best to work them into their interior, can you offer some suggestions for specific pieces in your collection that look really great together? A: When we’re designing, we want a client to be able to come into our showroom, pick out an entire house-full of furniture and utilize our multitude of finish options and fabric choices, to make it completely their own. I’ve seen the same Desiron piece go from sleek and modern to feminine and transitional. So really, any of our pieces when combined, can be suited for an individual’s particular style sensibility. In my own home, I tend to combine Desiron pieces, Desiron Workshop pieces, and then a large vintage offering to create my own Greenwich Village haven. And then I, of course, add in a lot of sports gear and adventure memorabilia to give it my own personal flair. But I understand a wall-mounted sea paddle isn’t for everyone.