After spending several decades at the heart of Washington, D.C.'s design scene, Skip Sroka of Skip Sroka - SBrand has learned what makes a product both practical and beautiful. In the latest installment of our Studio Visit series, Sroka explains the stories behind his inventive, multifunctional pieces like the Corey Chair and Stacker Bookcase.
Q: You started out as an interior designer, but you also have your own product line now. Why did you start creating products?
A: While I have been practicing interior design for 30 years, I first studied fine arts and then industrial design. My love for interiors later took me to interior design. I now create custom pieces as well, like a round, contemporary dining table that expands to seat sixteen people. In my opinion, furniture should help your lifestyle. Looking at all the trendy furniture out there, I would rather infuse practicality, service, and integral beauty into my pieces.
Q: In the Corey chair, the legs and textured upholstery reference your dog, who is also named Corey. How did you come up with that idea?
A: There were two influences for the design of the Corey chair—Egyptian furnishings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a table at a flea market in Paris. After looking at the furniture collection at the Metropolitan Museum, I was fascinated by an Egyptian reproduction bowl that had feet at the gift shop. I bought the bowl to hold paper clips on my desk. Years later, I was at the Marché aux Puces in Paris and photographed a small table with legs that reminded me of a dog’s hind legs. I wanted to design a chair from these observations since there isn’t something like that on the market. I wanted something whimsical but intriguing, and really not connected to any period. Corey was my favorite dog, so I used her as the model for the legs. She is no longer with us.
Q: Your Stacker bookcase includes rearrangeable shelves and a filing drawer. Why did you include those two features?
A: We live in a “paperless” world, but I always seem to have papers, so I wanted a place to hide them. Because nobody’s storage and display needs are the same, I wanted a flexible, modular system that you could incorporate into your lifestyle. In my house the stacker bookcases flank the sofa and create a nook, but you can order them to work for how you live.
Q: What are some other ways you incorporate multiple functions into your products and designs?
A: I think multifunction is the way of the future. Many condos and apartments have smaller spaces, so furnishings should have more than one purpose. I’m currently moving from a larger home into an apartment, and I’m using my Dunmore cabinet/desk as my desk in the guest room. I love that when company comes, I can close the top and go back to that project after they leave.
Q: How has the local design scene in Washington, D.C. influenced your work?
A: Washington is a gracious and educated city. There are many wonderful designers here that I truly appreciate, and I have always found the local design community welcoming and sharing. I think Washington designers are not as likely to be as trendy as some other locales.
Q: You started working more than three decades ago. How has the design industry changed in that time, and how has your work evolved?
A: Everything evolves; life has never been an unchanging situation. Of course, technology has brought us new tools. I’ve been computer-organized for over 27 years, and I’ve embraced integrating technology into homes for decades. Sadly I think we are working with a shrinking pool of craftsmen to execute our work. I’d like to encourage more-high level artisans and fabricators into this field.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your vast design experience?
A: Truly listen and walk clients through your process so that the experience is a dance to the same music.
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