As San Francisco’s star continues to rise in the art world — a wildly expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opened last year and several blue-chip galleries opened shop nearby — Florian Roeper, the founder of Studio Roeper, known for his handcrafted luxurious furniture, is making his own mark as well. “We mill and source our own lumber — that’s where the process begins at our studio, from potentially a living tree that gets processed into actual slabs of lumber and so on,” says the German-born Roeper. The result is a delicate balance of Art Deco detail — see his Hollywood coffee table in walnut with bronze end caps — with soulful Nakashima-like craftsmanship. When he isn’t holding forth on his reverence for wood, you can find Roeper people watching at Farley’s Coffee Shop (preferably before dinner at Cotogna, his favorite Italian place). The Study caught up with the master craftsman as he prepares for a slate of new projects.
The Design District is home to some of San Francisco’s premier showrooms. What sets yours apart?
The thing that distinguishes us from other showrooms is that we’re all artisan, locally made, handmade furniture. The style is contemporary, like a warm contemporary, because we’re using a lot of wood — we love to use walnut and love to use bronze. Just the material and the colors alone are warm and accessible. And you get a sense that there’s a lot of attention to detail, of course.
Can you give us a couple examples?
The Shadow coffee table really nicely represents what we stand for and the direction we’re taking with our furniture line in that we’re using sustainably sourced slabs from our own sawmill. We’re really letting the beauty of the wood do the talking. We’re not trying to over design it. It’s a relatively quiet and clean piece, but at the same time it’s also very dramatic because of the wood itself and the way that the steel legs relate to the wood. They’re very architectural.
Another is the Burl side table. The strength of that piece is how we’re bringing something that’s really sculptural and cleaning it up to become more usable. It really shows the imperfections of part of a tree, and my challenge — and the joy for me — was to bring in something more uniform and just manmade. I really wanted to make my mark on the piece.
Walk us through the process of creating a piece.
We source logs from all over Northern California — our sawmill is in Walnut Creek, in the East Bay area — and when they get to the sawmill, we have the saws and the equipment to cut them into slabs, which can range anywhere from two feet wide to six feet wide. We can produce quite large slabs.
Many times, a customer will request a coffee table that is a single slab of wood. But before we can bring these to the wood shop and build furniture, we have to see the lumber. When you’re cutting a log, the lumber is wet and green, and it’s unusable because there’s too much water inside. We air dry it, season it for at least three years, and from there it’s ready to process in the wood shop. And then the fun part starts happening for the client as well. They go through our inventory of slabs, and they can handpick which pieces they want for their table. It just makes them feel more connected, A, to the maker of the table and, B, to the table itself. There’s more of a story behind it.
How long does the process usually take?
Typically, one of our coffee tables will take between six and eight weeks. A dining table will take eight to 10 weeks.
Would you ever consider mass-producing your items?
I would maybe be interested in designing something for mass production, but I wouldn’t want to be the person actually fabricating it. I prefer this style of paying attention to every little detail and spending a lot of time with one single piece.
From which artists do you draw inspiration?
Jeff Koons, because I think it’s really magnificent how super-duper well his pieces are crafted. You can tell he just spent probably years collaborating with the craftsmen just trying to nail this one really difficult technique. It’s not something you can do overnight or in a couple of weeks, especially Balloon Dog. I like the way he hides the fact that it was so difficult to make. It’s goofy and fun, but at the same time it has this really deep message about culture.