You graduated from restoration but are focused on the 1920s and 30s with your project Retrohome. What attracted you to this period?
The period of the 20s and 30s interested me mainly for its timelessness – for the shapes and materials used. During functionalism, designers attempted to emphasise the function of the furniture and to disencumber it from any embellishment, laths, and everything unnecessary that would be a burden when used every day. In the end, they managed to make furniture that is easily maintainable even after 80 years, and fits modern interiors as well as contemporary design products.
What is the renovation process like? What resources do you use to learn about the original appearance of the furniture?
Regarding renovation of wood, I act as its manufacturers did in the beginning. I give modern varnish a wide berth and I use only old time-proven methods, which are natural for wooden surfaces, are easily removable in the future and give wood the prettiest look (for instance shellac varnish and beeswax). In regards to upholstery, renovation is again based on old technologies that were perfect at the time, so there’s no need to change them. Contrarily, today most of the craftsmen don’t want to use them because they are very time-consuming and physically demanding. For fabrics I choose specialised companies that focus on patterns from the period.
Do your clients want you to bring the furniture into its original state or do they let you use your imagination?
It’s about half and half. There are customers who know exactly what they want, spend their time to get inspiration from various period photographs and then come to me with a vision that they consult with me, a specialist, and ask whether their vision is attainable or whether it will need a couple of adjustments. Then there are customers who have a certain piece at home after their parents or grandparents and let me design a variant (for renovation and visual aspects). This is, of course, after questioning them about what they like and what their home looks like.
What is your typical customer like? And their apartments?
I don’t think I have a typical customer. I’m always surprised by who addresses me. One of my customers is, for example, a 20-year-old man who wanted to buy a nice historical lamp of a high quality for reading, or it can be an older woman who has a couch from her childhood and wants to energise it because of her grandchildren. The same diversity goes for interiors where the furniture belongs. But personally I have to say that this furniture works best in old brick reconstructed flats or villas, with wooden floors and big windows that brighten up the spaces. The ideal place is Villa Tugendhat :)
How is your flat furnished?
I am still waiting for my dream house and if I get it one day, I will definitely get a couple of solitaires from this period. For now, I have a little bit of a mix from different periods but believe me; you won’t find a lot of new things without history at my place. Collecting and love for old things is almost like a disease of mine, that I am slowly recovering from. It’s best that I don’t look at containers on streets so I don’t drag anything home with me again.
Do you renovate any furniture that you stock so that customers can come to your workshop and have a look at it, or do you make everything to order?
I mainly focus on products and renovation for orders and this takes me more time. Nevertheless, I try at least once a month to put something new for sale on my website, according to my taste, and I believe it will only get better in the future.
(Tomáš Grund, owner of Retrohome)
The shop and studio Qubus has been located at Rámová 3 since 2002. Recently, you started to collaborate with the brand Křehký. What is it that you expect from this new concept?
We had been available at this address for more than ten years before trying a concept of a shop and a gallery together with our colleagues from Denim Heads, a brand that specializes in very authentic type of clothing, especially Japanese denim. The fusion of traditional crafts seemed in tune, but Křehký is closer to what we do and the union of the two brands at one address seems logical. In addition, the two brands share some products and authors and moreover, our understanding of design, or art design if you will, is very similar. This explains why this place has such a high concentration of objects that you would not be able to find anywhere else.
The Qubus brand presents mostly your and Maxim Velčovský’s work. How do you go about cooperating with other Czech designers who contribute to this brand?
We are not an agency, that is, we don’t represent authors. We’re mainly a studio, which has its own production. The pillars of the collection are my and Maxim’s objects mainly from glass and porcelain, the traditional Czech media. However, we’re not opposed to different design, such as that of Antonín Tomášek or Milan Pekař, who are included in our collection. The objects we choose for our collection are those that go hand in hand with the idea that Qubus promotes. They should have a story behind them and overlap into other disciplines.
Qubus and Křehký both specialize in porcelain and glass design. The craft of glass has had a long tradition in the Czech Republic. Are you trying to develop the traditional manual techniques or choose to go an entirely different way?
Glass has been experiencing a period of rebirth nowadays, and it is starting to be made again and becoming more prominent as used to be the tradition in our country. I’m not really a glassmaker so I approach glass making with quite a bit of respect, but at the same time I try to change the process somehow and move it forward.
Do you consider your authorial products as applied design?
On the contrary. I won’t be chained by function when it comes to free design, they are mostly objects with no practical use.
Studio Qubus also offers services in interior design. Which architects do you collaborate with? And what is the style of your own place?
It’s not exactly our domain, but we’re not opposed to new challenges. We choose projects that are more specific and which allow us to apply our approach. And my own place? I like things from my ancestors, or those I purchase from my friends or in a bazaar. So if I had to name it, I guess the style would be termix.
You’ve also been the art director of DOX by Qubus shop in the Centre for Contemporary Art in Holešovice. Apart from this one, which other shops or galleries in Prague would you recommend to visit?
Apart from DOX, my favourite gallery is Rudolfinum, that is from the larger ones. There is a number of smaller new galleries that are of a high quality, such as Drdova Gallery and Nevan Kontempo. I wouldn’t want to leave out some other good ones, though. Some of the shops would be Praguekabinet, Kvalitář, Kurátor and many more. I don’t go shopping much so my list may not be up-to-date.
(Jakub Berdych, co-owner of Qubus + Křehký)