VMP Interview - Jenn Atocha, Atocha Design

On June 25th 2015

[caption id="attachment_142" align="alignnone" width="500"]Jenn Atocha , NYC ; with album: Little Ann - "Deep Shadows". We love the Daptone label and the gentleman from Daptone highly recommended this album.Jenn Atocha , NYC ; with album: Little Ann - "Deep Shadows". We love the Daptone label and the gentleman from Daptone highly recommended this album.[/caption]

VMP: First off thanks for chatting with us, we’re super pumped to be giving away a piece of your beautiful furniture (see here)…it’s been creating a pretty big stir on the internets.

JA: Thanks, that’s so nice to hear! It’s a big deal for us as well-we have never done a give away before but we have gotten such great feedback from your members in the last few months that we felt like it was a perfect fit.

VMP: So your furniture line is designed with the vinyl enthusiast in mind, when did you get into vinyl?

JA: As a child! I have always listened to vinyl and have never downloaded a record-I don’t even know how. When I listen to CDs or someone else’s iPod it sounds really off to me. We have a pretty amazing vintage tube stereo system at home, and hearing music any other way (except live music of course) is only half the fun.

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VMP: What’s your experience been working with and designing furniture for vinyl lovers? They’re kind of a different breed yeah?

JA: Yes, indeed, but they are MY breed so the experience has been fantastic thus far! Unlike other furniture designers, I am starting from a place of having quite a lot in common when a client comes to me. A passionate love of music, and a similar aesthetic are fairly significant things to have in common as it turns out, and I end up becoming friends with many of my clients. The conversation often veers toward taste in music, and we have plenty to talk about. Many of my friends who design more typical furniture never even speak to their clients, especially if they are working with an interior designer or architect. My custom clients tend to want to get very involved with the process because the piece is being made for a collection that they are passionate about. Upon delivery, I often get remarkably thoughtful and joyous emails or phone calls from clients, which I just never take for granted. It makes it all worth it!

Another funny thing about my clients is that some have stored away their vinyl collection ages ago. Often they don’t even have turntables anymore. By chance they come across my work in a magazine or blog, and start thinking about their favorite albums that haven’t been listened to in awhile and miss them. When they see a piece that can be used as a centerpiece in their living room, rather than just a bookshelf tucked away they can visualize a whole new way of relaxing and listening at home. These clients are aways so enthusiastic and fun to get to know as well. It’s so gratifying to help people figure out a way to make music the center of their home, rather than the television. I also like that it makes a statement about who you are, when guests come over. Nowadays so much about a person is stored digitally that homes have become less personal.

Then there are the couples. Once I designed a piece for a couple where he only listened to 45’s and she only collected LPs. I have sold many DJ Stands to couples were one person was going nuts from the messy pile of gear in the living room, and the furniture piece changed the vibe up and everyone was happy. There is obviously something gratifying about getting things organized nicely. But when you can get things looking stylish on top of it, it’s fantastic.

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VMP: What is your creative process like for designing a new piece of furniture?

JA: When I start on a new design, I am always focused on the best design I can come up with for a particular concept. For example, the Record Stand came about because I got a lot of feedback when the Record Cabinet came out that some people really like to SEE their records. Now I get that, but seeing only the spines is such a waste given the incredible effort that goes into the album cover artwork. So I went about designing a piece that not only presented the users’ collection face-first, but with materials and shapes that were strong and sexy. The taper of the legs on that piece totally sets it apart from a bookshelf, which is the alternative way to SEE your collection.

Often I will come up with a concept, and draw until l come up with something I think looks good. Then I go about trying to figure out if it will actually hold the weight of the albums, and be structurally sound. I think that is where my ladies touch comes in. If you are ONLY looking at function, there is much less personality in a design. Focusing on the creative side, and not the cost, has presented difficulties, because I have set my designs into a more expensive category. I only recently learned that many big brands come up with a price point, and then design down or up from there. How crazy is that? But with me, I don’t have shareholders to please, so I do the most killer design I can realize, something that I would absolutely love to have in my own home. That in itself can be tricky, because it’s easy to come up with an idea that can’t be properly executed. Then I work with the best craftsmen and women I can locate, and believe me when I say I look far and wide. At the end of the day, I sleep at night knowing that I’m not putting another piece of crap into the world, and also that by working with the best artisans in America I am helping to keep these people doing what they love and are incredibly talented at. But really at the end of the day, it’s my clients who keep them employed and I am more of a conduit.

I think it goes without saying that using really high quality materials, and sometimes pulling back with my design to let them shine is also a big part of how I work. Little details are important and technology plays a part as well - I take full advantage of high quality, high tech hardware.

VMP: Our mutual friend Elijah Wood has posted a few pictures of your furniture in his home, how was it working with him?

JA: The first piece I worked on with Elijah was a custom cabinet for his treasured collection of 45’s. He collects them in his travels, and many are quite rare I assume. Some people may not realize that bands used to release songs on singles that weren’t available on their albums, and often only a few hundred copies were pressed. In other cases, especially during the Motown / Northern Soul era, amazing groups released singles that never got to the point of putting out an entire LP. One single and then gone. Actually that was the case with a lot of hardcore and indie bands as well as different types of music all over the world. In any case, I love working with people who collect singles because they are fanatical about vinyl on another level altogether!

Working with Elijah is always fun because he is so enthusiastic about his love for music. He is one of the more curious people I have ever met, and we have become friends because (I think) he was weirded out, or perhaps bewildered is a better word, at first that I was so focused on this vinyl niche. He asked a barrage of questions and we found that we had many things in common. But in general he is just like most of my clients-smart, good looking and fun! Ha ha! I really do have the best clients.

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VMP: What’s the future look like for Atocha Design?

JA: At the moment I am in full stress mode prototyping some really challenging new designs. At least they are challenging for me! In March I will debut the new designs at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show here in New York. The big new piece came about from a very different source of inspiration. I went to Miami last year, and spent time staying in and visiting boutique hotels. It dawned on me that design has become, in it’s own way, a source of entertainment like dining out has. People now want to interact with environments and furniture, and those hotel environments are very aspirational for most of us. When I got back to New York I designed a piece that could hopefully fit into that world, and also work as a statement piece in someone’s home. Another new piece will be much smaller, hold fewer albums but also be more affordable. Yet I am keeping the design and materials very elevated, so it still is in keeping with the rest of my collection. I will start posting images of the new designs on social media in March- if you want to check them out follow Atocha Design.

Atocha Design has as much interest overseas now as within the US, and that’s a big accomplishment for a nut who loves to design and listen to music! So the other focus right now is trying to figure out how to get pieces to clients abroad more efficiently. I am looking into distributors and better ways to ship, because the demand is there but it’s tricky to do it well as a small business.

But to answer succinctly, more designs and better availability! Thank you so much for talking with me, I love what you are doing with Vinyl Me, Please!

See more of Jenn’s work at: www.atochadesign.com

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