Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Furniture Designer

I met Raymond Arias in the early 90's at a Hollywood Flea Market. He was selling religious shrines he'd built from wood and glass incorporating images of angels, saints, the Virgin Mary and other Catholic icons. His work was compelling and I immediately bought a few pieces for my home. Soon, I began seeing these small shrines everywhere. At parties, at restaurants, on tv shows, in hotel lounges. Ray's creations garnered an enthusiastic following and in 1995, Ray and his lovely wife Michelle opened the retail store Furthur in Silverlake. The store was named after Ken Kesey's psychedelic school bus and soon Furthur became a "Best of Los Angeles" pick in numerous local magazines. Ray's goal with Furthur was to present an antidote to cheesy Ikea-grade "assemble it yourself" goods and instead offer high-quality, affordably-priced furniture to local residents. Ray began creating gorgeous Spanish style mosaic tables, handcrafted wrought-iron chairs and cast-iron beds with mosaic tile headboards. His designs were wholly original and the furniture was crafted in a local Los Angeles warehouse. Soon, Ray and Michelle began importing cabinets from Indonesia, drapery from India and candle lanterns from Morocco. Furthur became a Willy Wonka Factory for adults with all manner of colorful and exotic goods in lieu of chocolate. For years friends have told Ray "you need to raise your prices, you should go after the Beverly Hills crowd." Ray kept his equanimity. He never forgot his aim to make sure people in mid-range economic brackets could have access to beautiful things just like rich people. He's hoping that one day he can again return to creating his delicate religious shrines. (5" x 7", black ink print)

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