There’s a duality to furniture made by Florian Roeper, a quality of warm/cool, sensuous/ cerebral, organic/industrial. “My work is about bringing together different materials, trying to make them fuse and work together,” he says of his pieces, which combine wood and metal with scorched and etched finishes. “Maybe that’s a metaphor for me.”
The son of a German father and an Italian mother, Roeper, 32, grew up traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Europe, attending elementary school in the San Francisco Bay Area and high school in Germany before earning a degree in furniture design and sculpture from the California College of the Arts in 2003. Following an apprenticeship with the master door maker Al Garvey, he launched Studio Roeper in Oakland.
“My life feels kind of split in two,” he says. “Sometimes when I’m in one country I’m viewing it from the perspective of the other. Here in the States, I identify as German, and when visiting Europe I put on my American lens.” He takes pride in German traditions of good design and solid craftsmanship, of things built to last. At the same time, he loves California’s natural beauty and freewheeling, creative vibe.
Divided Lands II, his new line of coffee tables, embodies this hybrid sensibility. Its sturdy structure—a composition of bold, modern lines in charred white oak—effortlessly complements a dramatic etched-metal tabletop that suggests the stormy skies and molten depths of some faraway land, with graphic elements arranged in the random geometry of a map. In fact, Roeper is directly inspired by topography, “large views of things, as if from an airplane. I like how all the texture on the ground becomes flat, just design.”
Roeper’s sensitive combinations of various hardwoods (all salvaged locally) and metals offer customers a rich range of tones and flavors: oak with brass is earthy and elemental; substitute zinc, and the result is lunar, futuristic. “One thing that’s always different is the patina,” he says. “The etching always gives you something new.” It’s that counterpoint and balance—thoughtful design, construction and detailing combined with the unpredictable surface effects of fire and acid—that invigorate Roeper’s pieces, which are all fully functional.
While his smaller tables tend to be sculptural and experimental, he prefers to “hold back” in his designs for dining, which are simpler in appearance yet still ingenious. His San Andreas table has a metal “fault line” running lengthwise down the middle that acts as a surface for a wine bottle, candle or serving dish, but also drops down on either end to form pedestals. “I’m not a huge fan of just inlay,” Roeper says of his use of metal components. “I want it to feel like it belongs to the structure and the form.”
In his approach to his business, Roeper has likewise achieved a certain harmony and balance. He’s able to express himself as an artist but enjoys collaborating with interior designers and architects, and customizing his designs for the people who will live with them. “I like when a client will browse around, pick different ingredients and then challenge me.”