THE LATEST IN A FAMILY LINE OF FINE FURNITURE MAKERS, THIS BUSHWICK ARTISAN MIXES MODERNISM WITH OLD WORLD DETAIL OBSESSIVENESS
BY CHRISTINE SIRACUSA • PHOTOS BY JON GORDON
Angel Naula, owner of and chief designer for his eponymous furniture company in Bushwick, inherited a place in a long line of esteemed Ecuadorian furniture makers. Finishing traditional schooling at 11, he started working by his father’s side learning the ins and outs of crafting custom furniture, a task assisted by frequent trips throughout Ecuador. Over time, the process became not simply work, but passion, and to this day he credits his family as the strongest influence on his design and traces an obsessive attention to detail and old world craftsmanship back to early days in the ancestral workshop.
So why did he leave? “My uncle was in New York and I had an opportunity to go. It’s a dream to go to New York, so of course I answered yes,” said the owner of Naula Workshop.
He landed in Brooklyn. At the time he opened his own shop, rents in the borough were inexpensive, which was key, he explained. Because, though it may not take much space to design custom furniture, he also intended to build it. So, he opened his business on Sudyam Street and got to work.
Naula built his clientele slowly, making custom furniture and relying mainly on word of mouth recommendations. Gradually he began creating his own designs and showing at high end exhibits like the Architectural Digest Home Show and ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair.) But he dismisses the notion of any “lucky breaks.” His business has been built on consistently showing up and doing the work the right way, he said.
A central tenet of Naula Workshop is that every piece is built in the workshop, under close supervision, and Naula himself examines each one at every stage of its completion, ensuring that it will “be functional, and work with the client’s lifestyle and needs.” This uncompromising attention to detail has played a pivotal role in bringing his work to the forefront of an extremely competitive industry.
And the practical decision to headquarter in Brooklyn has recently started paying off in a new way. “Over the years, the area has become more popular, especially Williamsburg and Bushwick. Now people want Brooklyn made products,” Naula said, adding that if he had consulted a crystal ball, he couldn’t have chosen better.
When asked if there is a piece particularly close to his heart, the designer offered: “I have a few favorites. The Plaza Bed and Stiletto Daybed being two of them. The Plaza Bed is one of my first pieces, and I made it because I wanted to create something on a large scale. The Stiletto Daybed is unique; I really like its clean look.”
The bed he’s referring to is a lacquered, modernist take on a classic four poster, with a low, built in shelf on each side that can be used as a nightstand (see last page). The Stiletto, said to be inspired by a woman walking in heels, has gotten quite a bit of love from the press, including profiles in Elle Decor, Luxe Magazine and New Jersey Home and Design.
The owner explained that he can draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. He doesn’t seem married to a particular aesthetic or given to interpreting the world through a static lens. His approach is open, and flexible.
“I’m always trying to make something unique,” he said. “I come up with a concept and then build around that.”
His designs run the gamut from refined minimalism to chic opulence, and push the boundaries of space and scale, perhaps most notably in the Loft Sofa, a sectional that stretches to an astonishing 15.25 feet (“though classically minimal and refined,” a product description reads, “the design challenges conventional ideas of scale and space,” and certainly challenges a typical Brooklyn apartment floor plan).
A warmth also pervades Naula’s pieces, even while function and practicality are clearly in focus. Towards the latter goal, designs often include drawers and shelves for easy, unobtrusive storage.
In addition to his own collections, Naula has production collaborated with interior designers and architects, including Robin Wilson, Jamie Drake, Kelly Behun, Philip Gorrivan, and Mark Zeff. Residential projects include the ecofriendly redesign of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s home (Naula takes pride in the company’s supply sustainability), as well as pieces for Hugh Jackman, Norah Jones, and Rupert Murdoch, while commercial projects range from Columbia Pictures, Mandarin Oriental NY and LaGuardia Airport to celebrated restaurants. His work has also been featured in such notable venues as Esquire SoHo, Pulse Contemporary Art, Maison de Luxe Beverly Hills, and the Hampton Designer Showhouse.
349 Suydam St 3rd & 4th fl