Ana Strumpf

Ana Strumpf

Illustrator & Designer

4. April 2016

São Paolo

In Ana Strumpf’s spacious apartment in a vibrant Sao Paulo neighborhood, there is more than enough room to fit a range of styles. The startling yet unified whole, borne of the mix of diverse aesthetics, is what pleases the illustrator, interior and product designer Ana the most. Inside her home, Ana welcomes all kinds of furniture. From the chair she herself designed with old pieces of fabric to her USM cabinet, the maxim in her place – and her life – is versatility.

Ana and her husband lived for a time in New York, where Ana also gave birth to their twin boys, Max and Noah.

Ana, your work is comparable to Pop Art in the way that you appropriate found objects to give them a new existence. Why are your pieces so upbeat and playful?

The idea to recreate, revisit, recompose is a principle that has permeated all my work for a long time. Since the time I owned my store, I started recycling vintage fabric from my parents’ fabric company and repurposing them as bags, cushions and furniture-upholstery.

Now I do it in the form of manual interventions on fashion magazine covers. I’m not trying to make a beautiful cover on top of one that is already visually pleasing. Retaining a certain distance from the original cover idea was a measure that I found respectful. Yes, it’s playful, colorful...I guess that is the only way I know how to do it. I didn’t overthink it.

You mentioned before that you like Matisse. In what way does he influence you?

My parents introduced me to a lot of art since I was very little. Matisse has always been my mother’s favorite. My mom has a huge influence on my style, sometimes we work together, especially on interior design projects. Matisse is my favorite of the great painters. And yes, it’s because of the colors, the bold patterns, and the proportions. He’s definitely a reference that keeps on returning every once in a while in my work, either in interiors or illustration.

Ana likes it colorful, but for her, the USM sideboard is best in black.

“Our black USM sideboard is one of my most serious pieces of furniture but, at the same time, it represents absolute versatility. For me it’s not a no-go to match it with a Peruvian rug.”

Speaking of bold patterns and colors, let’s talk about your apartment. You seem to like contrasts.

I love creating contrasts: mixing the vintage with the brand new, the romantic with the industrial, the pop with the classic, the minimal with the bold. I find houses that are entirely decorated in the same style quite boring.

I think USM’s sleekness is great for creating contrasts and, in general, it’s a company whose concept I admire, as much as its design. For our USM Sideboard, I wondered which color I should get – red, yellow? I decided to go for the black one after all. I have some very rustic pieces of furniture that I made myself among many other things and, since I already had so many colors in my apartment, it made sense to go for a neutral.

How do you choose your furniture?

Everything that I own has history and remind me of my travels. I’ll always associate our black USM sideboard with New York. I love my life in Brazil, but I’d go back to New York in a heartbeat. In my four years there I learned so much.

I’m a city person through and through. On weekends I try to go to my family’s ranch in the countryside to recharge. New York forced me to built up my career by myself and develop new friendships. Even my two children were born in New York – I will always have a very special connection to the city.

I got the sideboard at a very special moment of my life in New York. I bought it there before coming back to Sao Paulo and it went from the store straight to the container to be shipped to Brazil! It reminds me of this farewell moment.

How did you know about USM?

I knew USM furniture from fancy New York lofts and offices where it always looked so chic. But I also like to bring this kind of furniture to different spaces, since it is very versatile. You can buy them in many different colors and they fit to any room. Our black USM sideboard is one of my most serious pieces of furniture but, at the same time, it represents absolute versatility. I’ve combined it with a Peruvian rug, which creates a wonderful mix of sleek and folk.

What do you store in your USM?

My husband, Dennison Ramalho, is a film director. He is a director and filmmaker. His area of interest is horror movies, so most of the DVDs we have are his and we store them in the USM sideboard. Did you notice the yellow wall on the hallway? It’s full of horror movie posters, including his own movies. It’s not my favorite genre, as you can imagine…but as you notice by now, I’m very eclectic. My husband is another example of me mixing contrasts in my life, a very good one by the way.

My twins Max and Noah just love the USM sideboard, they are always trying to climb the furniture. They like to see their reflections on the metal, and to turn on and off all the TV gear on top of it. In the beginning I was afraid they were going to ruin the furniture, but now I don’t care anymore. It’s supposed to last for a long long time, right?

You mentioned that USM is very popular among New York’s art and design community. How about Sao Paolo?

In New York people know how to put it in the spotlight in a very relaxed way. Recently, I bought some great USM pieces for a client in Brazil: We got a huge yellow lowboard for her apartment – it works wonderfully in her place. And it gets a lot of attention from her visitors.

What changed for you professionally in New York?

In 2010, my husband got a scholarship for a Master’s degree in film studies at the Columbia University and I went with him. That’s when I started working on interior design on a more professional level. People knew I was living there, Brazilians were buying and renting real estate in New York, and people started looking for me. In the beginning, I told myself that I was not an interior designer. In Sao Paolo I owned a fashion and design store – but interior design had been so present in my life that I kept going and it worked well, so I continued with it in Brazil.

Ana has an aesthetic eye on all things: what begin as scribbles on a magazine cover could as easily be shown in a friend’s gallery.

How does the cultural scene in New York differ from Sao Paolo?

They are both very culturally rich. In New York people are more professional and organized while in Sao Paolo many things just develop on the spur of the moment. Experiencing both approaches has been very important to me.

For example, here in Brazil infrastructure is really lacking. Traffic is hellish and public transport leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes I feel very limited because of that. In that respect, I felt like I had more freedom in New York. I miss the relaxed mood on the streets, the people, the illuminated windows.

Where do you find inspiration nowadays?

There is no rule. Sometimes inspiration comes out of nowhere. My multitasking side is always switched on. So no matter what time of the day it is, I can be doing anything that will suddenly inspire me. Just working on a project recently, I was struggling to find a new approach for three days. One night, while I was tucking my kids into bed, I came up with the idea I was looking for, all of a sudden. It is just like that sometimes.

“I’m a city person through and through. I learned a whole new kind of freedom in New York.”

Thank you, Ana, for the pleasant conversation in your very unique home!

This portrait was produced by the international interview magazine Freunde von Freunden. There you can discover more about Ana’s life and creative work in New York and Sao Paulo.

Find more USM furniture for your home and workspace here.