Founder AVENUE ROAD
15. June 2016
At first glance, “colorful” may not be the first word that comes to mind to describe Stephan Weishaupt’s Miami vacation home. But behind its stark white exterior lies a three-bedroom Art Deco haven peppered with hits of well-placed brightness: a 1950s Vladimir Kagan sofa the color of cantaloupe; an assortment of books with sunset-hued spines; an orange USM unit in the gym. All the while, out the window, rich greenery gives way to a sky of deep, bewitching blue. For Stephan, originally from Munich and based in Toronto, the home has become a cherished respite from a fast-paced city life. As the president of Avenue Road, the contemporary furniture company he launched nearly a decade ago, he travels frequently between Toronto and New York City, where the company opened a showroom in 2012. Thankfully, the Florida sun—and his tranquil second home—is just a short plane ride away. Although he’s not there full-time, there are signs of his day-to-day everywhere: favorite furnishings, collected curiosities, souvenirs from his travels. And though it emanates otherworldly elegance, the space is also undeniably down to earth. “The rooms are not too big, which gives the house a certain intimacy,” says Stefan. “When I’m there alone, I never feel lost.”
What first drew you to furniture, and what led you to start Avenue Road?
My parents were very much involved in the art world, so growing up, I always had an affinity for design and the arts. Eventually, I started working for an automotive manufacturer in several different countries before deciding to go out on my own as a freelance consultant. It was then that I developed a friendship with George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, who are very well-known interior designers with a practice in Toronto and New York. We decided to do something together, so we co-founded a little furniture gallery in Toronto that eventually morphed into the company Avenue Road is today. That was about ten years ago.
Since then, how has the business evolved?
We started a showroom in New York that’s now been open for four years. It would be nice to have another two or three down the road. I think we’ve found our niche—our business started fairly broad, but now we’ve found our place in the market. We’re growing step by step.
In your expert opinion, what makes a great piece of furniture?
It’s about uniqueness. It’s about craftsmanship. It’s about the story behind a piece that gives it that additional layer of interest. Whether it’s timeless or not is always hard to tell at first, but if all of the above are carefully considered, any piece has the potential to become timeless.
You’re originally from Munich and spend most of your time in Toronto. What drove you to purchase a vacation home in Miami?
Glenn and George have had a place in Miami for quite some time, and I would go and visit them quite often—so I’m familiar with the city. When I bought the house, I was initially looking for a temporary space to show my furniture collection, but one day my realtor said, “You know, there’s this house going on the market tomorrow. It’s not a commercial space, but you should take a look anyway.” And I fell in love with it. A few weeks later, I owned the property. So coming to Miami was not really planned, per se. But all of a sudden, it just happened.
The space is beautifully styled. How does USM Modular Furniture fit into its design?
I have used USM for a long time—we had it growing up in my family in the ’80s. I like the functionality and durability of it, but also the timeless elegance. This is an Art Deco house, but I never wanted that to be the main feature. Instead, I wanted to incorporate different designs that would complement the Art Deco style. I have USM pieces in my office, and I use one for my shoe closet. My favorite piece is a fun orange unit in the gym for a nice pop of color. I’m showing so many different things in this house: design from the ’50s, contemporary design, little objects from my travels. It’s a mixed bag and I think USM fits perfectly with all of it.
What was your first piece?
When I started Avenue Road, the first shipment I received for the office was my USM units. I got the USM Haller desk, storage units, pedestals—nine or ten in total for me and eight staff members. Then, I kept reconfiguring everything as the team grew. Now we have just over 40 people. We keep reimagining, rearranging, adding different colors.
“I’m showing so many different things in this house: design from the 50s, contemporary design, little objects from my travels. It’s a mixed bag, and I think USM fits perfectly with all of it.”
Furniture aside, what are some of your favorite items in your space?
The acrylic owls are by a Brazilian artist called Abraham Palatnik. I collect them. Every time I go to Brazil, whenever I can find one, I try to bring it home. I hope to grow the collection.
Speaking of travel, you mentioned displaying mementos from abroad in your home. Are you on the road often?
I like to explore new places. Travel is a big part of what I do, for both work and pleasure. It’s not so much about being on a beach, but really experiencing a city and getting inspired. As for displaying objects from my travels—that’s what makes the house feel like home. It’s the mix of my personal items and the act of creating memories in the space—having friends and family over, spending time together.
What makes Miami such a pleasure to return to when you’re not off exploring?
It’s a combination of things. First, I find it very interesting how many different cultures mix and meet in Miami, and the fact that the city has more of a design consciousness than other places in Florida. And I like that it’s very accessible. Coming from New York or Toronto, you can be in Miami in less than three hours. In the winter, especially, that’s a very good thing.
“I like to explore new places...As for displaying objects from my travels—that’s what makes the house feel like home.”
Many thanks to Stephan for a striking glimpse into an exquisite slice of paradise.
This portrait was produced by the international interview magazine Freunde von Freunden. Find more USM furniture for your home and workspace here.