The Producer. What were you doing before you started Yellow House?
Brandy Wen. I had been producing and production managing commercial shoots.
TP: Were you producing mostly photo or also film?
BW: Mostly film actually. It wears on you a little bit, but it’s always fun, always interesting - keeping you on your toes. Sean actually has had a little bit more experience working in production on photo shoots.
Essentially, while we were both freelancing, we started a hobby of collecting pieces that were interesting to us. We steered towards vintage mid-century modern décor pieces that were not only relevant to design and décor back then, but also compliment with current designers and most importantly, I wanted to have them in my home. For example, items that could go with a Jonathan Adler lamp - pairing something old with something new.
TP: I love hearing how you’ve taken a personal interest and turned it into a professional one. Doing what you love!
BW: Yes, absolutely Exactly, so it became a little bit of a creative outlet and after working 16 to 18 hour days, you’re just so drained - it’s nice to find something to look forward to on our days off.
BW: We did an event in which we were able to use some of our pieces, and a couple of our set designer friends were surprised by what we had and mentioned in passing, “You should totally rent this out and make this a business!” At that point we started thinking, this could really be a feasible business option.
We started looking into spaces and creating the website but then we got really busy doing several travel jobs for a regular client that made us realize we couldn’t focus on [the props] right then, but it also gave us the financial foundation and opportunity to finally go out and be like, “Okay we’re getting our studio space and we’re going to make this happen!”
TP: And having a big travel job enabled you to make the jump?
BW: Yes, we had to make the leap into a real studio space. Originally, we had a small space in Chelsea that we were very fortunate to have in a production company called Muthership. But, it wasn’t long before we outgrew it, between the furniture and needing space for prepping jobs. At that time, we were just renting the props to designers that we worked with regularly, but thanks to word-of-mouth, we began to get calls for items from various other potential renters. Unfortunately, we were traveling so much this past year that we were often unable to accommodate the requests. So as I mentioned, it was at that point - we’d saved up, saw the demand, and were ready to move forward. Once we got back into town, we immediately started looking for a space, adding to the inventory, and pushing to re-launch the website
TP: So do you have a storefront now?
BW: We are in the Greenpoint terminal building in Brooklyn. We’re not on the ground level, but we still get a lot of walk-through traffic. There are galleries, florists, and various artists studios in the building, so it’s a great place for us to be. We’ve had a lot of people walking in thinking we’re a retail store.
TP: Do you have normal business hours that are open to the public?
BW: Right now we are Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, and then we are flexible if there are rentals going in and out.
TP: Do you sell the pieces too?
BW: At this point we are in transition to do so because we have had so many people showing interest, but that will be it’s own division and much of our inventory will be rental only.
We’re really excited because so much is happening right now with Yellow House. In addition to the furniture and prop rentals we are also offering cleared art as well! We’ve got some really great artists that we’ve been working with - we know that’s always a need in production.
TP: Cleared art can be so tricky. In the past I’ve had to hire an artist to create a custom piece, rather than go through the painful process of getting permissions from an artist. So that’s really brilliant.
BW: A lot of the places out there are doing cleared art, but the issue is that everybody uses the same pieces, and people are tired of seeing the same stuff. We want to be able to offer something that’s a little interesting. So that kind of brings us out of the mid century furniture world...
SW: Hence the collective part [of our name]. The collaborations with artists on many levels.
TP: That’s what The Producer is about too - community and collaboration. I love how you’ve taken a personal interest and turned that into a creative outlet to balance out the intensity of production life. It’s hugely important for the work-life balance to have an outside interest or hobby that motivates and inspires you. It mitigates that danger of burnout.
So is it just the two of you running this right now?
BW. We don’t have anyone on-staff just yet, but hire freelancers as the need arises. The hope is that we’ll be set up and running by early next year, so that clients can come in at any point during the day, and I can go back to taking production jobs here and there as well as sourcing more pieces.
TP: So would you go back to production? Because to me it seems like a natural extension would be for you to market yourself as prop and set design.
BW: Right, and we’ve done a little bit of that already, styling several shoots at this point. There are a few directors who I enjoy working with in the production capacity, but in general, the art department is now our main goal.
TP: What would you say are your tools of the trade that you need to do your job?
BW: For us its really more of a personal level, the people that we are working with.
SW: Just good genuine people
BW: Exactly, the people who are taking the pieces we find and putting in the love refinishing them, reupholstering them, whatever the case may be - that’s a real vital component for us. Otherwise, if I were to think of a physical tool it would be wood oil.
SW: Also, a trailer hitch. Since we’ve been going up and down the east coast so much, we finally put a trailer hitch onto our car.
BW: [The trailer] has been pretty important!
SW: There’s a difference between sitting on set for 18 hours on production versus me hauling a trailer, driving 18 hours & loading in to our studio space at 3am. That speaks volumes to me because this is something I’m doing together with my wife and I enjoy doing it.
BW: Yeah, we don’t mind those 23 hour days together!
SW: if we do this in production, why not do this for our own company? And at the end of the day, our reward is a high-five but mostly it is more, “Alright, we did this! it’s 4 in the morning we should go to bed, we have to return this 6x12 trailer by 10.
TP: It’s about working with great people. Bottom line, we’ve all been through the ringer doing jobs because we had to pay the bills, and at the end of the day, now it’s about connecting with individuals, supporting each other and I love that.
BW: Yes, and that’s extremely important for us, the good people out there. It’s not always about the budget. We’re small and flexible enough that we’re able to work with people on all sorts of budgets.
SW: Our core group of support people are our friends - and even some we call family now - they all love what they do and that’s very important to us because you can see the passion that goes into the piece of furniture, the details and just the time that this individual has put in. Reupholstering, refinishing, collaborating, picking out fabrics from coast to coast, getting stuff shipped in, sampling, it’s a lot of effort – most recently driving to Pennsylvania to pick up fabrics from Knoll and asking “Would this look good? What do you guys think?” So, it definitely has taken a lot of our time.
TP: What the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
BW: The biggest thing for us right now is -- Just go for it, if you have something that you really want to do, you’ll figure it out a way to do it.
SW: Yeah, believe in yourself - and never go to bed angry! Do not go to bed angry.
TP: You have both taken a personal free-time interest and have turned it into a very cool business, filling a real need in our industry. I’m really excited that you guys came by today. I’ll be looking forward to seeing your business grow and develop. Thank you so much, Brandy & Sean!