A few months ago, husband-and-wife team Adam and Sofia Zimmerman decided to take their architecture practice, Zimmerman Workshop, to the next level by launching OT/TRA, a furniture line named after their two children, Otto and Petra. The collection applies the same fun-loving, carefree spirit the little ones bring to their lives.
“I’m always up for something new to play with,” Adam said. “I’m a tinkerer at heart and love to work on any type of new project that might come along.”
That something new came about with OT/TRA, which the Zimmerman Workshop presented this past May at several industry shows, including ICFF and BKLYN DESIGNS.
“After these last few months, especially following the trade shows we’ve done, I’ve found I have a new respect for people that take a risk, play big, and show whatever they’ve created, whether it’s a book they’ve written, a performance, or the invention they’ve finally brought to market,” Sofia explained. “This is a process full of ups and downs, but it’s essential to believe in our product and take nothing personally.”
Adam is the design head and principal in charge of all projects, while Sofia, his wife of eight years, leads the interiors practice and all business development endeavors such as marketing, sales, and branding.
Below, i+s has laid out the story of how one Zimmerman business emerged from the other, and the synergy that has developed between them.
Zimmerman Workshop is Born
Zimmerman Workshop—a boutique design firm always looking for its next challenge—opened in May 2011. “Whether it’s a park bench or a bus stop, as long as it excites us, we’ll do it,” Adam noted. Its signature is the use of raw materials applied in a clean and refined way, which is illustrated in the two projects above: St. Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ontario, Canada, and the Weitzner Limited studio in New York City. “We say we’re contemporary or modernists, but we deliberately try to add warmth and texture to spaces because modernism can often have a cold side,” he added. Today, the Workshop occupies two suites in the same building in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood; one is dedicated to the architecture practice and the other operates as a woodshop.
The Conference Table that Started it All
Zimmerman Workshop was no stranger to both custom millwork and furniture for various projects. A kitchen island developed for a residential project many years ago eventually served as the inspiration for a conference table for its own offices. “Everybody kept coming in for meetings and asking where we bought it, so that got us excited and we decided to explore it,” Adam said. The first OT/TRA collection evolved from that table, developing slowly over the course of a year into the coffee table and bench, followed by the seating options. The Zimmermans applied to the line their knowledge as specifiers, drawing upon past shopping frustrations of not being able to find exact pieces they needed. In addition, they made sure their style was properly translated from one type of furniture piece to the next.
A Solid Commitment
For this first line, the Zimmermans invested in creating an all-wood offering with no laminates, other fillers, or liners, utilizing locally sourced walnut, ash, and oak. The conference table is the signature piece of the collection, which includes a lounge, side table, round stool, two coffee tables, bar stool, bench, and chair, with more in the works. “It’s a line very conducive to a little stretching and pulling, and then all of a sudden you have a new piece,” Adam said.
The Freedom of Full Integration
All of the OT/TRA products are completely produced in-house in the woodshop. This fabrication arm of the business has proven to be a significant advantage, allowing it to take its offerings to the next level of quality control. Not to mention, it offers endless possibilities for customization (which goes for Zimmerman Workshop projects as well). But as the businesses have grown, the Zimmermans are now in need of more space.
The Big Debut
The Zimmermans went through another interesting transition as exhibitors during NYCxDesign in May (their BKLYN DESIGNS booth featured above), rather than playing their typical roles as buyers/attendees. “It was eye-opening for us,” Adam admitted, but a great start. The second OT/TRA collection is in the works, and Adam revealed they might play with a different material next time around. “If we develop something that people like and want to buy, then [that is] fantastic,” he concluded. “If not, as long as we’re having fun with it, then that’s the whole point.”
Photography courtesy of Zimmerman Workshop unless otherwise noted.