Exclusive Interview: Sophie Demenge of Oeuf
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In the overwhelming world of kid and baby furniture and accessories, Oeuf stands out as the perfect example of not only the kind of products you want living with your children, but also the type of company you want to support. They offer cribs, toddler beds, changing stations, kid’s attire, fun toys and the peace of mind that you’re buying healthy and safe products for your loved ones, all with a family-focused and common sense approach to design.
Quite the family affair, Oeuf (French for egg) is run by the lovely and French Sophie Demenge, and her equally wonderful and American husband Michael Ryan. They are both held in line by two very discerning quality assurance agents that also happen to be their two young children. Passionate about what they do and serious about producing children’s furniture that is meaningful, healthy and aesthetically-pleasing, we’ve been fans of Oeuf for awhile. We sat down with Sophie to hear about why they started a kid’s furniture company, learn about their design philosophies and be charmed by her delightful French accent.
Our podcast music is “Dropping out of School” by Brad Sucks, licensed for use under
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Listened to the interview and now must own every piece of Oeuf furniture ever made? Fortunately, we happen to sell Oeuf through 2Modern.
Sophie’s interview transcript:
2M: We’re here with Sophie Demenge of Oeuf, a company that not only makes beautiful modern kid’s furniture, but that is also fun to say. Oeuf! Thank you for speaking with us today Sophie!
SD: Thank you, Adrienne.
2M: So why don’t we start with what Oeuf means and how the company got started?
SD: Oeuf means egg in French—I’m French, obviously—and my husband Michael, who has the company with me, is American. It got started when I was pregnant with my first child in 2002. Michael and I are both furniture designers by trade—we had our own factory in Brooklyn—and we just couldn’t find anything that fit our aesthetics, we couldn’t find anything in the quality that we were looking for, and so we decided to make all of our daughter’s furniture and accessories ourselves. And it was a really fun project. And we had great feedback, and we decided to just launch the line.
2M: So did you go to design school? What is your background like?
SD: I did, I went to the Pratt institute in Brooklyn.
2M: What is Oeuf’s design philosophy? Do you guys have a design philosophy?
SD: For us it’s not so much a design philosophy; it’s more a life philosophy. I think the same way you are in business is the same way you are in life. And I think when you have children, your priorities shift, and you really focus on the essential. Quality is very important to us, and also bringing products to the marketplace that make sense, [things that] there aren’t so many of already that we feel it brings an added value.
2M: Yeah I read on your about page that you’re really trying to streamline kid’s furniture, because it seems like when you have kids everything you own triples.
SD: Yeah, I think what they really need is people to spend quality time with them. They don’t really need that much. On the otherhand it’s okay for the parent to splurge and buy things that they really love, and that’s fine—and I certainly do those things—but it’s more about what they really need, and they don’t really need that much, at all.
2M: What’s the creative process for creating designs for Oeuf?
SD: My son, who jumps and hangs—he’s responsible for quality control. We know where to add a screw and a bolt and if it passes [our son’s] test, we can be sure it will pass all the safety standards known to man. And my daughter could just spend hours with a Pantone book putting colors together, yeah they are very involved. They love coming to the office which is a few blocks away from where we live. In fact sometimes I think they…they think it is their company, and we’re just kind of the assistants.
2M: Do a lot of people work for your company, or is it mainly just you and your kids and your husband?
SD: We’re about 10 people, and Michael just started our own factory in Europe, and I think we have about 12 people there. We also have a collection of knits that are made in Bolivia—toys and very simple, basic knit wear that’s all handmade—and we’re very proud to say we have about 200 knitters.
2M: So also very important to Oeuf it seems is creating eco-friendly furniture, or furniture that is going to be very healthy for kids and babies. Can you talk a little bit about that?
SD: Again for us, it’s all about the choices you make, and yeah, for us it’s important where the material comes from, the finishing. That’s why we also chose Latvia, in Eastern Europe, to make our furniture. Because it has a long tradition of craftsmanship, it’s 70% forest, we know exactly where the wood comes from, everything is recycled, all the dust that comes from cutting the wood is recycled into some of those brickettes that is used to heat the factory—it just makes sense. It just resonates with us, with what we think matters.
2M: Yeah that sounds amazing.
SD: Thank you.
2M: So in the design field itself, kid or adult furniture, are there any designers that inspire you guys or get you guys excited?
SD: I have to say we’re so busy with just our daily life—I mean, certainly I love all the classics. We’re huge fans of George Nelson, but it’s more now that we’re completely in the children’s world. We’re really trying to see, and we delight in, seeing the world through their eyes; we really get inspired by just watching them live their lives, more than anything else. How things are perceived, how they are used, the scale, the relationship with the object, and it’s really surprising and endearing. For me it’s certainly the biggest source of inspiration because we really ultimately design for them. I mean, it’s really nice that it’s aesthetically pleasant for the parent, but we want the kid to really interact with it. When we design I think Michael and I often really connect with the kid that is still in us and we try to add, whether it’s in the furniture or in the clothing, some whimsy, some little winks, to really hold on to still being a part of their clan.
2M: Well is there anything difficult about designing furniture for kids? Because that all sounds pretty amazing.
SD: Just to be a good listener. But I think that’s something to put into practice in life in general. But just remembering it’s not only about yourself, to just understand other people, little people in this case, and meet their needs and wants.
2M: What’s coming up for Oeuf the company? What’s on the horizon? What new projects are coming up? What new products are coming out?
SD: Bunk bed. We’re tweaking a bunk bed that’s also kind of a fort, and a bunch of things—that’s sort of evolving. Actually my son is testing it right now in his room. We’re waiting to see the final—there’s no higher standard than that of your own kid, and no tougher critic, also. They are giving it to us pretty bluntly. So we are all ears. So that’s definitely a big one for us. And making it really modular so it can fit small spaces, multi-functional, it has to make sense. My daughter recently requested a desk, so we’re back on the drawing board for that. And certainly bedding, and more home accessories.
2M: Do you think that you and your husband will still be designing kid’s furniture once your kids are grown up? Or do you think that…?
SD: Yeah we’re just sort of taking it one day at a time. We’re still really having fun with it and we have to pinch ourselves that that’s actually what we’re getting to do on a daily basis, because it’s really great to do it together for our own children; it’s truly a family business. So right now we’re enjoying. I don’t know what we’ll be doing in the future. Definitely something in the children’s realm, whether it’s designing or something else. It’s just really inspiring to be around those kinds of people.
2M: Merci beaucoup, Sophie, I really enjoyed it.
SD: Merci beaucoup, Adrienne.
2M: For more information about Sophie Demenge and Oeuf, you can visit oeufnyc.com. You’ve been listening to a 2Modern designer interview. For more fun podcasts, inspiring design posts and design advice, please check out the blog at 2modern.com.
If you’d like to download this great interview so you can listen to it on an iPod or something (you fancy, technology-minded genius, you), here it is available right here:
Sophie Demenge 2Modern Interview