In Royal Oak, Michigan, a furniture studio of designers and fabricators recalls the past to look toward the future. Known as Vogue Furniture, the 1977-established furniture and millwork workshop is set in a newly renovated shop spanning nearly 45,000 square-feet—allotting plenty of room for new, ambitious projects. The calm, clean office space is full of dark wood hues and clean white walls; a setting ready for clients hoping to find anything from a new living room coffee table to a living space transformation.
“You’ll see there are very few examples of our work in [the office],” said Greg Bartelt, founder, owner, and lead designer at Vogue Furniture. “When the client comes in, they have the feeling of quality—quality materials, quality design, clean lines, and so on. We want them to feel comfortable and know that the options are limitless.”
This idea of keeping the design process free of outside influences, even influences from Vogue’s past projects, has been the bedrock of their process since its beginnings more than 40 years ago.
“When you walk into a showroom—say it’s a marble showroom—and there are ten slabs of marble and you immediately fixate on one. You say, ‘Oh my god that’s amazing that’s beautiful I gotta have it,’” Bartelt said.
“Then you walk into the marble yard and they have hundreds or thousands of patterns, but often, that decision is made on the first one you see. That’s the same for any product, when you look at a car, or even a sweater, you tend to fall in love with what’s there. We try to control that,” Bartelt added.
Vogue Furniture, which started as a hobby during junior high for Bartelt, began with building credenzas and entertainment centers in a two-car garage. Word-of-mouth spread and soon Bartelt and the company expanded into furnishing and remodeling spaces for whole neighborhoods.
“We’d do a dining table here, an entertainment center there, a home office here, and so on,” Bartelt said.
Then, Vogue Furniture caught its big break when commissioned to complete millwork for an entire house in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That first large-scale project was completed almost 22 years ago, and Bartelt noted he visited it as recently as early December.
Now the company boasts more than forty uniquely talented employees, held together by both passion for their craft and a design process that’s stood the test of time—giving clients the purest form of their vision as early as possible.
“Opposed to just doing a sketch and selling a job, we had someone that would hand-draw blueprints on any project that was built before anybody was doing that. It was our way of helping clients understand exactly what they were getting,” Bartelt said.
While the company has evolved with the time, adopting AutoCAD and other technologies, its philosophy of tradition, attention to detail, and “one man, one job” remains at the heart of its design process. Vogue Furniture has a holistic approach to futureproofing and sustainability as well. The company has partnered with the SOCCRA recycling center in Troy, Michigan to dispose of any waste the shop creates responsibly.
Bartelt also noted Vogue Furniture focuses on clean lines and the environment the work will go into, rather than designing in a vacuum.
“Our goal is to do work that will stand the test of time,” Bartelt said. “If you’re familiar with fashion, you know how colors go in and out. They do that in everything. They do that in clothing, interior design, and automobiles. You can look at some of our photographs and see woods are redder and know they were done 20 years ago. We find that in order to look ahead, you have to look back.”
Vogue Furniture has developed a robust portfolio throughout the decades, from office and residential spaces to the recently created, two-ton, wine room surrounded by bottles, three-deep. The project tasked the team with creating a movable wall, which was a complicated design element and required a good deal of thought from a safety perspective.
“You go up and turn the bottle and the whole wall moves back on a trolley to expose a stone reserve room,” Bartelt said. “It was a lot to make it all happen, but when you’re in the room you can’t tell the wall moves. There are no telltale signs. Everything was designed around the reveal.”
For Bartelt, his favorite project is the current one, as the team continues to build upon its artistry and tradition of handcraftsmanship for the future.
“It’s funny. We do so many cool things,” Bartelt said. “It’s like anybody else who is creative. What’s your favorite song? It’s the one you just wrote. Your favorite project is the one you’re doing right now.”
Text: Tyler Fleser
Photography: Vogue Furniture