Mark Sage

It truly is a pleasure to see an old friend and colleague do so well in the world of antiques and now in the realm of  “big time” design.  I have been standing in line and drooling and fighting for “intriguing objects” from Mark Sage (seated on the right ) for 10 years. Now, he has been named as one of the new furniture designers for Restoration Hardware.

My design aesthetic of “Intriguing Artifacts become Modern Art”, led me to his side- where I have stayed close all of these years. Some of my favorite treasures from Mark include the iconic Brick Makers table (purchased 5+ years ago in several different sizes), a driftwood coffee table (that I will never give up), a single fabulous antique mercury glass candlestick, a pair of bleached and worn Swedish cross country skis, a family of woven Swedish birch backpacks with the owners initials lying carved within and a gorgeous teak organic and free spirited bench and pair of chairs that I have since sold at an antiques show at the NY Armory.  That was one lucky client!

One of my Design Assistants, Lisa, caught up with my antique world pal and  asked him some of my most burning questions about  his world travels, inspiration and what’s ahead for the new Restoration Hardware lifestyle  and design line.

LK: You and Julia both share a love for antiques… When did you first fall in love?

MS: I began working in an unrelated job in France… I was selling cosmetics and shampoos and putting up franchises in Russia and Europe. In every small town in France, there would typically be a flea market and that’s how I got my kicks. I’m in love with the vibe. You grab yourself a sausage sandwich, a cup of coffee and look at trinkets for hours on end. I personally get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It’s not necessarily the things, it’s the vibe. You’re outside, looking for treasures with a mix of diverse people… different intellects, different backgrounds…

LK: Are you still hands on with your antiques biz?

MS: We are! We still do about 50 containers per year of antiques… most come from France, Belgium, Argentina and Sweden. I started the BoBo business five yrs ago and I still use the antique business as a springboard; the designers as a focus group. In every container there are always two or three pieces that people are practically in fist fights for. They’re not always the pieces I’d assume either! Everything we make at BoBo is based on bringing an antique to the 20th Century.

LK: What city in your world travels inspires you the most?

MS: That’s a difficult question… a little bit like asking someone what their favorite song is. It depends on who you’re with… what time of year it is… We started in Belgium… We’re still in Belgium… it’s kind of where our hearts beat, so to speak… Also excited about Argentina… there’s an energy there, wit h the Latin American people… You can find a lot of interesting things in Argentina that are reproducible. India too… India’s beautiful and devastating at the same time. That juxtapose is interesting to me. The wood is horrible in India… Mango, Elm, Teak… We take the extra step, source the wood in Europe and ship it to these factories for production… We marry the good materials with the skilled craftsmen and our own design.

LK: What are the next big trends in the European market telling you?

MS: Well, I might be a bit different in that I try not to follow trends. Every time one of these designers tells me “I need a silver leaf mirror” or whatever that trend may be, by the time you start to look for it, it’s finished. I just kind of buy and make what I like whether it’s a trend or not. I think that the people who try to predict and follow trends, those are the types of people that get themselves into trouble.

LK: What great, intriguing object have you sold and now regret?

MS: Tons of them! I really do think if I could buy everything back that I’ve sold I would. I’ve brought things back for myself personally that I didn’t want to sell and a designer would see it. I once brought back a huge mercury lens from a lighthouse and I didn’t want to sell it. A designer said “give me the price”. I gave him a crazy, outrageous price and without hesitation he said “I’ll take it”. As an antique dealer you can’t get too attached to the things you find. It’s in your blood. You’re a gypsy. When I sell something, I already have something new in my mind that I want to buy. There’s no shortage of cool things, at least in my world.

LK: You craft new objects with old, rustic materials, ultimately recreating timeless, rare finds. What was your first or favorite handcrafted creation?

We started the BoBo line four and a half years ago with 17 products. We’re now up to 228. Of those 17 products, I think probably 7 are still in the line and the one still with pixie dust on it is the Brick Maker’s coffee table. It’s one of our original products and one of the most iconic. It certainly has been ripped off by about everyone but it’s difficult to truly rip that product off. The boards are from Belgium. It starts with that old piece of wood. It’s just a great product.

LK: Speaking of your Brick Maker’s Table, had you any idea your table would get such a huge response when you suggested the contest concept to Velvet and Linen’s Brooke Giannetti?

MS: It’s crazy. It was a record day for hits, she had 12,000 hits that day. When I ran that idea past her, it wasn’t that I was nervous, but I thought “What if only 5 people enter this contest?”. I really could not imagine that there would be so many people taking the time to write paragraphs about why they wanted that coffee table and what that coffee table would mean to them. I never expected that.

LK: How are you enjoying your new Restoration Hardware world?

MS: You know, it’s fantastic… They’ve been a pleasure to work with. I’m getting to do a lot more product development now. I come up with different ideas, work with them, and eventually it gets made! Really, Gary, the person who runs Restoration Hardware, he took a big risk… Everyone was headed for low-end, the economy had turned bad and it was a risk…  But someone has broken through and put out a fantastic home furnishings catalog. Restoration Hardware has me extra creative, couture, higher-end… You have to take care of your employees, you have to feed your family. When I started, I had to design things I knew would sell. I needed to pay the light bill! When you have a customer like Restoration Hardware, you don’t have to worry about those things. I am more free to design something high end, where if I only sell 10, so be it, that’s ok now! I’m much more free to bring something into the market that’s more obscure. My relationship with Restoration Hardware allows me to do that. On the flipside I have accounts I hold dear. There’s certainly a backlash like when you have a favorite band and then you hear them on the radio… they’re no longer your favorite! There’s certainly some of that going on.

LK: What would you like to share with our Material Girls readers?

MS: I’m excited! I’m more excited now than I’ve ever been. When we started BoBo, we had the resources of Poland and Belgium. We were limited, now we have the resources of Vietnam and China, India and Argentia… Every factory in every country can do something special and different. It widens the array of what we can make. I would see a small piece, a doorknob, a hook… it was fantastic, it was perfect but I wouldn’t buy it as a prototype because in my head I had nowhere to make that. Now the world starts to open… almost nothing is out of bounds now. Our horizons are widening.

Mark, we’re so excited for you and what’s in store in every sense…And, we will continue to stand in queue!

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5 Comments to 'Chat with Mark Sage…'

Rita 09 Dec 09 at 2:32 pm

Julia, so awesome that your assistant got a chance to interview the guy behind BoBo! Loved the interview! What a great way to spice up matrialgirlsblog. The guy seems so down to earth after so much success!
Keep your fab posts coming!

Julia-Chicago 09 Dec 09 at 9:10 pm

Maybe we can work out another idea of using one of your pieces in a MG followers home…
Open for more design inspiration!

xoxo 09 Dec 09 at 11:32 pm

What a great story to success!

blueeyedgirl 10 Dec 09 at 12:48 am

I wish I could be that lucky MG fan with the honor of having a Mark Sage piece in my home! For me that would definitely be a priceless piece of furniture….

Debby Smith 25 Mar 12 at 5:16 pm

Hello Mark! Not sure if you’d remember me, but I was your 2nd grade teacher back at Prairie Lane School in Omaha. I was most pleasantly astounded & thrilled to see you in our spring RS catalog that just arrived.
Congrats on your fantastic career. I always knew you were creative, thoughtful and bright…now I realize that when I was trying to get and keep your attention in class all those many years ago…you were actually way ahead of all of us!
Look forward to seeing and reading more of your brilliant work….well done!

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