Tweet When I walked into Foundation, The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” was playing in the background. Peter and Alex Cohen, brothers and owners of the shop, lounged on chairs as they chatted with two customers who were flipping through their newest shipment. “We started to sell records on Instagram to fund the other stuff […]
When I met with Brian Stroo at Top Drawer Consignments, where he has worked as showroom and design manager for five years, we circled the globe as his warm, lilting voice detailed the meridians and parallels that brought him to one of College Park’s most iconic buildings.
Rising like a pastel castle from its stronghold on Edgewater Drive, the shop is filled to the brim with high-end furniture, art and home accessories.
The common adage is that creative types have no mind for business. Stroo’s career has thrown this cliché out the window with his mastery of the uncommon juxtaposition of business and design.
“I used to design furniture and lamps and accessories … at the World Trade Center in Dallas,” Stroo said. “I managed a showroom where we represented more than a dozen lines. One of those lines took me as their designer because I was actually a better merchandiser and understood their line from a consumer and sales point of view better than they did.”
After Stroo worked in the retail industry in Los Angeles following graduation, a roommate from Southern Methodist University invited Stroo to Mexico City to make over his home. That six-month project became a three-year stay as Stroo took intensive Spanish lessons and worked for his friend’s aunt, a talented interior designer for hotels, restaurants and country clubs.
Then Stroo accepted a position with a California artist studio in desperate need of a brand revamp. In one year, he transformed their limited, Southwestern character into a sophisticated, transitional collection —resulting in a 42 percent increase in sales.
Soon after, Stroo accepted an offer in Dallas as creative director of a design studio with an international footprint. “That was a great opportunity because I always wanted to see the world on someone else’s nickel,” he joked.
He traveled throughout Mexico, Europe, China, India and the Pacific Rim while visiting far-flung factories, approving samples and selecting finishes for stunning collections of furniture, lamps and accessories — all drawn by his own hand.
In Orlando, Stroo developed clientele as a designer for Ethan Allen and other brands. In 2008, he launched Brian Stroo Designs, where he takes on interior design projects that inspire him — from making over homes on Lake Butler to stitching floral appliqués to lacy bridal veils.
Stroo credited his sharp eye for textiles and colors to annual pilgrimages to New York City with his mother while growing up in Virginia. They stayed at sprawling, Park Avenue apartments during these trips that inspired him to become a designer. “We would go shopping and stay for four or five days — it was heaven. I learned retail from the very best of them.”
Stroo emphasized the significance of quality construction over the disposable nature that has become synonymous with much of modern décor. He named Milan as his favorite city, describing miniscule yet ornate hotel rooms and impeccably dressed pedestrians. “Details were really important,” he reminisced.
“We often have clients now that come in and want ‘art,’ but all they want is the right color to go with their rug. Do you LIKE the art? That should matter.”