I have a friend who geeks out on Star Trek. And while I don’t care much about it, it’s fun to hear him when he gets on a roll about the nuances of subplots, of which there are many. Maybe you have a friend like this who gets so carried away by their own delight in a subject that they sweep you right up with them. My guests today are just as passionate about their furniture store and one of their specialty items that they’ve become known for. And their enthusiasm is infectious! You can hear the pride in the voices of Scott Mast and Juan Goiricelaya, owners, curators, restorers, and stewards of the fanciful Palm Beach aesthetic that’s having quite a moment lately. We talk about what goes into running a store full of vintage treasures and their connection to a particular designer, Mario Lopez Torres. Mr. Torres was the creator of the iconic furniture pieces that feature rattan animals and plants… I’m talking about rattan palm trees that hold light fixtures instead of coconuts; monkeys holding up tables like a waiter holds a tray above his head; and all kinds of birds doing all kinds of things. I’m not sure rattan ever went out of style, but it’s certainly having a revival, with no signs of it slowing down. Scott and Juan have taken the legacy of Mario Lopez Torres and continued his work for the rest of us to enjoy. Let’s get started!
The Rattan Revival with the Owners of Circa Who, Scott Mast and Juan Goiricelaya
Love at First Sight.
You lock eyes with a stranger and you have “that butterfly feeling.” Time slows down and the world seems to fade away—is it love at first sight? It’s real and does happen. You’ve likely heard some version of a “love at first sight” story: two people meet, one likely a skeptic. Sparks fly and the pair realize they’ve met “the one.” Then, as they say, the rest is history. Love at first sight is a beautiful concept, etched into fairy tales and echoed in popular movies, television shows, and celebrity interviews. That is the story of Scott Mast and Juan Goiricelaya. They met 20 years ago in a Florida beach restaurant through a blind date set up by their mutual friend. Ever since their first date, they have become inseparable and eventually started a relationship together.
Juan had this to say about how they met: “It was almost 18–20 years ago. We had a mutual friend, and she set us on a blind date. It was at a restaurant on the beach. So, we were both thinking the same thing. Hmm. I’m not going to show up by myself. So, I asked all my friends to be there because I was like, “I don’t know who this guy is.” I didn’t want to date anyone at the moment. I was fine. I had only recently moved to this country, about eight years ago, and I was not looking to meet anyone or form any relationships. And Scott was in the exact same spot. I’ll find out later. So, we showed up there and I saw him. And since that day, we have been together.
As an entrepreneur, you might think business and love can’t mix. But there’s no reason couples can’t work together to create an extraordinary business. And that is exactly what Scott Mast and Juan Goiricelaya are doing with Circa Who, a business which they bought from its original owner and have now set it on the path of becoming one of Palm Beach’s most iconic furniture stores.
Circa Who is an upscale furniture resale shop founded in 2004 and located in West Palm Beach, Florida. The original owner, Tracy DeRamus, had been operating a resale furniture store, Circa Who, since 2004. She came up with the name for the store because when she was buying furniture for her store, she would see an item she liked and a dealer would tell her that’s circa a year (maybe 1920) and a designer name, to which she would reply, circa who? The store was purchased from Tracy by new owners Juan Goiricelaya and Scott Mast, who have since upscaled the business to one of Palm Beach’s most iconic furniture stores.
Circa Who finds new homes for fabulous furnishings? The shop’s iconic furnishings are circa 20th century, from Mid Century Modern to Hollywood Regency meets vintage Palm Beach. From the very beginning, the goal of Circa Who Furniture was to discover and restore beautiful vintage furniture that they considered art. Scott and Juan believe it’s their job to save it. Restore it. Give it another 75 years of life. Circa, who does an amazing job of picking the best pieces and restoring them to perfection, They actually care about what they sell and really take the extra time to properly restore pieces that come into the store.
Scott had this to say about what they do and the process of restoring the furniture: “When the pieces arrive, they are cleaned up to Circa Who standards with just cotton swap. We go to every single piece and we detail those pieces to perfection. Then we take care of every single scratch, every single dent, anything, everything that the piece has, and we do this with pretty much, I will say 70% of all our inventory, because we also want to leave some pieces to the creativity of our clients or designers to decide. What lustre and color will I use on this piece? We varnish a lot of our furniture, but some pieces we need to leave as we found them after the cleaning process. This is to let our clients, our designers, use their imagination. “
Beauty in the Restored.
Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. While antique furniture may appeal to one enthusiast, a more modern piece might be a favorite for another. Subjective beauty is at the heart of what makes furniture and interior design so important and precious to many home owners. A piece of furniture can tell two people completely different stories and evoke distinct emotions. Furniture brings life to a dull room and tells stories of those who lived in that home. That’s partly why conserving these pieces of furniture is critical to maintaining their value.
We’ve all seen the gorgeous homes that have been restored with love and care. These projects are a form of art, bringing beauty back to once damaged pieces. They’re also a large part of the furniture business; someone has to do it! Some pieces of old furniture may appear beautiful and restored with a small amount of work, while others may appear worn and ready for the trash bin. Some antique pieces of furniture have priceless qualities and materials that aren’t typically matched today. So, occasionally, it’s lovely to refurbish a vintage piece of furniture. Old furniture restoration might take a lot of effort, but the results are worth it in the end. This is what Circa Who does. From Hollywood Regency to bamboo and rattan, they bring life back into vintage pieces and give them a new home with owners who love them.
Juan had this to say about the philosophy underpinning the business: “It’s a simple philosophy: to us, furniture is art, and it’s our job to save it. On a typical busy day, our primary buyers get between 80 and 200 pieces for consideration. When the piece arrives, we discuss each individual piece and then decide what needs to be done to save it. And that’s actually the angle that we go into. So, for example, yesterday, this beautiful, gorgeous sixties ming coffee table with grass cloth came in, but it had clearly had a very long, colorful life. We are going to restore the grass cloth, and then we are going to come up with some kind of beautiful leash to put it to bed and give it another 75 years of life.”
Investing in high-quality vintage objects, restoring them, and upcycling them are the best ways to decorate your home sustainably. Making environmentally friendly interior design decisions while producing stunning spaces
Furniture is Art: Mario Lopez Torres’s Legacy Is Still Being Woven.
When you think of art, what comes to mind? Painting, sculpture, and other visual arts? Well, there’s furniture that can be considered as well. Furniture is typically seen as a component of the decorative arts, but the boundaries between the design and art fields have become increasingly indistinct. Ever heard of Mario Lopez Torres? His furniture is considered art by all standards and is highly sought after by designers worldwide for his animal-inspired rattan pieces.
Mario Lopez Torres was born in 1952 in Mexico City. From the beginning, Mario’s attention was drawn to artistic hobbies, including drawing, modeling with clay, and engraving. He was the apprentice of his father, a professional photographer, for his first job. After studying fine art and weaving techniques, he moved to the United States to acquire skills in welding and metal work and then eventually setup his own studio in 1974, specializing in artistic woven furniture, specifically on custom order.
Torres has always been a prolific artistic furniture maker, but his output was considerably less significant due to his preference for painstaking, handcrafted craftsmanship over mass production and marketing and his purposeful decision to live off the grid. Scott Mast and Juan Goiricelaya would occasionally run into his vintage furniture when purchasing old yard sales, but they quickly outsold any other pieces in-store. The Torres pieces were not only furniture, they were works of art, and because of the love that Scott and Juan had for art, they decided to seek him out. It took them more than six months to finally locate Mario Lopez, deep in the mountains of Mexico. After making furniture by hand for many years in Altepeje, Puebla, and the US, Torres relocated to a small, peaceful community where the reeds he uses to weave his furniture naturally grow. The solid green reed vegetation, which is plentiful on the banks of the lake below the place he now calls home, can be weaved skillfully into the exquisite animal forms for which he is famous.
Scott had this to say about their first meeting with Mr. Torres: “I don’t think that he even knew, at that moment, how big of a name he was. It was interesting because when we first walked in, we thought he had seven or eight pieces. And it turns out that, over the course of, you know, 30 years, there have been over 300. I said to him, you know, Mr. Torres, you have to share this. This is art. And he said, “Don’t call me an artist. He said, “I am a furniture maker.”
It took a while to convince Mario to bring back his signature designs into the public domain. Scot and Juan were able to convince him that they would be a proper steward of his work. So, the three went into business together, and Mario Lopez Torres Stores was born. Each year, they sell up to 300 pieces of furniture and fittings, all welded, woven, and finished by hand in a small town in Mexico using rattan. In some instances, a piece may take up to eight months to make, such as the nine-foot giraffe bar. Although Mr. Torres has passed away, his legacy still lives on through his design-inspired woven rattan products that are still being made today. According to Juan, there are more designs that are planned to be released over the next 10 years.
In sync with Nature.
Rattan is one of the strongest woods, but it is also one of the most adaptable, ecological, and artistic materials found in nature. Rattan is widely available and regenerates once every five years. It comes from the palm trees that grow well in tropical climates. Rattan is hygienic, eco-friendly, and highly considerate of the environment. It is an extremely adaptable and environmentally friendly option for furniture design. Rattan items are easily cool and visually appealing due to the intricate interweaving and the open, breezy quality of the weave styles, borrowed from other places.
The big part about sustainability and the recycling of rattan is something that we’re really proud of as a company. Juan had this to say about how eco-friendly and sustainable they have continued with the Torres legacy: 10% of all sales goes back to cleaning up the lake. It’s just the sustainability of the area. The Mario Lopez Store has an orphanage in that same town. And we also donate 1% of all our sales to a foundation in Africa. So 1% of all the proceeds go to saving the elephants and rhinos in Kenya.
Decorating your home is something you do because you’re happy and love it, not because it’s a rule you have to follow. It’s almost as if you’re letting people inside your heart by showing them how much you value good art, design, style, and color. There is a lot to learn, explore, and put into practice in one of the most enjoyable and creative arts. Many people find it to be an endless process since they enjoy trying new things. Additionally, there is always something on the market that is fresh, stylish, exciting, appealing, and sustainable.
Rattan is one of those exceptional, cherished products that is nothing but one extremely desirable benefit after another. It is unusual for a single material to be so many things at once. So it should come as no surprise that designers are clamoring for rattan furniture. Rattan is currently popular and will remain so for many years to come because of its breathtaking natural beauty, which will sustain it through the ups and downs of interior decor.
It’s been nice talking to Juan Goiricelaya and Scott Mast and getting to know more about Circa Who and letting us into the Mario Lopez Torres artistic furniture world. We wish them well, and we hope to connect some other time. Thank you to all our listeners, and I hope to see you all next week.