Birba Brings Back Retro Chic

Words: Jess Spiro

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Creativity and drive are powerful tools. They can enable you to make even the wildest of your dreams come true, and as the great Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it”. Words have never rang more true than for Cynthia Strydom, owner of Birba furniture in Cape Town, and her husband and business partner, Pierre. They had the ambition and dedication to create beautiful pieces with little to no, prior experience in designing furniture, and so they did.

Their story is something of a fairytale – Brazilian-born Cynthia met Pierre while they were working on cruise ships, travelling all over the world and seeing all the beautiful things it had to offer. Before long, it was time to get married and settle down and Cynthia, being from bustling and busy São Paulo found an oasis in Cape Town. With its serene ocean, magnificent mountains and vast open spaces, it was the ideal place to call home. Pierre, with a love of furniture and homeware and Cynthia, with an eye for design – thanks to her interior designer mother – were always going to surround themselves with beautiful things. Inspired by the creativity of Cape Town, and by the idea of following their dreams, they partnered up with a close friend to start their company, Birba.

What makes Birba different is their overall style, being very mid-century, 1950s Palm Springs. It’s everything you love about retro, with pops of warm orange, cool blues and smoky greys. Richard Neutra, the iconic architect responsible for much of that West Coast cool look, is their personal god. The look is clean and minimalist, while still retaining major warmth and comfort. They also made a decision to make new products as an alternative to working with vintage furniture, which also sets them apart. Hardwood is a main design feature of these pieces and adds a unique character as no two pieces of wood are the same. Even with a poppy orange coffee table, you’ll find oak legs adding that touch of neutral luxe.
Another thing that Birba offers is the opportunity to make every piece your own. Not wild on the colour of a sofa? You’re encouraged to flip through their catalogue of upholstery (in partnership with Home Fabrics and even Missibaba) and choose something you love. And that goes for any piece in the collection – Cynthia loves it when customers put together their dream pieces.
After nearly two years in business, Cynthia and Pierre are the sole owners of Birba, with Cynthia at the helm. And while they’re gaining momentum and expanding their brand’s identity, they are changing and adapting every day. Cape Town, being the intimate city that it is, is the ideal hub for collaboration. And at Birba, they’re huge fans of a little partnership. That is why Cynthia and Pierre regularly work with other local artists to add one or two fresh pieces to their collection. The latest young designer to join them is Mike Upham, who is set to add a little modern contemporary flair to Birba.

And while the overall Cali-cool vibes are set to stay, Cynthia and Pierre are playing with materials like metals and fibreglass to see where that takes them. They’re even looking to add a little plexiglass and copper – there is no end to their creativity.

What makes Birba just so special is that both Pierre and Cynthia, with no formal training in the craft of putting furniture together, have simply figured things out as they go along. Through their drive to create pieces that they would want in their own home, they have collaborated and worked with tradespeople to put this beautiful brand together. And they have learned so much along the way. The name itself is even inspired by Palm Springs, Birba being a famous restaurant in the area and means ‘rascal’ in Italian. They are committed to making quirky, interesting furniture that is personal and special to each and every customer.

If you’re after something a little unusual, Birba is the brand for you. From the moment you set foot in the showroom you are welcomed by warmth – not just by the inviting colours of the furniture but by Cynthia and Pierre themselves. The best part of their jobs is being able to create things that people love and appreciate, so you’re in good hands when choosing something for your home. Even if you’re only dipping your toe into the Palm Springs-style pool, you are bound to find many, many things that you love at Birba. | Facebook | Twitter

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