“I feel like I’m keeping history alive,” says designer and CEO Erin Darafeev, whose grandfather emigrated from Russia and established a furniture company. After starting a small product company using scrap materials from other manufacturers, she “came to understand that there are designers and there are makers.” Then after working in the family business, in 2018 she struck out on her own and bought I.M. David Furniture, a similar brand founded in 1966, and set up her own factory in Garden Grove.
As a kid, Darafeev loved hanging out at her family’s warehouse. “I was fascinated by the work, seeing product built from scratch, and I loved the smell of the wood shop,” she remembers. Meanwhile she was also absorbing lessons about designing products, manufacturing goods and all the other business realities that serve her today as she navigates the challenges of keeping her product made in the USA.
“Building furniture in California, following in the footsteps of my grandparents and honoring the legacy of Irving Martin Ginsburg, who founded the I.M. David brand that I now produce, all while keeping American craftsmen employed creating exceptional, made-to-order furniture is a thrilling and worthwhile endeavor,” she says.
MY NEIGHBORHOOD: We’re in a great little industrial area in West Garden Grove. While I don’t have an on-site showroom or retail space, we do offer factory tours and design consultations to our clientele by appointment. We ship internationally and serve a lot of residential and hospitality clients in Orange County, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It’s a great location, about 8 miles from the beach.
MY SANCTUARY: The desert. Cooking on an open fire, sleeping in a tent, connecting with the earth and waking to the light of the sun is a perfect reset. It reminds me to connect to my own stillness and hear my deeper voice, reminding me of who I am, what I want and why.
RED OR WHITE: Mostly red. I love a smooth malbec, pinot noir or cab. Occasionally I’ll go white, with bubbles. But I’m not fussy.
SHOWS I BINGE: I don’t really watch TV, except with my kids. When they invite me to spend time together before bed, it doesn’t matter to me what’s on. With my 16- and 17-year-olds it’s “Parks and Rec” and “The Office.” My 21-year-old and I watch science, nature and documentary films and have conversations around the concepts.
WORST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: I don’t know that I’d call any advice “bad.” Most people have good intentions when they tell you what you “should” do, and it’s often about them wanting to keep you safe. Any advice based on fear – play small, do things the way they’ve always been done or take the easy route – should be questioned. As should advice encouraging reckless action or the pursuit of shortsighted gains. If they don’t have skin in the game or a stake in the outcome, I’m cautious of accepting direction. Everyone has an opinion, and I’m grateful when people share ideas I can take into consideration, but ultimately I need to make a decision and own the results.
WHAT KEEPS ME AWAKE AT NIGHT: Life is busy and can feel overwhelming between running a business, raising kids, maintaining business relationships and friendships, striving to eat well, sleep enough and stay physically active. I’m often up late, figuring out what’s next and reflecting on the big picture. I love the stillness of night to reflect and write without interruption. Mostly, I contemplate how to best keep things moving forward and to avoid pitfalls.
ON MY NIGHTSTAND: A sketchbook and pencil, a glass of wine and lots of books. Current in-progress reads: “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek, “Stillness is the Key” by Ryan Holiday, “Marketing Rebellion” by Mark Schaefer and “Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown.
PET PEEVE: I have the gift and curse of sensory sensitivity. As a designer, this allows me to notice things others don’t, which is helpful in creating. But the repetitive sound of a clicking pen, a sniffling nose or loud chewing can unnerve me.
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN EARLIER: I’m almost always the only one stopping myself from doing something differently, designing the ideal outcome and working to get something done. When I show up with passion, confidence, curiosity, focus and humility, great things happen. There is so much possibility on the other side of fear and self-doubt. This is something I know, but have to remind myself to live out each day.
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