When it comes to impeccable, modern, original furniture design, Pedro Manuel Freire is Buffalo’s best friend. That’s because the talented designer has set up a studio and showroom on Delaware Avenue that is as imaginative as it is impressive. One look at the custom furniture and it’s easy to tell that Pedro has a knack for creating timeless works that are as practical as they are handsome. Along with his wife Christina, Pedro has brought to Buffalo something that should appeal to anyone who has been waiting for locally crafted, modern custom works for his or her home and office.
So how did this talented couple wind up in Buffalo?
Pedro first met Christina when she walked into his clothing boutique in Portugal. It was love at first sight, and the two spent the next three years living together. After that, instead of heading back to NYC (where she had been living), Christina suggested that they move to Buffalo, NY (Christina had once lived here). She felt that there were opportunities in Buffalo, and the two could acclimate to the American way of life, while starting to enact upon their dreams of opening a furniture and home accessories business. Christina, whose family also hails from Portugal (the next town over from Pedro’s) felt that Buffalo would offer the couple a ‘business learning curve’ that would not be possible in a city like NYC.
Pedro’s background in design starts in high school when he found himself gravitating towards art and design courses. From there he went to architecture school, but never finished for a good reason. While in school he began to design houses for clients, which then led him to design the furniture to go in the houses. “I wasn’t happy with just designing the house,” Pedro told me [laughing]. “I wanted to design the perfect furniture to go with the house. I grew up with a father who was an artist and an architect. I would walk into other architects’ offices and see all of the incredible furniture. I then began to research the furniture… the history… the designers, from the 20s on. I have a huge library on furniture and lighting.”
You can tell that Pedro has done his research when it comes to design. Many of his pieces are reminiscent of Eames and Le Corbusier. You can see the history of design throughout his work. At this point, the designer has over 70 pieces that he plans on producing in Buffalo, on top of what is already displayed in the showroom.
What is especially interesting about Pedro’s furniture is that it is all handcrafted in Buffalo, something that I was not expecting. “In Portugal I would send my designs to shops that would intrinsically make what I wanted,” he told me. “When I got the pieces back, they were exactly how I drew them. In Buffalo I needed to hire people to do the work who were not exactly familiar with the process. I told them that they had the tools and the access to materials, so “you can build what I design.” There was a learning curve, but as you can see we worked it out. I know how to build my own designs, and now they know how to build them too.”
Since setting out to open the studio and showroom, called Manuel Barreto Furniture, Pedro has retained the services of two carpenters, a leather worker and a steel fabricator. When they have a question, he shows them what to do. Next year at this time he hopes to have an even larger studio and production space where he can employ his workers full time – wood workers, upholsterers, etc. From the couple plans on broadening their client base, by selling to bigger markets such as NYC and Miami.
Aside from furniture, Pedro also has plans to incorporate custom designed and built houses (in Buffalo) into his portfolio. He’s starting with his own house, which he will build in Allentown next year. “It’s going to be a real showstopper,” he said. “It’s almost 2015 after all, and it’s time to see some modern houses in this city. I feel that if I can use my house as a showroom – that will be good for potential clients. All of the furniture and the lighting will also be custom made. Since I have opened up the studio on Delaware I have already managed to attract a few clients. I just redid the foyer at Saint Mary’s Condos on Edward, just around the corner, including the custom chandelier.”
Pedro and Christina have big plans for Buffalo, and feel that the city is just right for what they want to do. They can find relatively inexpensive labor, people who are willing to work, and a cost of living that allows them flexibility with their lifestyle. Besides the furniture, the couple also plans on bringing other design elements and companies to Buffalo including FLOS lighting and Portuguese blankets. Having a FLOS showroom in the city is a major coup. “I sent the company photos of my designs and asked if I could carry their lighting,” Pedro explained. “They saw that I was creating beautiful works and agreed to let me carry their line.”
To show you just how talented and committed Pedro is to his work, he wanted to accentuate his design studio with original art, but he didn’t have time to commission an artist to create a show for Allentown First Fridays Gallery Walk (this Friday). “So I got to work and painted a series of Buffalo watercolors which I then framed. So I hope that people stop by during the walk to see what we have going on here.”
To me, Pedro and Christina have taken the art of design to an entirely different level. They have created a stunning showroom around works of art, many of which second as streamlined, functional furniture. If you’re at all interested in modern furniture design, do yourself a favor and stop in to talk to this inspirational couple.
To see what “a sense of tradition” is all about, visit Manuel Barreto Furniture LLC at 430 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo NY | 716-867-8937 | Atelier and showroom | Facebook