After getting married, young couple Teodora and Strahinja Grkinić joined forces and creatively redecorated their shared nest. Their story took an unusual turn when their marriage turned into a creative business endeavor where their passion for the arts became their job. Today, Teodora and Strahinja co-own a luxury brand of decorative wooden furniture—the like of which you probably have not seen anywhere else.
MF: What did you do before pina & pastél and how did this idea come to fruition?
Teodora: I was working in fashion with my parents all my life, so my education veered towards design. In the meantime, I was also interested in other types of art, such as painting and interior, which I have paid attention to in recent years. It started with decorating my room, then my close friends’ apartments, and when Strahinja and I got married we created our ultimate project. I put my all into it, and enjoyed redesigning our apartment. Soon after, he joined me with equal devotion. Once we were equally invested, the idea to raise this passion project to a higher level, perhaps a job, became more tangible and realistic.
Strahinja: Up until that point, I worked in IT, which I got an undergraduate degree from FON in and worked mostly in online marketing. I would say that whilst working in different agencies, I used to feel like I was floating rather than swimming. Recently, I came to the realization that in order for my work to motivate me, I have to see the fruits of my labor – feel them and fully experience them.
MF: At what point did you make the decision to work in interior decoration professionally?
Strahinja: Through the process of redecorating our apartment we noticed we mostly used wood, and realized that the Serbian furniture market was missing full wood products. Thus, from our personal experience, we decided to create what we love and value ourselves, and that is what defines our emerging brand: high quality, luxurious and decorative furniture. These relatively small pieces with outstanding detail enrich the living space and serve a purpose that is primarily aesthetic. We concentrated on pieces for the bedroom, which we consider to be a small temple and very personal space.
Teodora: Our brand is based on beauty – we are selling an aesthetic, beauty as a way of life. Each detail is meticulously designed, created and crafted to meet the highest of criteria. We came to the conclusion that people prefer spending on their children rather than themselves, so we concentrated on making a crown for cribs – although nothing prevents you from using them for yourself! The theme is fairytale and, together with the canopy, the crown acts like something you would find in a royal palace.
MF: What did your first round of production look like?
Strahinja: Experimenting with different materials was very time consuming. We tried various types of wood and realized that some of them crumble when it comes to trying to work out the smallest details, some of them don’t absorb paint and oil the way we expected, some are not strong and solid enough … then, we came across wild cherry wood, and it perfectly suited our needs. It’s smooth and solid enough, and the woodcarving looks like how it should. Teodora designs all the pieces from scratch, and out of the sketches she works out 2D models which we later carefully designed in 3D.
Our intense dedication to the caliber of the wood and design detail is reflected in our pieces. Given the fact that we work with high-quality wild cherry wood, we let it show its own little imperfections small organic flaws and do not try achieve a perfect industrial product because the end result would then lose its craft value.
In addition to wood, we also use precious metals and stones in production.
MF: How did you first reach out to customers?
Teodora: Dealing with social networks like Instagram came naturally to me because I was in charge of taking and editing photos for the website, and this turned out to be extraordinary for our business. At the very beginning, with only three pictures on our profile, we got a call from Australia from a girl who organizes baby showers and wanted to order one of our bed crowns with canopy. Furthermore, people’s reactions are remarkable – mostly people from the Balkans, all over Europe, and then Serbia.
I think that the difference in domestic and foreign demand is caused by the fact that the Serbian market is not yet at the level of recognizing the worth of a product such as a bed crown. This is best explained by the fact that there is no word in our language for it, and even potential buyers do not know what its exact name is. In English, the “bed crown” is a common term, along with Croats who are more likely to use words of English origin than Serbs, and therefore, most of our customers come from Croatia.
For the purpose of promotion and sales, we also used Facebook ads, but it did not provide as fruitful results as Instagram. What really boosted the demand for our products was the appearance of our bed crown on the blog of a popular blogger named Ena Luna. We believe that this is because people had the opportunity to see our product as part of a larger picture – hanging over the bed in a room of an influencer whose taste they believe in.
Strahinja: We came to the conclusion that we may have been overcome with achieving visual perfection. Even though our promotional photos were professionally done, with carefully chosen ambience and models, Luna’s phone photos have achieved exactly what ours had been missing: tangibility and real context, the purpose of our product in reality.
The fact that my mother is a pediatrician was of great help to us. I learned a lot from her about parental psychology, and the way of approaching and addressing our target group, which is mostly comprised of young parents.
MF: Are your products on display somewhere, or are you only selling them online?
Teodora: We recently started showing our products at the luxury children’s boutique Petit Coco located on Krunska street in Belgrade, which I had in mind from the start. They sell high-end products for children and our brand fits perfectly with their vision – they sell expensive items, along with more affordable ones, the location is great, and their high income costumers focus on quality and artistic pieces for their children. We did not plan on opening our own showroom because that would add to the workload of the actual production and marketing on social media, so we let Petit Coco handle the direct sale.
MF: What are your plans for the future?
Strahinja: We will not expand the product range too much, but we are working with new materials and improving and modifying the existing ones. We are beginning to cooperate with a jewelry house, so we will soon release a new series of products decorated with precious metals and stones, and among them will be sophisticated jewelry and medallions that fit very nicely with pina & pastél’s existing narrative. We also hope to form new sale partnerships and have our products exhibited outside of Belgrade, and then outside of Serbia and the Balkans.
Author & editor: Ivan Minić
Photography: Stefan Đaković
Journalist: Vanja Mlađenović