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Interview of Burak & Hakan Oztuncman for Hospitality Interiors Magazine

August 11, 2021

How did the Parla brand come into being?

Our story goes back to 1910 when our grandfather got a job as a furnituremaker at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. From the experience he gained there, he opened his own outdoor furniture production company with his son (our father) in 1963. Our father grew the business to then manufacture indoor furniture for the hospitality industry in the 1980s, building a 6000 square metre factory in the early 1990s.

We joined the family business in 1995, and took on the next phase of growth, turning the business from a local one into an international one. It has been a really exciting journey that has spanned 111 years, and is still continuing.

How has being a family business affected Parla?

As the two owners, we are driven to continue and strengthen the legacy of our grandfather, and we try and do this by creating an extended family atmosphere within the business as well – we have a very high retention rate, and we believe this is because we instil a sense of ownership in each member of staff.

When it comes to production, you have come a long way since 1910 – can you tell us about your facilities now?

Yes, we have grown a lot since our grandfather first set up his atelier. We have a very synthesised blend of handmade and machine made elements in our factory, currently a 15,000m2 production space in Istanbul that is made up of three separate facilities – producing fixed furniture, loose wooden and upholstered furniture and metalwork.

And what about staff?

We have become experts in each area of furnituremaking, with 220 skilled staff that include everyone from fourth-generation handicraft masters to young apprentices, as well as a very strong team of industrial designers and project managers who are all trained as either interior designers or architects.

What exactly does Parla produce?

We produce fixed and loose furniture for the hospitality industry. Our specialism is 4- and 5-star hotels and fine dining restaurants, and we produce bespoke designs and/or provide projects with pieces from our own collections.

How does the production process work at Parla?

We have a very settled in-house process. When we start a new project, our first priority is to set up a team around the project, led by a project manager and in-house designers assigned to the project based on their skills. This team will then start liaising and becoming the ‘right hand people’ to the project’s stakeholders.

For us it is very important to become the middle person between all the stakeholders, so we are able to cover all bases. Developing relations with the architects, designers, owners and project managers, we establish the details and requirements of the project. We then include our production facility to develop solutions, and maybe if we think it will be of benefit, include design tweaks, value engineering, new material options, and our mock-up service. This allows us to really hone in on the details, figure out unexpected problems and bring the designs to life.

Once all details are agreed on, and any problems ironed out, we will start the production process, and aim to deliver the highest possible spec.

Once the furniture is ready to be shipped we will organise the installation team at the destination of the project, which can be anywhere in the world. The furniture arrives at the destination, we install it, and then offer an in-depth aftercare service to deal with any problems that may arise.

For us there are three things we always take into consideration: offering consistent and detailed communication; delivering on our promise; and achieving high-quality service and products.

And what would you say makes you stand out from others?

We have years of experience in delivering bespoke projects, which has led us to build a strong team of designers, interior designers and architects that dotes over each project and its details. The result is that we add lots of knowhow and value to projects at every stage, from design to value engineering, through to production and installation.

We see ourselves as consultants to each project. With a factory that offers everything in-house, we can push boundaries, experiment, and develop to create the best solutions.

You mention you can supply furniture to anywhere in the world – can you name some of the locations you’ve worked in?

We really are proud to have developed our grandfather’s small workshop into a brand that is truly international. Some of the latest projects we have worked on have been in Miami, London, Moscow, Jeddah and Los Angeles.

Istanbul is in such a great location – we feel like we are in the middle of the world and can supply furniture in all directions and satisfy any need. Maybe our ability and confidence to work internationally stems from being endowed with the influence of Istanbul, historically being an important part of the Silk Road. Add to that the fact that we are easy to communicate with, we are fast workers, and offer good value for money – we believe we are the right people to be project partners for international projects.

How do you manage to run these projects – do you do everything in Istanbul?

No. Whilst we have a factory and a separate showroom in Istanbul, we also have a showroom in Dubai, an office and team in London, and we have representatives in New York and Dallas. We are a very mobile team who will travel to meet clients, designers and architects in whatever country they are based, and we make sure we consistently do this throughout the process.

Can you tell us about some of the international designers you’ve worked with?

Some of our latest working partnerships have been with Robert Angell Design International, Afroditi and Goddard Littlefair.

And what about some of your latest projects?

Some of our latest projects include Haugen Restaurant London, The Grand Hotel Birmingham, Nobu Istanbul, W Ibiza, SLS Dubai and The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul.

How have you managed throughout the pandemic and the aftermath of Brexit?

We were not affected by Brexit, as Turkey is outside of the EU, and we have very good trade relations with the UK. With regards to the pandemic, we made sure we took lots of precautions, both on the side of production and on the side of deliveries – our team are very young and dynamic, and thrive on challenges, so these problems only add excitement and adrenalin to our day to day.

What are your plans and dreams for the future?

We have been growing our team and really are happy with how versatile, adaptable and strong it has become. In the next five years we want to be able to spread our wings further and deeper, and we aim to do this by increasing our visibility internationally, improving and developing our own collections so that we can offer more off-the-shelf options to designers, and become known more widely as one of the top experts in our field.

We really like it when we can merge furniture from our own collections with the bespoke designs we have to produce for projects, so we would like to see more of our own collections in projects as well.

Could you discuss your approach to sustainability?

As one of the leaders in our field, we believe that we are in a position to push our boundaries in this regard. Currently we use FSC woods and have ISO14001 (environmental management), but there is more we can do in the area of sustainability.

Turkey is a very industrial country, and there are unlimited options when it comes to materials – natural and man-made – and we would like to become a beacon in pushing the importance of using sustainable materials, plus running a more sustainable business.

You must have many stories to tell with the variety of projects to which you’ve supplied furniture … is there one that you’d like to share?

We took on a project that required us to produce and install furniture in a hunting lodge in a desert – the Western Sahara in Algeria, to be specific, but unmarked on maps. That really was an exciting challenge.

The installation of that project had to be done in two installments over two months, as it really was a remote place. After air freighting the items to Algeria, it took us a further 30 hours on land to get there, using two different modes of transport. The weather conditions are very harsh, so the furniture had to be produced accordingly, and we had to go back another time. All in all, it was an adventure!

How about proud moments?

All our projects make us feel proud, because we always feel that our father and grandfather are watching us from a distance. However, there are times when a project will make us smile for a particular reason. For example, as fans of The Beatles we felt great joy in producing furniture for Hilton Amsterdam, the hotel where John Lennon and Yoko had their famous “bed-in protest”. It felt like we were helping history live on …

We are also very proud that many of the projects we take part in win awards; to give a few examples The Grand Hotel Birmingham won Best Bar/Lounge/Club (2021) at the International Property Awards, Rixos The Palm Dubai won Luxury All-Inclusive Retreat Regional Winner (2018) at the World Luxury Hotel Awards and Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch won Lobby & Public Places (2018) in AHEAD.