Like a lot of folks who wind up in Whistler, Eva Beresova has never been much for the typical workaday grind.
Studying design and architecture in college, the Czech Republic native initially went the traditional route, trying to carve out a career as a commercial interior designer.
“I soon enough realized I’m not a 9-to-5 person,” she said. “It was kind of killing me. I was actually losing my creativity.”
So, Beresova charted her own path, one that combined a passion for design with her well-honed collector’s eye, and in September last year, launched ReRepublic, a service that rents out mid-century furniture and accessories, all from former European republics, to staging projects, such as photo and TV shoots, theatre productions, real-estate viewings, and art exhibitions.
While the concept only officially became a reality last fall, the seeds of ReRepublic were first planted years earlier. Growing up in 1980s Czechoslovakia, Beresova grew up surrounded by the mid-century aesthetic, which, because of its political associations, can be tough to find.
“Honestly, mid-century European [design] is disappearing,” she explained. “We were under the communist regime and then in ’89, everything collapsed and the borders opened, and then people were thinking, ‘We’re finished with this.’ They would burn furniture from their grandma or whatever just to start fresh.”
But beyond its nostalgic appeal, Beresova is drawn to furniture of the era because of its detailed craftsmanship and bold, clean design.
“Later on, especially in the ‘90s, production started to be massive and there was less and less handiwork,” she said. “My pieces are 90-per-cent handmade, probably even 95, and the materials are real. It’s real wood, real veneer, real crystal. If there’s a silver detail, it’s real silver, not something that’s sprayed over.”
It was an appreciation first instilled in Beresova by her father, a professor of design and dedicated collector himself, who taught his daughter the tell-tale signs to look for when scouring for the latest vintage piece. Authenticity is the name of the game, Beresova said, like, for instance, the particular hue of wood that can only be created from years of everyday use.
“What happens to this furniture over the decades is that it’s touched so many times and it’s in the sunlight and has gone through so many stages that the wood develops a specific colour, and any staining or any brushing is super difficult to reach the same level,” she noted.
“Once you see a photo shoot with pieces like this, there is no way to fake it.”
At close to 100 items, Beresova’s collection features statement pieces like the Tatra leather armchair by designer František Jirák, or the clean, simple lines of a retro wall clock by defunct Czech manufacturer Pragotron. She mostly sources pieces from both in-person and online auctions, and relies on the expertise of fellow designers and collectors in Europe, who scour vintage markets for specific items of interest. Beresova also works with a master carpenter and upholsterer back in the Czech Republic to help restore the pieces to their former glory.
“In Vancouver, it’s so pricy that pieces have to arrive already restored,” she said. “But it’s not just about money; it’s also about experience. My carpenter is 65 years old. He can look at a table and tell me, ‘You bought real rubbish.’ You learn so much about each piece.”
For now, Beresova wants to avoid the resale market, instead offering her unique pieces for rent as a way to promote sustainability and share the aesthetic values of the era with a wider audience.
“[I don’t want to sell an item] because it will just end up in a private collection and no one will ever see it or touch it or take a photograph of it or appreciate the design value of it,” she said.
“I know that would be the easiest option for me, to put it online and I would get really good money for it, but I am trying to hold onto this idea of renting it only because I want more people to enjoy it.”
Targeting primarily architects, interior designers, photographers and stage producers (ReRepublic worked with Squamish’s Between Shifts Theatre in 2019 to stage the ‘60s-set farce, Don’t Dress for Dinner), Beresova knows in order for her business model to work, she’ll have to continue looking beyond the Sea to Sky.
“I’ve got a niche service so I need to look for people who are into this era,” she said.
“The whole idea is that I’m not renting furniture and accessories, I’m actually renting a design value, so how about we go together?”
To learn more, visit rerepublic.ca.