Catina Roscoe is a rare gem — a woman in the furniture design industry and the current president of American Society of Furniture Designers and the founder/owner of Catina Unlimited Design Inc. When we got a call from Chestnut Hall owner Michael Baty that he was hosting a brunch in her honor at his high-end furniture and design store, we were as excited as we were honored to get an invitation. We had a chance to catch up with Catina shortly before her visit to Memphis — and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce you to this talented and driven woman!
In art school, Catina Roscoe loved working in three dimensions. After finishing her fine arts degree in design and sculpture, Catina quickly found her way to furniture, where she could create work and watch it come to life.
“What I loved was creating a two-dimensional drawing and then walking into a showroom and actually seeing the live piece of furniture in three dimensions. That was amazing,” says Catina, a freelance furniture designer and owner of Greensboro, North Carolina-based Catina Unlimited Design Inc. “I had an affinity as most women do to fashion and to home décor – my home, my environment is very important to me. I like to surround myself with beautiful things, and art and design have always had a very prominent place in my life.”
Born in Havana, Cuba, Catina came to the United States with her family in the 1960s and grew up outside Atlanta. And then her father took a job that moved the family to North Carolina, and Catina attended UNC in Greensboro.
Her career in furniture got its serendipitous start from that move. With the furniture capital of the world at her doorstep, Catina’s first job out of college was doing illustration work for a High Point-based furniture designer. She fell in love with creating, and in the field of furniture, she was able to witness consumers and showroom representatives connect with her work. Says Catina, “I develop my product foremost from an emotional perspective so that it connects with the consumer as opposed to just drawing furniture – drawing a box that holds our socks.”
Throughout her three decades in the industry she’s worked with leading furniture manufacturers, from Kincaid, Hooker and Harden to Pennsylvania House, Lane and American Drew. Catina is the current president of the American Society of Furniture Designers, and her studio is a winner and repeat finalist in the Pinnacle Awards, one of the furniture industry’s highest honors.
Among Catina’s recent work is a line for Amish manufacturer Borkholder Furniture called Local Harvest that embraces modern farmhouse style. Chestnut Hall Fine Furniture & Interior Design in Germantown carries the solid wood line, part of its commitment to “Made in America” furniture. “While we have a number of pieces on our floor at any given time that are drop dead gorgeous, at our core, we are very practical people who appreciate furniture that serves the needs of our clients,” says Chestnut Hall owner Michael Baty. “That is why we like Catina’s pieces so much. Form follows function in her designs, and she has a wonderful feel for families and how they live.”
Catina’s Local Harvest line, like all of her work, springs from her desire to touch the lives of the consumers who ultimately own and use her designs. She approaches her work through study and observation, seeking to identify her consumer on the front end and find out what that consumer wants or needs and how she can express it in her work. “I like to think in fresh terms,” Catina says. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I think the real success of it is being able to connect with how people are living their lives today.”
It also helps that Catina is the mother of two Millennials who, as she says, help to keep her young, on her toes and up to speed with what’s fresh and new. “If young people are our target audience and our new consumer, those young people are looking for something with more meaning, more value,” she says. “They want the brands or the products they are investing in to convey a message they can relate to. They want authenticity, integrity, meaningfulness, purpose, sustainability, giving back to the community and giving back to the earth. It doesn’t just come down to a price situation. It’s not just to solve a problem or fit a need in the moment. They’re looking to invest in something that has more meaning than just a product purchase.”
Catina has broken ground with more than just her personal, almost psychological approach to furniture design. As a female, she’s also scaled the peak of what historically was a man’s industry.
“Normally women are the interior designers, traditionally speaking,” she says. “There were many more women developing product on the upholstery side, choosing fabrics and coordinating colors. Case goods, the actual wood furniture, was considered woodworking and that’s very much more a man’s role. Women just did not come into the industry through that avenue. So when I started many years ago, there were very few women involved in case goods and designing product.”
Today, however, women are taking a more hands-on role within the furniture industry. “In more recent years everybody sort of put the brakes on and said, ‘Whoa, wait a minute, ultimately women are the ones buying the products and furnishing their homes, so wouldn’t it be smart to have a female perspective along the way?’” Catina says. “More and more women have stepped up and gone from administrative positions to moving up into marketing and merchandising and even running companies.”
Through the years Catina has had opportunities to stretch her skills and talents to fit the needs of a variety of manufacturers. For example, she once designed a Laura Ashley line for Kincaid. “That was very fun,” she says. “It gave us an opportunity to do a lot of interesting finishes and carvings and different expressions – a garden look, a library look.” Early in her career, she developed some cutting-edge work for Pulaski Furniture, including a British-style telephone booth built as a piece of furniture. “It was red with a nameplate on the top,” she says. “It was an oddity, an extreme design, but they did sell it.”
Today she’s leading the American Society of Furniture Designers at a time when the group is expanding to become an international organization. It’s been exciting, for her, to usher the industry through a time of so much transition.
“It’s been wonderful through the years. I don’t know that I would do anything else,” she says. “It’s amazing to be able to use my art, my creativity, and to be able to make a living from that. It has ups and downs like any other business. But oh, my gosh, when you get to High Point and see the excitement and the color and go from showroom to showroom – I could redecorate my house every six months if I could afford to. It’s a fun industry, and to me, there’s nothing like it.”
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