010 | Thessaloniki duo design with love
Article written by Helen Muse for Lost Athina.
The floor to ceiling windows in the front entrance are all open when I arrive. The orange trees outside have bloomed, and their fragrance fills the space. Nikos Iosif is busy getting ready for a new exhibition opening in a few hours, but willingly sits with me for a coffee and a chat.
Switching with ease from Greek to English, he talks to me about 2 Concept Store, a furniture design store / café / gallery space (and so much more) that he and partner Christos Sellas have developed over the past six and a half years.
In a city crippled from the loss of hundreds of local businesses, they are important because they are thriving. This is their story.
When Christos Sellas and Nikos Iosif decided to move in together, they were both doing other things. Christos – who studied agricultural sciences – was working for a landscaping design company.
Nikos – who studied graphic design – was working at a jewelry shop. They filled their apartment with items they restored from things found, picked, and bought. Impressed by their impeccable taste and propensity to create, friends started to commission the boys to find and restore pieces for purchase.
Word quickly spread and Nikos and Christos found themselves tirelessly working during their free time to fill orders. They realized that the rented workshop/studio down the block from the apartment
(40 sq. meters in size) was no longer adequate. It was time to go bigger.
Inspired by a trip to Berlin, the idea for 2 Concept Store came easily – but there was too much red-tape to get through in a city that did not give out licenses to places who wanted to restore, sell, display furniture…and serve coffee and drinks at the same time. They opened Object 2 Repair (their first business together) and agreed on a timeline within which they would have to sell ten pieces of furniture and the few accessories that they had available at the time. They sold out fast, and the boys quickly realized they were in trouble. They would have to drop everything and go at it full-time. And that’s exactly what they did.
To date theirs is the only company in Thessaloniki – and Athens – that restores, sells, renovates furniture and designs spaces.
“I’m inspired by art of all kinds, in all forms. It’s been my greatest inspiration and teacher.” Nikos
“I always knew that I loved working with my hands.” Christos
Once they ran out of space, Object 2 Repair morphed into 2 Concept Store, with a new location and more bang for your buck. Approachable and open, they are caught off guard when people ask them how much they charge, simply for offering some design advice. Nikos explains: “Because this is something I’m passionate about, and it’s something that comes easy for me, I don’t understand why I would charge money just to look at some photos and offer some advice.
For me, I love mixing and matching, it’s a challenge, a puzzle…and I always listen.
It’s not just about what colors people need to use or where they need to put their pieces. It’s about helping them figure out how to create a space they love.”
I’m inspired by art of all kinds, in all forms. It’s been my greatest inspiration and teacher.
Nikos is very clear about their dedication to the “character” they have envisioned. To that end, Nikos and Christos have worked to create a space that offers beautiful, unique and affordable design.
While they work with pieces from all periods, their main focus is on the Danish design concept of the 60’s and 70’s. They like clean, classic lines – they appreciate the versatile and modern style of that period because of the way it translates today.
As Nikos says, “Beauty should not be an exclusive right. It’s a difficult time for me, for you, for everyone.” They are dedicated to offering design and beauty at a reasonable price, no doubt one of the reasons they continue to do so well.
The ground floor is a café/lounge area – a place for friends to gather, for people to work, for coffee, for a cocktail. All the furniture in the space is for sale. You like the table, you ask how much. It’s that simple. There is an upstairs area that also works in a similar way – everything from the fixtures on the walls, to the coffee tables are available for purchase.
Downstairs you’ll find the exhibition space which contains more pieces for sale: mirrors, lighting fixtures, tables, chairs and other accessories for the home.
It’s also where, each month, a local artist or collector can display items in the gallery. “Thessaloniki’s artists often don’t have a voice,” Nikos explains.
“When you go and try to appeal to gallery spaces, it’s very difficult to get them to approve what it is you’re trying to show.” This month they are showcasing an exhibition of vintage tourist ad posters (1950-1970) – also for sale.
In the end, I ask Nikos why he’s still here in Thessaloniki, in Greece. A shadow seems to momentarily darken his cheerful disposition and he expresses frustration with the challenges that come with living here. “Maybe its comfort or security,” he offers, “Having my friends and family as a support system over the years has definitely helped,” he adds.
I cannot claim to know exactly what keeps Nikos here, but after talking with him it’s plain to see that he wants to share beauty with people in a community…without losing touch, without getting lost.
You see, in a city like Thessaloniki, Nikos and Christos are two people working against all odds. They are filled with energy, creativity, innovation and heart. When Nikos emphatically says, “I’m not a designer!” I get where he’s coming from…but I don’t believe him.
Nikos and Christos are renegades. They may not realize it, but they are working to make this city a better place. The doors at 2 Concept Store are open to all, and it’s a place that brings people together through art, design, love – at a time when this city needs it the most.
2 Concept Store
Café and Art Gallery
Ioustinianou 9 536 31