January 01, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina’s most timeless exterior facades and welcoming interior spaces trace their roots to Studio 2LR, an architecture and interior design firm that forged its reputation through thoughtful reclamation projects and fresh design ideas. When Studio 2LR selected a former automotive upholstery shop to serve as its new creative space, the firm’s principal designers decided to pay homage to its history by undertaking a special project: a centerpiece that would begin its life with a trip to Pull-A-Part.

“Pretty early on, we talked about honoring the history of the building,” said Studio 2LR vice president Tripp Riley. “As we got closer and closer, we said, ‘Alright, we’ve got to go find some car parts.’ Pull-A-Part was just down the road. Neither of us had ever been. We said, ‘Let’s go try it, and see what we can find.’ It was actually a lot nicer than we expected. I thought we’d be stepping over stuff to see what we could find — but it was organized, the cars were all propped up, ordered in rows. It was easy to navigate, with helpful staff.”

Studio 2LR president Wes Lyles and intern architect Joe Bowen rounded out the field team for the excursion to Pull-A-Part of Columbia, mere minutes away from the design firm’s new headquarters. The trio headed to the yard with an idea in mind, but no specific commitment to a particular car. Instead, they scanned the yard for inspiration — and after considering 15 to 20 cars, finally found the Volvo V70 bench seat of their dreams.

“We wanted something clean, comfortable and modern that looked like a car seat,” Riley said. “We were struggling to get it out of the back of the car with no idea how to do it. So Joe pulls out his iPhone, and says, ‘Let me see if I can find a YouTube video on how to dismantle these seats.’ Sure enough, there’s some guy explaining it through video! All seats are different, and this one was a tough one to crack. We were probably pulling on the wrong stuff for a while. Thank goodness for YouTube.”

“We wanted a bench seat,” Lyles said. “We thought about doing captain’s chairs or something – but this is a little nicer. We liked the idea of the pull-down cupholder. We saw that and thought, ‘That’s it.'”

In true Studio 2LR form, however, the project wouldn’t be complete without subtle, glinting accents that add equal amounts of sophistication and whimsy: alloy wheel side tables derived from a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited.

“We saw these two just sitting out on the aisle,” Lyles said. “We’re like, “Grab ’em!” They were just sparkling right there, like, ‘Oh, wow.'”

With the proper parts in tow, it was back to the sketch desk to envision the final product.

“We had an idea of what we wanted, but until we had the pieces and parts that we needed, we didn’t come up with the sketch,” Lyles said. “It was a quick sketch with concepts: ‘The base is only as wide as the back’, and we wanted that floating ledge.”

The final product consists of three pieces, including the ‘floating ledge’ that gives the illusion of end tables in suspension. Bowen suggested stereo fabric wrap to envelop the user in an environment that feels like a genuine automotive interior. Soon to come: orange seatbelts for a pop of color in line with Studio 2LR’s corporate palette.

“Over the past four or five years especially, you’re starting to see a design change here in Columbia,” Riley said. “Historically, it’s been very conservative — kind of slower paced. It’s not like Atlanta or Charlotte when it comes to way-out-there funky design. But Columbia has a vibrant art scene with some extremely talented artists.”

Studio 2LR, evolving with the city it calls home, recently opened their new headquarters with their seating project as the lobby’s anchor.

“This seat held up as long as it has,” Riley said. “I’m sure it’ll last a long time here.”