Frank Pollaro: Custom Furniture Designer

Frank Pollaro, president and CEO of Pollaro Custom Furniture in Union, recently collaborated on a furniture collection with actor Brad Pitt.

Pollaro is a master craftsman and Bloomfield native whose acclaimed work has been featured in hundreds of publications, including Architectural Digest. The Pitt-Pollaro line is available at Pollaro’s workshop by appointment. To see more of the collection, visit

Your passion for woodworking developed when you were a boy growing up in New Jersey. What was the first piece of furniture you designed?

I was 15 years old when I completed it. I told my boss at the cabinetmaking shop that I was going to sell the table for $800. He looked at me and said that I would never sell a table for $800. He was right about that table; I never did sell it. But he was wrong about me ever selling a table for $800. To date, our most expensive has been $280,000.

You are celebrated for your reproductions of Art Deco furnishings, often by master designer Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann. Why the fascination with Ruhlmann and the Art Deco period?

I discovered Ruhlmann when I was 16. I saw his work on the cover of Fine Woodworking. I was impressed by his use of materials and the refinement that comes when you juxtapose ivory and Macassar ebony. Ruhlmann’s use of embellishment gave the pieces a tension and elegance not seen before in the history of furniture. I learned that Ruhlmann was the high priest of the Art Deco furniture movement. He was the pinnacle of the period, and the thought of trying to recreate his work was very interesting and technically challenging to me. I jumped in with both feet.

You recently collaborated with actor Brad Pitt. How did the partnership come about?

I met Brad in 2008 when I visited his chateau in France to deliver a desk that he commissioned as a birthday present for Angelina Jolie. We discovered a shared passion for art, design and perfection. The friendship that has grown as a result of our collaboration is very rewarding to both of us. We enjoy spending time together and exploring wine.

What is your favorite piece from the new collection? Does Pitt have a favorite piece?

It would be hard for Brad or me to select a favorite piece. It’s kind of like selecting your favorite child; they are all interesting and beautiful in their own way. The public has responded positively to all of the pieces, but there was particular enthusiasm for the Long Run table and the Toi et Moi bathtub.

How does the partnership work?

Brad’s vision guides the designs; I guide the execution. I liberate his thoughts by transforming those designs into three-dimensional objects. We plan on releasing new pieces as Brad’s schedule permits.

How much input does Pitt have in the design process?

The designs are 100 percent Brad Pitt. He conceives the initial designs through sketches. He has sketchbooks that he fills with thousands of conceptual drawings of all sorts of furniture. He shows me the books, and together we select the pieces that will be built. In the case of his continuous-line tables, he builds scaled three-dimensional models. He will make 20 or 30 models, and over a few bottles of wine, we review and select the strongest designs. Our meetings last 8 to 12 hours and are highly productive. My contributions are in the areas of structural integrity, engineering and ergonomics. Once we start building the pieces, Brad makes monthly visits to our workshop to select the exact woods, inspect the pieces, revise the designs, alter the colors and test the comfort. He is involved in every level of the process and is deeply committed. We talk several times a week.

Have you ever partnered with a celebrity before?

No. My decision had nothing to do with celebrity. Our client list is filled with celebrities from all areas of life: entertainment, business and banking. Our choice to work together was based on our friendship and Brad’s commitment to design and create furniture. I enjoy the creative sessions, the problem solving and trying to interpret his designs in a way that is true to his vision. I think we will be doing this for a long time.


Two Pitt-Pollaro Creations

In the clear: The polished stainless steel Arc table is a limited edition of 23 signed and numbered pieces.

Chic sleeper: Adjustable tables define the PP-2 bed fashioned from Ziricote wood and stingray skins.

Read more Style & Shopping articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown