John Tribble did not start his eponymous venture, J. Tribble Collection, as the go-to source for custom sink bases and hand-crafted cabinetry. Trained at the Sotheby’s Institute in London, Tribble used his discerning eye to import European art & antiques for the American market. But as fate would have it, necessity bred invention.
Recognizing the dearth in custom cabinetry, particularly for the bathroom, Tribble had the ingenious idea to repurpose an antique cabinet into a sink base for the powder room. The resulting piece was both functional and imaginative yet allowed the beauty of the antique to remain intact. The rest is history.
30 years later Tribble and co-owner and lead designer, Rebecca Fincher, continue to hand-select quality antiques abroad, yet their passion for craftsmanship ignited a desire to create their own designs, often based on historically significant periods. Employing skilled artisans and craftsmen in their Atlanta workroom, J. Tribble offers custom, bench-made cabinets in both contemporary and traditional styles in addition to the antique pieces they are known for.
We sat down and with John and Rebecca to chat about antiques, craftsmanship and custom cabinetry for the modern family.
Q: John, you are known for your incredible eye, traveling the world to discover the finest pieces. Where do you find your antiques? What countries and periods do you tend to be attracted to?
A: I have imported from England, Italy, Hungary, France and Belgium. There isn’t a specific style – I am just looking for something unusual or something that stands out in some way from the 18th, 19th or 20th centuries.
Q: You cultivated a niche for repurposing antiques specifically for powder and bathrooms. What are some of the characteristics that make an aged piece suitable for a sink basin?
A: The first thing I look for is height and depth of the piece – nobody wants a sink base that is too low. The overall convertibility to a sink base is the most important thing. We need to be able to add plumbing and a sink without altering the piece too much.
Q: J. Tribble is known for high-quality reproductions and custom pieces, crafted in house. I love what your shop foreman, Robert Elliot said: “We dont build box cabinets here. As the old masters did, we create artistic pieces with craftsmanship which will be J. Tribbles legacy throughout the years.” Rebecca, can you talk about craftsmanship and your commitment to artistry in your workroom?
A: Each of our cabinets is bench made so each one is totally unique. All the moldings are cut by hand. We use full box, dovetailed drawers and the finest soft close, German-made hinges and slides. Most importantly, we take the time to get the details and proportions right. The hardware is the last to be added-it’s the jewelry that can make such a difference.
Q: I am interested in the process by which you take an antique and adapt it for an updated look. Walk us through the transformation of this antique Dutch piece which inspired the more modern Dutchman Collection.
A: The key is that we don’t update the look, we just update the function. It’s important that we retain its original appearance while adapting it for plumbing. Every now and then an antique will just be too damaged or have too many flaws, so we give it a facelift with a coat of paint.
Q: Another versatile style is the Bristol. What inspired this collection? Why do you think it has been so popular?
A: The Bristol was inspired by the regency period in England, of which the Brighton Pavilion is a great example. It is one of our most popular designs because of its versatility and ability to transition from a traditional house to a beach house to a mountain house, depending on the hardware, paint, or stain. In fact, we have a version made in veneer called the Brighton.
Q: I like the fact that you also offer modern silhouettes with clean lines. The Karen Collection seems well-suited for any bathroom in the house.
A: People love the Karen and it looks great no matter the size or finish. It’s a great transitional piece for people who do not want too traditional or too modern. Its an updated, current style and depending on the finish, it can be glamorous or casual.
Q: I understand you are in partnership with London-based designer Justin Van Breda. Is the JVB collection customizable, like your own line?
A: Absolutely, the Justin Van Breda collection offers many finish options…great exotic veneers and wonderful lacquers. Like our own line, custom sizes are never a problem.
Q: Finally, I wanted to ask about your ability to create pieces for other spaces in the home, such as the kitchen, family room or bedroom. Are you finding a demand for custom pieces for specific areas of the home? Is that a growing part of your business?
A: We get inquiries weekly for A/V cabinets, specifically with automatic lifts. We also love doing kitchens–both fitted and unfitted, as well as kitchen furniture like islands or hutches. The great thing about a J. Tribble kitchen is it is 100% one-of-a-kind cabinetry, bench made and hand crafted. Rebecca’s background in design and space planning means we can design the whole thing in tandem with the customer resulting in a highly customized end product.
For more information, please visit jtribble.com.
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INTERVIEW BY LESLIE NEWSOM RASCOE
Photography courtesy of J. Tribble Collection