It is a balmy August day at 2:30 in the afternoon when I arrive at an industrial building in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Erica Sellers, in all black with silver neck chains and lace-up work boots, her layered brunette hair pulled back in a wispy ponytail, greets me with a big smile to escort me inside.
We climb three flights of graffitied stairs to Suite 303—the high-ceilinged studio she shares with Jeremy Silberberg, her best friend and business partner who is dressed equally as carefree in a tattered tee he’s owned since high school.
Erica and Jeremy are Studio S II, founded in August 2020 to make provocative, cinematic furniture and interior design. The duo moved into the loft-like space last year, renovating and curating the studio in just 10 days to film Ellen’s Next Great Designer. Erica was one of seven talents Ellen selected to conceive and construct furniture and compete for the HBO Max reality show.
Inside the studio, Erica and Jeremy give me a tour of the raw-yet-styled office and showroom. A wall of gridded windows filters subtle streams of light, playing up pieces like their eye-catching sculptural tables—“Solar Flare” and “Dark Matter”—alongside flea market and estate sale finds.
Studio S II starts their design process with hand sketches, then 3D modeling, and, for furniture and objects, sometimes 3D printing; they make several prototypes (Erica makes them herself) before eventually sending the piece to be fabricated. A collection of their cutting-edge designs haven’t been realized yet, while a selection of prototypes are underway. They are currently working on a Brooklyn apartment and a custom coffee table—a model of the curved, two-piece base on display in the studio.
“Sometimes when we’re prototyping things we find out it doesn’t work and then it turns into something else,” Jeremy says. “The second you’re so rigid about what it needs to look like, you tether yourself to something that’s not possible.”
The New York City natives, both 31, met a decade ago at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). He was a film major; she pursued an industrial design degree. Within minutes of our introduction, I sensed their chemistry: It’s rare when business partners know each other so well they finish each other’s sentences. “It was an instant connection,” Erica says of their first meeting.
“It was totally captivating,” Jeremy recalls, thinking about that night at a party during their junior year. Days later he invited Erica to lunch, but she had already eaten. It didn’t matter; she wanted to go, so she ate again.
Erica credits the year she spent in RISD’s glass department with understanding conceptual art. “I thought the ideas behind conceptual art and storytelling were more indicative of where I saw design going,” she says. Once out of school, she worked as head of art production for Tavares Strachan for eight years.
Then three years ago, the notion of a real estate development project stirred her and Jeremy’s curiosity. They imagined shaping a live-work space together. Fast-forward to 2020 when the pandemic prompted a buyer’s market, and Erica discovered a listing for a rowhouse in Ridgewood, Queens, close to their studio. Buying the house would become the gateway to their partnership.
The friends would collaborate to design a gallery on the ground floor and a residence above, spurring the start of Studio S II (after their last names). “It was a now-or-never moment,” Jeremy says. “We sat down in the cellar of the house and it clicked.” A work in progress, the Ridgewood renovation should be finished by summer 2022.
These days the pair spends hours in their Bushwick studio, where no two days are alike. Erica compares their roles to a Swiss Army knife, since they wear many hats and have to multitask and shift directions frequently. While they consider themselves visionaries, Erica is the realizer, while Jeremy focuses on spatial design and décor.
They dedicate one corner to floor plans and project renderings tacked to a wall, as fabric and material swatches decorate a table. Tucked into a newly built room not much larger than a walk-in closet, Erica houses her barrage of tools and equipment for furniture-making.
Erica says, “We’re designing things that have a story that’s beautiful, that’s thought-provoking and weird—and that’s us.”