A Little About Us
Alessandro and I were friends in high school, but neither of us would have guessed that our paths would cross a few years after college, we'd date, eventually get married and start a family and life together. Our career paths also crossed in creative ways. Alessandro in the world of architecture and furniture design and mine as a graphic designer and photographer. We had talked for years about starting a business where we would bring together our experience and interests. This is how SOBU was born.
Named after our kids, Sofia and Bruno, SOBU began with an idea for a kids' bed which led to a pop-up shop in Old Oakland, which led to a shared space in Rockridge, which then led to taking over the space in early 2016.
We wanted to design modern, well-crafted pieces from all natural materials that would last a lifetime. We saw SOBU as an alternative to the mass-produced, hastily made and soulless furniture available at every mall across the country from the corporate giants we all know. Our hope was to offer exceptional craftsmanship and design, and really connect with our customers for a much more personal and meaningful experience purchasing items for their homes. We wanted to show our customers we care, appreciate them and are truly honored they have chosen our designs to add to their homes.
In addition to our own designs (DESIGN BY SOBU), we showcase furniture, art and a wide range of home accessories from local and global artists whom we hold in high regard.
Our mission with SOBU is really the same which we live by and which guides us as parents: to be authentic, respectful, generous, joyful and creative.
Alessandro and I also strongly believe that we exist as part of a larger community which we have an obligation towards. We always showcase local art and creations at our Oakland shop. Artists do not have a lot of outlets for exposure and appreciation.
In addition, we contribute, we share, we disperse our privilege of color and education as much as we can. We give generously to organizations who advocate for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, the environment and we give directly to our local public schools. The homeless situation both in Oakland and Berkeley, where we live, weighs heavily on us. We have empathy for all of the homeless and know that broken lives often mean broken childhoods. If we all think of the next homeless person we pass by on the street as a child who perhaps was once neglected, abused and/or abandoned, we may have a kinder outlook and wonder how we can help.
We truly hope you enjoy your visit with us and that you take away with you some warmth and inspiration from the little world we have created together! - Laleh
Past Informing the Present
Furniture designer Alessandro Latini was born in Rome and spent his childhood living in inspirational locales such as Sardinia and Rio de Janeiro. He attended UC Berkeley's School of Architecture and discovered his love of furniture making amongst the machinery in the school's architectural workshop. After graduation, Alessandro moved to New York and lived in an East Village basement apartment designing and building custom furniture. A chance encounter with his old high school friend Laleh (see below) led to a move back to San Francisco. He then worked for architecture firms BAR Architects and BCV Architects before transitioning to designing furniture and accessories for a large Oakland-based furniture company. His designs have been featured by retailers such as Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel amongst many others. Alessandro's expertise is not only in furniture design, but in sourcing sustainable materials and methods of fabrication from workshops worldwide.
Iranian-born graphic designer and photographer Laleh Latini moved at the age of 8 with her family to San Francisco to escape the revolution. She grew up mostly in the city, but moved to Marin in high school where she became friends with Alessandro. Laleh studied Design with an emphasis on Film and Photography at UC Davis and a few years after graduating, she embarked on an around-the-world trip with a close college friend traveling across 4 continents and 13 countries. Back to reality in San Francisco, she did a brief stint as an assistant to a wedding and food photographer, quickly realizing that the commercial photography route was not for her. She vowed to avoid a full-time, 9-5 job as long as she could and instead embarked on a long freelance graphic design career with clients including Pottery Barn and Design Within Reach. Through the years, Laleh remained a devoted photographer and you can see her images throughout the SOBU website (most of our product shots) and some are also available for purchase here and occasionally at our Oakland shop.
Crossing Paths Again
While on a visit from New York, Alessandro spotted his high school friend riding past on her Vespa. He left a note in her helmet inviting her to coffee and the rest is SOBU history. The next chapter included living together all over San Francisco with numerous awesome and unforgettable roommates, and a somewhat ill-fated move to France that led to a 1-year relationship hiatus, then...back together, kids and SOBU.
Laleh's high school Vespa is still around and being restored by a friend (Michael, almost done?). Recent additions to the SOBU family include a rusty Citroën HY, Laleh's Honda CRF230L dirt bike, a naughty cattle dog named Nacho and the tiniest addition, Gia the mini aussiedoodle. We have a very full and lively house!
SOBU always welcomes your thoughts and suggestions. We love what we do and hope you feel the same way!