The Craft of Curation: Vas Kinris of Zinc Details

By Regina Connell.

We love to love the new.

It’s all so exciting: the lack of rules, the thrill and utter delight of the unexpected, the new intimacies, and even the promise of redemption.

But it’s so much harder to keep it fresh while remaining true to yourself. And I’m not just talking about relationships.

It’s true of stores, too.

But Vas Kiniris has figured out how to keep the flame alive. Vas is the owner/curator of San Francisco’s Zinc Details, a home design emporium that’s been around since the 90’s but which still manages to keep it fresh, surprising, and real.

Vas Kinris of Zinc Details

Zinc Details defines modern, San Francisco style. Think lots of Scandinavian and Japanese-influenced designs, with dashes of humor, cool, and quirk courtesy of the Dutch and the Brits.

Zinc Details's quirky chair selection

The result is a fine balance: design classics (Louis Ghost chairs, Saarinen Tulip arm chairs, and Platner pieces) nestle comfortably among hand-made, vintage-inspired items from local designers. There are pops of color, warmth, and rhythm. The effect is offhand, unstudied, and unassuming, yet knowing.

Platner side chair by Knoll

Zinc Details’s aesthetic fills that void between the earnest classicism of, say, Room and Board and the more serious “look-at-me-I’m-such-a-design-classic” aesthetic of Design Within Reach. It’s informed, it’s smart, and it’s got a very strong point of view, but it’s not elitist. It’s approachable, but miles away from dumbed-down.

Colorful collection of "Scenic Drive" signs

Vas’s form of curation is less an intense personal or intellectual vision than his own visceral understanding of his customers. His secret? “I think of the store as an edited version of the people who come here,” says Vas. “No one really needs anything any more. We’re in the business of emotion, not of things.” And for that you need to connect– deeply– to people and to customers.

Saarinen tulip arm chair

This former designer understands design as well as people. He’s intensely curious about taste, culture, and ideas, which fuels his taste, merchandising, and programming in the store. He is not afraid of change.

Playful accents

For Vas, it’s about movement and evolution: of design, of our relationship with design, and of the taste of the community. Pieces get moved around frequently in response to mood, inventory, or sometimes just the unerring inner eye of the curator.

Sectionals, chairs, and whimsical decorative items

Vas (and Junko Nagai, store manager) have seen it all: the booms, the busts, the in-betweens, and now the establishment of the digital age. During the life of Zinc Details, design has gone from a niche-y interest for the likes of architects and creatives to an obsession for everyone from engineers to CEOs. “I like to think of it as design evolution, and we keep evolving but with the same DNA.”

Zinc Details is brimming with colorful accents

Curating in the retail setting is ultimately about place, and Zinc Details is about San Francisco. And who are San Franciscans? “They’re globally aware, educated, open, and understated. They like their modernism warm, not cold. They want to be pushed, and challenged, but they know who they are.”

Modern tea set

In-keeping with this idea that design is democratic and synergistic, Vas is taking his curatorial approach beyond the walls of his store, not in the expected digital way, but by opening up it up for events that explore creativity and design (wine tastings, Lomo workshops, panel discussions, and Recent Graduate shows), as well as walking tours and carefully planned trips that help people see things differently and connect with design in ways they might never have thought of before.

Oversized mirror and modern lamp


Zinc Details

1905 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, California

415. 776. 2100





This entry was posted in FURNITURE+LIGHTING, MAVENS, THE PLACES. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Craft of Curation: Vas Kinris of Zinc Details

  1. An amazingly spot-on assessment of Vas and his shop. So well done, Regina. As a neighbor shopkeeper and great admirer of his, I have watched Vas over the years as he has created a more and more intriguing business. In addition to all you say, he is funny and warm and welcoming, and very generous of spirit. Whenever you’re in San Francisco, make time for a visit there… at the very least it’ll brighten your day and get you thinking in a new way. Call me a fan!

  2. I have always loved Zinc Details and think Vas does a great job of being innovative and fresh. As a fellow retailer who has been around since 1977, I speak from experience that it is noe easy to do that. I have known Vas from his beginning.At one point he used to wholesale and we purchased goods to sell in our store in Toronto. We are frequent visitrsr to San Francisco and always drop in to see what is new at Zinc Details and say hi to Vas.
    Keep up the great work Vas !

    Myrlene from Urban Mode