Sure, everyone acquires some furniture in their lifetime. But Rod Parks, owner of Kansas City’s Retro Inferno, has procured thousands of chairs, tables, couches and other beautifully designed 20th century objects for the home since wandering into an estate sale 24 years ago. At the time, he was studying to become a psychologist, with a master’s degree accomplished and a doctorate underway. “If someone said in 1993 that this is what I would do for a living, I’d say that’s absurd,” Parks said. “I was into cool stuff to a degree, but this furniture thing ended up having a life of its own. It just got me.”
But it’s not just any style of furniture that piques his interest. Parks carved out a niche for dealing in mid-century modern home furnishings long before that style experienced its recent return to popularity. He had an eye for it, and he developed a talent for spotting the good stuff. Parks recalls the George Nelson desk for Herman Miller he found at an estate sale as one of the first pieces that gave him an inkling he was on to something with his new career path. From there, “a garage and basement full of furniture turned into storage lockers, which turned into warehouse floors and five years later – I had a store,” Parks said.
24 years later, Retro Inferno is known nationally by collectors, interior designers and architects for the museum-level quality of the pieces as well as the sheer size of the inventory. As for that George Nelson desk? Parks has yet to bring himself to sell it.
Matt and Emily Baldwin bought their first pieces of designer furniture from Rod for the opening of their first Kansas City shop, back in 2003. “Still to this day, our George Nelson for Herman Miller steel frame collection chairs and side table are in our home. Like Rod’s desk, we can’t part with them,” Matt Baldwin said.
Browse Rod’s modern home furnishings at retroinferno.com.