CLIENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – How we Brought a Wretched Hive to Life!
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy…” -Obi-Wan Kenobi
If you’re a Star Wars™ fan, you know exactly what wretched hive old Ben was describing to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: A New Hope. For most of us, the Mos Eisley Cantina was our first major encounter with the aliens and scoundrels of the universe. We recently had the opportunity to create an incredible set of custom furniture and decor, inspired by this iconic gritty setting for a customer’s home and wanted to share the story behind the project with you. What about the cantina struck an emotional chord with our client? Why in the world did he want to turn this scene into a real-life setting for his living room? Let’s hear it from our customer himself, Chris…
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Name, where you’re from, and how you came across Regal Robot.
My name is Chris Ropko, and my family and I relocated to a suburb of Memphis, TN called Germantown about 12 months ago from Northern California, specifically Novato, CA in Marin County. I first discovered Tom and, in turn, Regal Robot back in I believe 2009 when Tom introduced the Han Solo carbonite desk. It was always one of those, “maybe one day…” things, but his work certainly piqued my interest so I started loosely following his blogs and websites shortly thereafter. I am sure this goes without saying, but the obvious common thread here is of course STAR WARS!
We heard that your interest in commissioning Regal Robot sparked from seeing the Cantina themed living room set concept art online. What about these specific designs piqued your interest?
So, I was messing around on the internet around the holidays of 2017 and saw these renderings on the Regal Robot website in the “Custom Studio”, one of which was the Cantina furniture – it was almost like the spotlight shining down from the heavens above. I am fairly certain my heart skipped a beat; it was love at first sight. I literally had a conversation with my wife maybe a few weeks before about how “one day” I would build an operable Cantina in our house, to which I was laughed out of the room, but then I found what I considered to be the perfect compromise. The props, costumes, characters and furniture used in the Cantina scene are iconic and this was an incredible way to honor my favorite movie scene of all-time in a refined way – when I saw the rendering, I thought this set, or a permutation thereof, could be dressed up, or dressed down.
Tell us about why the Cantina resonates with you as a Star Wars fan.
Unequivocally, the grit, grime, tangibility and imperfectness of the whole set. It feels like a real place, with real beings – you can almost smell the uncleanliness and spilled drinks. The vastness of the Star Wars universe becomes apparent at that very moment – up until that point in the film, there are Droids, Vader, humans, Stormtroopers, but when Luke steps in to Chalmun’s Cantina, you just see a bunch of regular beings living their daily lives, we have no context for who they are and what they are doing, but their body language and vocalizations make you believe they are unwinding from whatever it is that has consumed their day/lives, and you suddenly realize how large this galaxy might be.
How did the Regal Robot team take the original concept for this living room set and tweak it for your exact needs?
Tom and his team were absolutely fantastic from start to finish. They really helped guide me in every little aspect about how to bring the rendering to life. My biggest ask was that it was functional, yet remained as screen accurate as possible. Mind you, that’s actually a pretty tall order when you consider how little detailed source material exists to most folks from a scene that was shot over 40 years ago. They spent a lot of time in the weeds on things like fabric material, colors, permanent versus mobile installations, reimagining certain set pieces as alternative uses, and numerous other considerations. All the while they had their eye firmly on the fact that this wasn’t going to simply be a display set and would have to be constructed with durable and practical materials so that the cost would not end up out of reach.
In addition to the existing Cantina living room concept, the Regal Robot team provided you with options for side tables and other room decor. Can you tell me a little more about the collaboration process?
Let me just say, there were some incredibly creative juices flowing on this stuff! So much so that in looking back, I am certain that some of those pieces will be included in round two! The collaboration was very hands on, on both sides, throughout the whole process. It all started with a brainstorming call – we knew what the core was going to be: couch/loveseat, a couple chairs, coffee table and side table. Those pieces alone really set a room off, but why not add a couple of stealthy, or not so stealthy, accent pieces to help glue everything together? I had a blast theorizing with Tom on all of the “What ifs?” Once a couple strong ideas were developed, the Regal Robot team went to the drawing board (literally) and sketched out some of the visions. From there we continued a process of elimination and refinement process until we ended up with the pieces to be commissioned. We even explored the idea of designing and building a removable sandstone-looking archway to be installed onsite with the SPGA sign built into the top portion just like the entryway in the movie. I had a lot of fun with this!
Looking through the concept sketches the team created, what made you choose the Cantina bar themed console table?
It would be very easy for a non-fan or even a casual fan to see the soft seating and tables and think its sort of a ’60s/’70s retro furniture set. I needed something that would immediately scream CANTINA! I toyed with the idea of doing a small bar in the spirit of the Cantina bar, but the room I have the set in has pitched walls so I thought that spacing for something like that wouldn’t make sense, particularly with the drink dispensers (aka IG-88 heads) taking up a lot of vertical space. My original thought for a layout of furniture had the back of the couch as the first thing someone would see when they entered the room, so voila! That sparked the idea of doing a mini-cantina style bar as the console table behind the couch so that ends up being the first thing you see when you enter the room. It is actually a very versatile piece and I have since rejiggered the layout – I am glad I chose that size because it exudes “Cantina” without being too dominant in the room.
In addition to furniture, we also created some super unique wall art with you. Can you talk about the SPGA sign, Snaggletooth belt buckle wall art and Docking Bay 94 wall art, and what those mean to you?
These are perfect examples of those under-the-radar pieces that slot in perfectly with the theme, so you know they belong, but don’t necessarily know the significance so it creates a story. I was very aware of both the SPGA sign above the cantina entrance in A New Hope and the Snaggletooth belt buckle design, but I am sort of embarrassed to admit I never knew there was a “94” carving in the wall next to the entrance to the docking bay in Mos Eisley until Tom pointed it out to me! We all know Docking Bay 94 well, and I am sure many of the folks reading this knew the symbol existed, but for those who weren’t aware, its super easy to miss since it just blends in to the sandstone walls. That just added to the coolness factor for me, particularly since I am a huge fan of Chewie, Han and the Millennium Falcon. The SPGA sign is a lot of fun – the team weathered it incredibly well and included a light effect, so it’s fun to bring some light into the space when maybe you are watching a movie or just hanging out enjoying the ambiance!
The Snaggletooth belt buckle wall art and the sign from over the Cantina door are really subtle details that non-Star Wars fans might not even notice. Was it important for you to have custom pieces in your home that were a little more subdued?
Yes and no – if it was up to me, our whole house would be recreations of iconic movie scenes or have life-size characters abound! Of course, this is generally not very practical so I really like that all of these pieces act as an homage to my favorite Star Wars scene, but are versatile enough from a design aesthetic to truly fit in any room in our house. That may sound crazy, but honestly, slap an area rug down and throw this set into a study or den – it works! You are not relegated to throwing red tape up in your man/woman cave and making sure guests and little ones keep off. The functionality and comfort make it fun and practical!
The Star Wars films and props are known for their wonderful details. What small details do you enjoy most about these furniture and home decor pieces?
While having actual casts of a Rolls Royce Derwent engine combustor liners for the drink dispensers on the Cantina bar console table are a very close second, I have to definitely say the weathering is my favorite detail. Thanks to Tom’s team for the hard work on those! This isn’t Chalmun’s Grand Opening, this is the Cantina as we all first experienced it in Star Wars – a well-used, well-patronized bar! There is liquid residue on the tables, dirt and grime where someone’s boots would bang up against the bottom of the bar and tables, seepage and dirt dripping down the signs/wall art, its epic. A lot of very skilled craftsmanship and artistry went into this.
What was your first reaction to seeing photos of the completed creations?
I was stunned! I couldn’t have envisioned it looking any better or any more accurate! Of course, the skeptic in me started to take over – it looks perfect, absolutely stunning, but how comfortable or functional will it really be? When it arrived and everything was unpacked and put into place, I could tell even before using the furniture – the weight, the materials, quality of finishes, I knew this would stand the test of time!
How does it feel to have such an iconic setting from Star Wars in your own home?
It is so much fun. It is my zen place – just sitting down on the couch or a chair, popping on the table light and SPGA sign and reading a book is a pretty awesome experience. It certainly feels like you are a part of the galaxy we have all come to know and love so much. I could not be any happier with the finished product and I would be remiss if I did not mention that the costs to do custom work like this may be on the high end of what some folks would be willing to spend for a hobby or passion, but I can affirmatively attest that it is worth every penny and the time, effort, craftsmanship, detail, access to source material, official licensing, and personal touch make me a true believer in what Regal Robot is doing with their Custom Studio. It’s very rare to find skilled craftsman who devote themselves to their work in today’s society, but that is exactly what Regal Robot is doing and it is exciting to watch and even better to be a participant in!
We’ve heard your son is a big Star Wars fan. How does it feel to bring these elements from Star Wars into your family’s home and share the excitement with your son?
This is the best part of it all! We have some pretty fun father-son bonding moments in the “Cantina” – it gives me a great excuse to goof off and pretend I am a smuggler on my way to the Spice Mines of Kessel or a Devaronian informant stopping in for a quick drink! My son will quite literally just disappear into the “Cantina” and play with his toys. He loves being surrounded by the things he sees when he watches the Star Wars movies. His favorite thing to do is stand behind the bar console table and serve “blue milk”! He thinks the team at Regal Robots are divine powers, and I have to say, I am starting to think that too!
What sort of reaction do you get when people see your new Star Wars themed furniture?
Immediate smiles and questions. Most people recognize immediately and those who don’t aren’t really my friends. All kidding aside, those who don’t are mesmerized by the design and craftsmanship and then start asking questions. The accent pieces we discussed earlier are the coolest part because those are the story pieces: What is that? Where in the movie does it appear? I guess what I am saying is that these pieces create an experience. It’s a lot of fun to see the small slice of joy it brings to others. I am excited to continue to work with Tom and his talented team, they are onto something and I will forever be supportive!
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Chris! Be sure to check out the complete cantina decor project gallery with lots of images.
Love what you see? On our Star Wars Custom Furniture Studio page, you’ll find our currently available premium special editions, past custom creations we’ve made for private clients and even some concept art as inspiration to start the design process for your project!
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Due to the time involved in making custom creations, we can only take a limited number of these projects each year. Submit your custom request by filling out the form below to begin the conversation and learn what we can make for you!
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your custom request by filling out the form below to begin the conversation and learn what we can make for you!
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