I travel extensively because of my business interests. In addition to designing and sourcing for my own company (Woodbrook Designs) ( Woodbrook-designs.com) I have an ownership position in an Italian manufacturer of contemporary dining, namely Domitalia and I represent two additional Italian companies and one factory in Guadalajara Mexico producing occasional tables. Woodbrook’s products are sourced in Thailand, mainland China, Indonesia, Vietnam and India.
As a result, I am in all these countries a minimum of twice a year and many 4 times/ year. Because of the wine business I am also in South Africa 2-3 times / year and because of being on that continent I have traveled Uganda, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Egypt extensively. Everywhere I go, I tour the outermost regions of a country on motorbike as it is the most interesting way to learn the lay of the land, the people and their culture. I discovered a factory I currently source from in Thailand because of discovering them on a motorbike outside of Chaing Mai in the mountains of Northern Thailand.
I became a wine importer of boutique South African wines by accident, so to speak! I first visited South Africa close to 30 years ago when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and Apartheid was dismantled. Before this most of the civilized world had sanctions against South Africa with 100% duties.
It was an uncertain time and the value of the Rand was quite favorable vs the US Dollar so I started importing leather seating into North America. One thing led to another and I eventually started a furniture manufacturing plant in the former Transvaal region outside of a small town named Costa close to the Botswana border. I obviously fell in love with South African wines and made friends with several of the vintners and owners of the wine farms in the region. We manufactured tables made from Autumn colored slate which exists only in South Africa. I exhibited these tables twice yearly at the High Point, NC furniture markets in April and October. As I entertain nightly during the markets I would put 40-50 cases of wine on my sample containers coming twice a year for the market. Finally, I was notified by US Customs that they would not let these quantities in the country anymore unless I had a license to import wine. So, I got my import license so I could bring in my wines legally at which point my wine farms said to me-” Terry, you buy more wine from us two weeks out of the year than our US importers buy from us all year long, so why do you not become our importer for the states? And, that is how I got into the wine distribution business-by accident. That was 15 years ago, now my boutique South African vineyards are gaining fame in Florida and the US.
One of my farms, specifically Hartenburg has taken two of the best varietals in the world over the past decade. Recently their Stork Shiraz took number 1 in the world at the world’s most prestigious Syrah competition-the “Shiraz du Monde” in the Northern Rhone Valley of France. Their estate Merlot took number 1 Merlot in the world at IWSC-International Wine & Sprit competition in London.
Not many vintners can claim two number 1’s in a single decade.
My other farms are Post House, Groote Post, Camberly,Babylons Peak and Mellasat. Mellasat produces the only White Pinotage in the world and I tell white wine drinkers to taste it at their own peril as they may never go back to another white after tasting. Unlike many whites where you may taste mineralogy, or citrus or floral or grass or oak or butter in the White Pinotage you taste nuttiness and creaminess. And because it is made from a red grape that only grows successfully in South Africa; it is also one of the lowest sulfite white wines in the world.
The furniture biz- I have been in the Contemporary furniture business for 43 years but since I acquired property in Montana 5 years ago the West has also gotten into my blood so my style currently is “Contemporary to Cowboy”! Many of my Contemporary root items and one of a kind pieces from Thailand work in both Contemporary and Western themes.
I am constantly looking for inspiration in every culture and country I travel. For Contemporary, the most important world exhibition is Fiera Milano which takes place once yearly in Milan. Not only does one get inspired by the unique designs but also by the display of the stands! It is nothing short of extraordinary! I also attend the January Fair in Cologne, Germany, two High Point Fairs, two Las Vegas Fairs as well as Fairs in Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, and Singapore. Occasionally I attend fairs in Moscow, Istanbul, Spain, India, Vietnam and Canada.
On my world travel- I am truly blessed to literally have friends all over the world. I think traveling came naturally as my father was an Army Colonel and I might add a highly decorated WW2 veteran, who is buried in Arlington National alongside my mother and brother. We moved every 2 to 3 years as is normal in the Military. I was born at Fort Bragg, NC and was 15 days old when we moved to Germany in 1946. After three years, we lived in Arlington VA as Dad was stationed at the Pentagon and after two years in Arlington we moved to Istanbul, Turkey for three years and then to Fort Totten, NY where Dad eventually retired to Charlotte County, Fl.
One never really tires of world travel as one of my great pleasures is being somewhere I have never been before and turning a corner to a new street or trail I have never seen. One meets a variety of people in world travels and I can say I have learned so much from folks around the globe; be it culture, production methods, exceptional cuisines -fried scorpions and snake venom wine in China to Springbok Carpaccio, Kudu, kingklip and Warthog in South Africa to plain and garlic Naan in India to Turkish delights-sometimes I empathize with Anthony Bourdain!
I get inspiration from the inside of a lone isolated Hand carved Buddhist Temple on a Thai mountain top as well as the ceiling pattern of a Chinese elevator (true story). I get inspiration from the Bosporus river beside Istanbul’s river cafes and inspiration from the architecture of the Casbah section of Tangier, Morocco. I designed a table from a stone edifice I saw in the Cairo museum and another from the Vatican.
Boca Grande has been home since 1979 and Florida home since 1958. I do, however, consider myself a citizen of the world! One day a book will be written but not until I retire and then I probably will not recall everything!
My business allows me to live anywhere as my customers are all over the world but 90 % of my production goes to North America- Boca Grande just is where I have lived the longest and am a part of the community. I’m a thespian here approximately every 2-3 years. My most recent appearance was 3 months ago as Felix in “The Odd Couple”. Previous performances were “Rumors”, also by Neil Simon, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Deadwood Dick, Born Yesterday, The Wild Guys and “When you are coming back Red Ryder ” among others. My favorite home/ place is a tough one. Boca Grande is home and I love it here but Madison, Virginia where I have a stone dwelling and a 100-year-old Stone church on the property is the only place where I walk down to the river every morning and Thank God for letting me live there as a caretaker of his church and property for the next generation.
My favorite countries are Italy and Thailand. Italy because there is nothing not to love-the language, the people, the architecture, the charming landscape, the Food, the coffee, the wine and, of course, Milan is truly the fashion capital of the world. Very rarely do you need to give a design idea to the Italians. Be it shoes, automobiles, handbags, furniture or apparel the Italians are hands down the best designers in the world and that is to be admired. I could live in Italy.
Thailand-because of the majority Buddhist population Thai’s are among the most gracious, non-pretentious generous and hospitable people on earth. I love doing business there and love the mountains in the Northern Thai area. Cities that are exceptional would include Cape Town, Vancouver, San Francisco, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and Valparaiso, Chile.
We look forward to the book on Terry Seitz!
by Susan Short
Photos by Instudio E