A native of Greece, designer and entrepreneur Vasilios “Vas” Kiniris moved to the U.S. with his family when he was seven years old. As the owner of San Francisco boutique Zinc Details, Kiniris puts his artistic side to use during his travels, making new discoveries curating an ever-changing inventory. Here, Kiniris shares some of his personal travel history, tips, and inspirations from a life exploring roads less traveled.
Occupation: Owner of Zinc Details, a modern design boutique in San Francisco.
My next trip is to Morocco to see the country’s artisanal crafts. I’m intrigued by how age-old knowledge can be repurposed for the modern market.
My last trip took me to the Midwest to visit America’s forgotten design legacy. My family and I visited the Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe in Illinois, the Miller House in Indiana by Eero Saarinen, and Lafayette Park in Detroit by Mies among other Midwestern masterpieces.
First international trip—when and where? Was moving to the U.S. from my native homeland of Greece when I was seven years old.
A collection of Danish midcentury ceramics is my most treasured travel souvenir. The reason I love it is that the design isn’t specific to one culture—It could be Japanese, Native American or some other culture. I framed the collection in a shadow box.
How has travel impacted your life? I feel truly invigorated when I travel and see new things. I bring those ideas back home but also to my store. It makes Zinc Details more interesting and personal as result.
Is there an experience that has specifically transformed your life? For me, the effect of travel has been cumulative—being out there discovering new things on each trip. That really changes your brain over time and alters the way you think.
Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met on a flight or while traveling? I was lucky enough to meet Eva Ziesel, the legendary designer. We spent time with her at her home having a very simple meal. That was really special for me.
What’s your biggest airline pet peeve? We have a lot of former stewardesses from Pan Am and other airlines who visit us at Zinc Details and talk about the glory days of flying. The romance of flying is gone, and it’s sad to see that go.
Favorite alcohol you can’t get in the U.S.: Ouzo—an anise-flavored aperitif from Greece.
Favorite shopping destination: I’m in retail—I have so many! Two of my favorites are Illums Bolighus design department store in Copenhagen and Vinçon in Barcelona. There are so many treasures here everywhere you look at both places.
If you’re in Barcelona, Spain, any day of the year, don’t miss the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. It was designed for the World’s Fair in 1929 and taken down but rebuilt in the 1980s. It’s a seminal piece of modernist architecture but it’s also simply beautiful. Food for the eyes as well as the soul.
Going to a non-touristy area, sitting at a bar or restaurant table and starting up a conversation with the person next to you is the best way to connect with locals.
Where do you always take out-of-town friends? I always take guests on a walk through North Beach, up Coit Tower and down the Filbert Steps to the Embarcadero. Along the way you see great architecture, the San Francisco Bay and the parrots of Telegraph Hill. Everyone loves the parrots!
Best memory of a trip with kids—either from your own childhood or with your own kids:
Riding across the country from San Francisco to Chicago on the Amtrack with my kids. It is slow travel. You get time to acclimate and to talk. There is time for everything: quiet time, dining time and sleep time.
Most out-of-character travel experience? Something that you would never have done at home. We met an Amish couple traveling and actually ended up visiting and staying with them—no electricity, cars, or cell phone! We would never have done that at home!
Biggest travel mistake? Trusting a Roman cab driver.
Favorite foreign word or phrase: I love the Danish word ‘hygge.’ It has no direct translation but it means that feeling of home life, coziness, and comfort. You can create it in your own home or you can find it in someone else’s.
Favorite foreign tradition: Christmas in Germany. There is nothing else like it: snowy, cold, and lovely. Go cross-country skiing and then warm up next to the fire while drinking schnapps.
Travel has taught me to look for the authentic in everything.
Title photo: Regina Connell