My love affair with Spain began as a child, the country in which I celebrated my sixth birthday. Madrid, to be specific. Repeat visits over the years have further entrenched early memories of bullfights, paella, the winding mountain roads near Seville, the architectural drama of historic paradors in Toledo, the Moorish exoticism of Córdoba and Granada, and swimming in the Alboran Sea along the shores of Torremolinos.
Culturally, Spain has always been ahead of the curve, personified by so many trailblazers: filmmakers Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodóvar; artists Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Antoni Tàpies; Michelin-starred culinary masters Ferran Adrià, Andoni Luis Aduriz and Juan Mari Arzak; architects Antoni Gaudí, Rafael Moneo, and this year’s Pritzker Prize-winning RCR Arquitectes.
They’re no slouches in the furniture department either. I had the privilege of attending Feria Hábitat in September, a time when much of Spain still feels like summer, with blistering heat and relentless sunshine. Held annually in Valencia, this year’s edition of the fair featured an expanded list of over 250 exhibitors spread out over 20,000 square metres, showcasing the best of European furniture and lighting. Spanish design sensibility has always been sophisticated; bearing many of the same characteristics as Danish design, the best examples are defined by cleanly tailored forms, high-quality materials, and at times, a boldness in hue that recalls the supersaturated colours seen in the most vivid of Almodóvar’s films. The dominant presence of established mainstays such as Andreu World and Capdell anchored the show, signifying their longevity and industry leadership in Spain.
Designed by the ever more prolific Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola for Andreu World, Nuez debuted at Habitat in a variety of colours and material choices. Here, a thermoplastic shell comprises the seat and backrest of the armchair, its form derived from the folds in a sheet of paper; grooves in the plastic give it a pleasing texture. The interior of the chair can be upholstered in fabric, leather and faux leather. Bases come in four configurations: four wooden legs, aluminum four-star, five casters and cantilever.
Brokis, a Czech manufacturer of hand-blown glass lighting, revealed new additions to their impressive stable of lighting designs – equally delicious in their appearance as they are in name. Designed by Lucie Koldova and Dan Yeffet, Muffins are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, and as either pendant or tabletop versions. They captivate with their flared glass forms in clear, smoked or amber tints that reveal the stark beauty of a naked filament bulb within. The shades are set in handcrafted European oak or American walnut bases; the wood is available in stained black and white or natural finishes. As an equally sweet complement, Macarons function as either tabletop or floor lights. Like their French pastry namesake, they are available in a range of delicate pastel shades that – along with their pleasingly curved contours – seduce the viewer. A translucent onyx plate in white or honey is sandwiched between shallow domes of hand-blown glass, allowing light from the base to filter through the stone disc to create a subtle and diffuse effect. Natural imperfections in the glass and onyx yield qualities unique to each light.
A Spool’s Paradise
A new release from Albiol, Zara is a spool-shaped table with a round top and base that bears an elegantly thin profile. Available in three different heights and diameters, Zara functions well as a coffee or end table. Both top and base are made of MDF, complemented by a joining column constructed of solid beech. 20 lacquered finish options include colours as compelling as pistachio green, rubine red, mustard and graphite.
Outdoor furniture manufacturer Calma presents Circus, a collection of three stackable side tables designed by Andreu Carulla that evoke the contours of last century’s design classic, the Butterfly Chair. Here, a galvanized steel rod frame is finished with a powder coat and supports a tabletop of 10-millimetre-thick Trespa, a high-pressure compact laminate. In complement, the Sra Pepa lounge chair features the same powder-coated steel rod frame and a reticulated foam seat and backrest, both upholstered in tailored Sunbrella acrylic fabric.
Designed by Alberto Sánchez of MUT Design for Expormim, Nautica is a hanging swing chair that pays homage to one of the first pieces created by the company in the 1970s. Suspended by a sturdy polyester rope, Nautica is constructed of high-resistance aluminum tube and peeled natural rattan finished in textured epoxy paint. Seat and back cushions are upholstered in a choice of natural leather, faux leather or pure virgin wool fabric.
Italian manufacturer Lapalma is continually expanding their modular system of seating, surface and storage units to provide limitless combinations and permutations. Designed by Francesco Rota, ADD launched in 2014 with seating geared towards the contract market. A basic aluminum-frame structure permits an impressive degree of flexibility: components for even the most complex seating systems can be added, including trays, magazine racks, side tables, and electrical sockets to recharge smartphones and tablets. 2016 saw the launch of ADD-T, a system of tables premised on linkable die-cast aluminum legs, and now, the newest addition to the family: ADD-S, a storage system designed as 90cm x 45cm metal modules in three heights of 40, 70 and 155 centimetres. Drawers and cabinet fronts are available in lacquered plywood, blanched oak or fabric-upholstered finishes, encouraging mix-and-match personalization.
Miró, Miró, On the Wall
Designed by Swedish multidisciplinary architectural/design firm Claesson Koivisto Rune for Spanish manufacturer Capdell, the newly released Miró 412T is a lightweight chair with an attenuated profile that is suitable for a variety of private or public environments. Structured with slender metal legs and a thin plywood or beechwood frame (with the option of an upholstered seat and backrest), the armchair is available in a delightful range of colour options. A variation of the previously launched 410T, this version of Miró features elegantly curved armrests and a padded cushion.
Slovenian company Rex Kralj has reintroduced its Rex 120 armchair that was first unveiled in 1953. Unsurprisingly retro in spirit and form, the Rex 120 embodies both strength and elegance. Constructed of solid American walnut and walnut veneer, the chair’s open slats allow for maximum ventilation while also reducing overall weight. The finessed ergonomic design features a comfortably reclining angle; expressively curved wooden armrests echo the sinuous contours of the chair’s seat and backrest. Rex 120’s equally attractive sibling is the Shell chair, a perfect ergonomic merging of metal frame and wooden shell. Comprised of two equally formed plywood panels, the joinery of backrest and seat is articulated by three rivets on either side. The Shell chair comes in walnut or ash veneer in a natural, black or white finish.
A Spanish company specializing in the design and manufacture of rugs and carpets, Alfombras Veo Veo presented an array of hand-woven, hand-tufted and hand-knotted samples of wool and silk, all produced within the European Union. Connect is the name of the new collection comprised of five models (Cell, Linde, Kolme, Plug and Mika) designed by edeestudio. Attractive geometric patterns in an array of colours mean the rugs in this collection do double duty as interior textile enhancements and works of modern art that you can walk on.