Brazilian furniture design is hot; here are the names you must know.
Listen to Girl from Ipanema and you'll understand Brazilian design. It's in the melodies, the organic notes that translate the country's unique sunny-colored, honey-sweet vibe, caressing our souls. Bossa Nova's rhythms are all over Oscar Niemeyer's sinuous curves, Burle Marx's lyrical patterned pavements and Sergio Rodrigues' low-slung, wood-frame Mole chair. But, unlike the jazzy laid-back Brazilian genre -- that seems to fall into ostracism little by little for the benefit of funk (now Brazilian's favorite beat) -- furniture design from the South-American country still drinks from its rich founding source. The result is a new generation that is, little by little, taking up its rightful place in the international scene.
Inspired by Joaquim Tenreiro and Sergio Rodrigues (the founding fathers of Brazilian furniture design) Lina Bo Bardi (Gio Ponti’s contributor), Zanine Caldas, Jorge Zalszupin and Paulo Mendes da Rocha -- masters of the Brazilian modern art movement who, in the 1950s, were responsible for establishing the country's furniture design identity -- the new and up and coming designers are picking up from where their masters had left off. In the 1970s, at the peak of the military dictatorial regime that lasted until 1986 and its strict and severe censorship, Brazilian home design was more or less put on hold. It wasn't until the beginning of 1990s when a new scene started to emerge, notably with the Campana brothers whose international recognition paved the way for a whole new generation that were eager to incorporate the values of modernity: preservation of local artisanal know-how, material recovery and sustainability.
"Brazilian design is still a lot about wood, a heritage from its modernists masters"
"Brazilian design is still a lot about wood, a heritage from its modernists masters", explains Carolina Pons, Brazilian architect and design enthusiast based in Paris. "In Brazil we still have a lot of solid wood, which is not the case in Europe, where you need to use glued laminated wood, for example. That explains also why we're not very strong with the use of metals. Those materials being less available, there is a lack of tradition, so we never really developed it". Having a wood-based design culture makes sense in Brazil: the country has over 12,000 species of trees (like jacaranda, jequitibá, imbuia, peroba, to name a few), meaning a palette with 12,000 different tones. With the threat of deforestation, especially in the Amazon region, sustainable development has become the baseline of this new generation of designers, profiled below.
Guilherme Wentz - Tropical luxury
As a business major student, the now 33-year-old Guilherme Wentz used to ditch class to go surfing in Caxias do Sul, his hometown in Southern Brazil. The contact with nature inspired him to quit his degree and enroll in a design school instead. His ascension was fast and by his 30’s the talented designer had created the eponymous brand that conquered an upscale clientele, collecting prizes on the way (such as the iF Design Award, Idea Brasil, Rising Talent at MAISON&OBJET Americas) and becoming Brazil’s new design darling. With a minimalistic and luxurious approach, his work can be described as Scandinavian meets tropicalism - think caned chairs made from indigenous caramel-colored jequitibá wood, a slim metallic-tube soliflower vase that mimics the plant's stem, or a lamp named Tombo (translated as « fall » in English), designed to look like it has fallen over the table.
Brunno Jahara - Green Brasilis
Carioca designer Brunno Jahara’s work is like a collage of references, inspirations, cultures and travel, with sustainability as a common denominator. And yet, his green and yellow roots are easily perceived through his semi-handcrafted pieces that range from furniture to ceramics. It’s the case of Batucada, one of his most remarkable works: cheerfully colored vases, trays and suspensions made of carefully dented, recycled, anodized aluminum - in Brazil, collecting empty cans is the means of survival of the "catadores", men and women who pick up scraps and leftover aluminum for recycling, contributing to the 98% countrywide reuse rate of the metal. His commitment to the environment is also conveyed in the Multi Plastica series of vividly colored lamps and vessels made from waste (such as plastic bottles and caps). This unpretentious "Brazilianness" has earned him a place in several design weeks around the world, as well as exhibitions in the Milan Furniture Fair, Venice’s Biennale and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. His most recent work, Loops, a collection of copper and silver tableware in pure and clean lines shows the designer’s ability to accomplish something of a totally different register.
Etel - The feminist touch
Founded in 1985 in São Paulo by famous designer and manufacturer Etel Carmona, Etel today is managed nowadays by her daughter Lissa Carmona, authorized manufacturer of most of Oscar Niemeyer's furniture and the uppercrust of Brazilian design with the likes of Sergio Rodrigues, Lina Bo Bardi and Jorge Zalszupin. Loyal to her mother's legacy, she works primarily with women and has recently collaborated with star curator Tony Chambers to design Women and Design, an exhibition planned for the next Milan International Furniture Fair (postponed to 2021). Her most recent collaboration, a two-piece collection with Spanish designer and architect Patricia Urquiola, created a buzz in the design world. Cascas, a multiple-use trolley mixes eco-certified Amazonian wood and recycled materials, and Raiz, a console made of wood and Marwoolus (a material composed of compost from marble, veined with woolen threads) merge the codes of European and Brazilian design.