Brazilian furniture from the mid 20th century was a great homage to the native lumbers of Brasilia, and played with smoothness and sensuality in their lines and curves. Newer designers are taking great inspiration from their forefathers (and in some cases their actual fathers), often with more of a sustainable approach to design.
This is your cheat sheet for contemporary Brazilian furniture designers, forging new ideas and changing the homesphere of design in Latin America and around the world today.
Fernando and Humberto Campana were born in Brotas, an area in the São Paulo region of Brazil. They mix bright colors with traditional patterns and shake up many of the classic shapes and looks of furniture to create their unique pieces.
They are still very much active in their trade, with international exhibitions and global fame, receiving the prestigious Design of the Year Award at the 2008 Miami Art Basel. Not only do they produce furniture designs and art pieces many of which are for sale at the Carpenters Workshop and Edra, but they have also been hired to bring their unique vision to residential and commercial properties looking to fit out the interiors.
The brothers make use of a wide array of interesting materials for their work, and structuring them into forms similar to those we are accustomed to, but bringing out some new aspects of furniture design.
Another designer who is looking at materials in a new way is Rodgrido Almeida. He recycles woods and plastics and loves to play with the bright colors found in Brazil; the vibrant greens of the lush flora and the strong blues of the azure sky.
His work draws on the cultural melting pot heritage of Brazil; a nation built with immigrants from Europe, Africa, Asia mixing with the indigenous population and creating a unique American identity of its own.
Almeida is good pals with the Campana Brothers. You can sense a shared interest in playing with the elements of colors and materials to create exciting designs.
Luciana Martins and Gerson de Oliveira
These two designers are the people behind Brazilian design firm ovo, which they co-founded in 1991. Their designs have a simple design aesthetic that are clever and also playful.
Among the range of sofas, chairs, wardrobes and tables there are also smaller elements like this candle holder. The designs are definitely chic, with decisive shapes and finishes for each of the lines of work that have been produced over the last two and a half decades. Instead of working with other manufacturers, they are able to focus on their ovo brand and take control over their output; from design to production and even the marketing of their items.
Zanini de Zanine
Voted Designer of the Year in last year’s Maison & Objet Americas award, Zanine has been under the sway of good furniture creation from a very young age. He grew up in Rio de Janeiro watching his father, Jose Zanine Caldas at work.
He is well known for his work with older, used wood that has come from demolition zones; things such as columns, beams and the foundation posts from old houses being torn down.
The Quadri chair breaks down the typical shape of a backrest and seat area, splitting the pieces into four fragments. It’s a humorous twist on the typical features of traditional furniture.
Schertel lives on a farm in south Brazil, where she is close by to sheep. She has taken her skill with wool to create patterns and shapes by hand to make contemporary baskets, stools and other home items.
Wool techniques may be old. While, Schertel’s stools do not look out of place among this collection of innovative furniture designs.
You get a sense with Almeida’s work that he has long studied the legacy of the Brazilian masters of furniture design. All are with the wooden aesthetic and curves on show. But that is simply a tribute to just how timeless the forms and ideas are.
Almeida started designing at a young age, and has already received a number of prestigious Brazilian and international design awards. I like the idea of a contemporary rocking chair, with the airy and elegant lines that show off great contours. The dark rich colors of the oak and cord that works as the upholstery is striking. But at the same time, they would also look great in lighter colors as an outside chair.
When is a table not a table? Rampazzo’s furniture has you captivated. You are more often than not trying to work out all the elements and components that equal its final form. One such example is the Illusion Table.
The angle supports in the center of the table mean that depending on which way you look. It’s almost a question of how does that thing stay balanced? Her collection helps us to philosophize over why we always expect to see a table with four legs and a flat top – are there newer ways we should start to think of our furniture?
Brunno Jahara’s work has been featured in magazines around the world, and has become well known for his spirited use of colors and form.
As well as furniture he uses a range of other materials to create items for the home. These lamps have been designed for his series using aluminium sheet metal that has been dented. Batucada takes its name from a percussion beat used in Brazilian carnivals. People want to celebrate and enjoy the music, so traditionally they will use whatever tins or aluminium is available to hit out the beat and play along with the bands, making this collection another uniquely Brazilian design. At the São Paulo Design Week in August, he unveiled his latest collection in collaboration with fashion designer Ana Voss that uses Brazilian straw to make lampshades, baskets and hats.
Fully embracing traditional works with newer digital formats is Guto Requena, who continues to find new ways to explore ideas of Brazilian identity.
He is well known for his 2013 Noize Chair. As part of a series using three iconic Brazilian chairs. The shapes and styles of the originals have been modified and then 3D printed. To find new ways of adapting and modernizing the pieces, Requena and his team recorded audio from the streets of Sao Paulo. They then went on to use those soundwaves to distort the digital designs for the chairs before sending them off to be printed.
Another favorite project of mine is his collaboration with Tai Ping, a Hong Kong based bespoke carpet company. He looked into Chinese and Brazilian history, and found a colorful painting from the 1800s. It was depicting the time when Chinese workers from Macau went to Brazil to teach farmers how to grow green tea. Both areas were Portuguese colonies at the time. By putting the image through digital manipulation to find the main colors, and rearranging them using the melody of an old Chinese song, the resulting image is an exploration of the identities between the two countries.
Brazilian design is certainly having a moment, and it’s great to see more recognition for these talented artists and creators. Pieces by these designers are becoming more commonplace in exhibitions of contemporary design. It’s fantastic to see some of the color and rhythm of Brazil in the work.
As one of the largest design centers in Latin America, Sao Paulo has an outpouring of design that is really growing in confidence and I look forward to seeing more!