Established as a small atelier in Mexico in 1971, today Alfonso Marina has expanded far beyond its beginnings with distribution in 48 states as well as Canada, Europe, Asia, and more. The brand is known for elegant, handmade furnishings, particularly wood chairs, tables, and consoles with warm patinas and sophisticated lines. Most of the work is done by hand, with CAD drawings the only nod to modern technology. The designs include ingrain moldings, complex veneered faces, marquetry and bone inlays, all of which are made in their plant.
We spoke with Alfonso Marina product designer Isabel Marina about some of the brand’s latest developments, including their new High Point showroom, their production processes, and their most remarkable pieces.
Dering Hall: How has Alfonso Marina evolved from its founding in 1971 to the present day?
Isabel Marina, Alfonso Marina: Regardless of the decade, Alfonso Marina has always worked to offer the highest quality products while also satisfying current design trends and tastes. Whether it’s an urban apartment or a more casual home, we create pieces to suit a variety of tastes and needs across the spectrum. No matter the style (or the year), we have always aimed to satisfy our customers’ needs.
DH: What inspires your designs every season? Do you think about incorporating things within the existing collection or do you prefer to step outside of what you've done before?
AM: Designing and selecting products is a very personal activity. The cultural context of specific pieces, the overall interaction with the rest of the collection, and personal taste of course direct the final result. It’s about achieving a look that’s harmonious overall but not limited to a certain historical period or provenance. We believe in surrounding the customer with beautiful, diverse objects that become the antiquities of the future. And we find inspiration everywhere.
DH: When it comes to new products, do you prefer to redevelop and refine an existing piece or are you more likely to start from scratch with something brand new?
AM: Just as with fashion, furniture is a product of social, cultural, and economic changes. Pieces from the past are a source of information that tell us about the styles and creative movements that dominated every era. Proportions and spaces today are of course different than those of yesteryear, so furniture needs to be adapted to the way we live in the present.
To create the types of pieces that we want to create, it’s important to adapt and reuse techniques from the past that may have been forgotten because of their complexity or materials. We believe in using the best of different eras to create products that are timeless in their own way.
DH: What is one popular piece in the collection that really resonates with you?
AM: The Spanish Bargueño is one of the most iconic pieces in our collection. Our production process is to thank for that. Although there are machines that are capable of doing some of the work that craftsmen can do, they could never create a piece like this one. For instance, the Solomonic columns at the base could never be created by a machine—thus, we make sure that this part of the piece is handcarved and gilded in gold leaf. The hardware is done the same way, ensuring that we create something that is comparable to an antique that might have been made centuries ago.
DH: Tell us a bit more about the manufacturing process, since many of the pieces are made by hand.
AM: As I mentioned, we think it’s vital to use the techniques of the past to make furniture of the highest quality. Our company is lucky in that we can design however we want because we create the tools for the moldings and the hardware ourselves. We’re able to recreate classic styles and execute on them using our own manufacturing processes.
We manufacture our own marquetry, cutting and burning piece by piece, so we don’t have to limit ourselves on that front. Plenty of other techniques are also done in the classic way: the linings, assemblings, the crossed moldings, hand carving, bone incrustation, lacquers, painting with stucco, and the patina in the finishes. Our goal is to achieve unique pieces every time they’re manufactured.
DH: You've moved into a new space in High Point... tell us a bit more about that.
AM: We’re thrilled with the new space. We collaborated with an architecture firm called Materia, who have worked with high-end brands like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and others in the past. The goal of the space is to blend perfectly with our style of furniture and to highlight our pieces in such a way that people can really view the whole collection cohesively. We launch new products twice a year and want the opportunity to display them for all our visitors to High Point. Be sure to come see us in the fall and see what’s new.
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