When I was in high school in Mexico City, Chippendale chairs were the rage. They populated most of the dining rooms of my adolescence, from my best friend’s to the neighbors’. You might eat your grandmother’s mole enchiladas while sitting on one, but the design references were, quite clearly, foreign. Recent years, though, have brought an inward shift. Designers no longer wish to emulate 18th-century British furniture; they look to traditional Mexican aesthetics to feed their creative energy, reviving everything from indigenous hand-woven fiber techniques to the intricate leatherwork inherited from the Spanish during the Colonial period to rugs inspired by the modernist style of Luis Barragán. All of this is Mexico, this hot mix of pre-Hispanic ceremony, Vice-Regal power and centuries of mestizaje (miscegenation), as alien cultures merged and germinated to become the sumptuous, multihued creature that we know today.
In contemporary crafts and design, the country teems with exciting interpretations of traditional pieces. Local artesanos partner with avant-garde designers to offer new takes on ancient techniques, experimenting—playing—with the myriad influences of Mexican visual identity. Here are seven of our favorites.
Silla Partera by Ewe Studio
It feels almost sacrilegious to describe EWE Studio’s creations as furniture. Their shapes, though imposing, hint at the delicacy of their design. The pieces are sculptural and mystical, with names such as Aura, Rito (ritual) and Altar. EWE’s master craftsmen apply ancestral techniques to the volcanic rock so common in Mexico, as well as to onyx, hand-blown glass, marble and charred wood. Each piece takes its inspiration from the country’s past: The Aura lamp references Catholic rituals of the Colonial era, while the Silla Partera (midwife’s chair) celebrates indigenous birthing chairs from the pre-Hispanic period. Find them at The Future Perfect and Galerie Half or, if you’re in Mexico City, make an appointment to visit their showroom.
Uxmal rugs by Mestiz Studio
Vibrant and playful, Mestiz Studio creates woven rugs, hand-thrown pottery and objects made with natural fibers, with each collection speaking to an aspect of Mexico’s land and culture. The shape of the Uxmal rugs references architectural details from a Mayan archeological site, while their ochre and ivory hues echo the region’s Vice-Regal period, when vast henequen haciendas populated the Yucatán peninsula. Designer Daniel Valero, a Saltillo native now settled in San Miguel de Allende, nurtures his whimsical collections through the constant pursuit of collaborations throughout the country. You can visit the showroom by appointment in San Miguel de Allende, or buy through AGO Projects in Mexico City and New York.
Glazed clay pineapple by Ananas
The most striking new object for your living room might happen to be a pineapple. But not just any pineapple: At Ananas — which means, of course, pineapple in French — artisans from Tangancícuaro, Michoacán recreate these glazed clay pieces, adding an elegant, modern flair. Throughout Mexico, the traditional green sculpture, glazed with copper to achieve its distinctive hue, has graced the homes of folk art lovers ever since the Alejo family in San José de Gracia created their first decades ago. In the hands of Ananas, they are transformed through new colors and textures. These delectable pieces add a subtle sheen to any living room.
Tule ottoman by txt.ure
Hand-woven using techniques honed by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, the tule-fiber lounge chairs and loveseats made by txt.ure seek to revive forgotten designs and methods. Low stools practically identical to these were used by the Aztecs to designate status; now they have been reimagined for contemporary living rooms. Picture one of their loveseats strewn with bright pillows or a woolen throw to complement the naked beauty of the natural fibers.
Campeche chair by Mike Diaz
First crafted in Manila before traveling to North Africa, Spain and, finally, to the New World, the Campeche chair (or butaca) finds new expression in designer Mike Diaz’s Metz chairs. The tropical style suggests endless days of sun and palm trees reminiscent of their namesake Yucatán city; their rustic materials speak of nights hazy with wood smoke and fireflies. Relax on these cowhide, mesquite and copper butacas while you watch the sunset, wherever you may be. Find them online at KRB.
Hand-dyed rugs by rrres
With collections echoing the aesthetics of Annie Albers, Burle Marx or Miró, the rugs at rrres are handmade by Zapotec weavers in Oaxaca, using ancestral expertise handed down through generations. Working closely with master artisans allows designer Javier Reyes of the Dominican Republic to truly understand the materials and techniques, informing his creative process from beginning to end. Res, which means “nothing” in Catalan—as in “no label”—is a collaborative project in which cultures, places and people meet in each piece; Reyes claims to find his inspiration in the emotional connection between the countries of Latin America.
Ladrillo bag by Aurelia
Aurelia begins with three sisters living on three continents, and ends with a collaborative fashion piece that speaks of simplicity and flamboyance. The Ladrillo (brick) handbag pays homage to their Spanish grandmother and to their Mexican influences. Artisans sculpt ethically sourced wood to craft the body of the bag, while the leather straps are cut and embroidered into intricate designs that reference Mexico’s Charrería culture, which originally derives from the aesthetic of the Spanish corridas and was later reinterpreted in the old Haciendas of the Colonial period. Each piece is unique, handmade and customizable. You can choose from several types of wood and even more strap designs on their website.
Anna Rimoch is a writer from Mexico City, where she lives with her husband and their two children. She’s constantly excited by the city’s vibrant energy, and by the architects, teachers, grocers, restaurateurs, historians, street musicians, designers, locksmiths, butchers, tlacoyo sellers, journalists and everyone else who makes the city a living, breathing work of art.