|Posted by Oochie on July 17, 2011 at 8:45 PM|
Interior Designers Jeanne Wee & Filaine Tan of Arbitare Internazionale in Walter Knoll My Chair by Ben Van Berkel, a Red Dot award winner -- Best of the Best: "We don't just sell furniture. We help interpret our clients' dreams. We bring the best designs from around the world & make good contemporary design a part of people's lives.
Fat Fat sofa by Patricia Urquiola: Inspired by bilbil, the Spanish designer shows her fun, creative quirks “We have always been drawn to clean lines and unconventional shapes,” says Filaine. Soon, the sisters were in demand and were doing designs for boutiques such as 22 B.C., Bizaare, Satomi, Jojibo and Ensembles.
Flou sailor bed by Carlo Colombo: Interpreting the culture of sleep with a completely innovative concept, Flou is the international leader when it comes to beds. Which are B&B Italia’s bestselling items and designers here?
Andy sofa facing Mart chairs: The face of contemporary chic Oh yes, I saw Pesce’s Up chair in a book where he described them as “transformation” furniture, which turns the act of purchasing a chair into a happening. Personally, if I could grab Pesce’s museum pieces, I would put them in a children’s room. These are so comfy and colorful. Eye candy!
Up 5 and 6 chairs by Gaetano Pesce: Iconoclastic designs that convert the act of buying a chair into a fun happening.
Mart chairs by Antonio Citterio: This designer’s works are a part of the permanent MoMA collection as well as the Centre de Pompidou in Paris.
Aletto bed by Paolo Piva: And so to bed, in comfort and style
Filaine and Jeanne on Maxalto furniture : Maxalto is the choice of the ultra-luxurious Bulgari Hotels in Milan, Bali and Tokyo. The brand made its silver screen debut in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace in 2008.
Walking along HV dela Costa St. in Salcedo Village last week, I had an I-thought-I-died-and-went-to-heaven moment when I saw this showroom with such irresistibly beautiful modern furniture that I see only in magazines. Or in movies. Or in my dreams.
The shop was Abitare Internazionale, carrying B&B Italia pieces. And three more brands — Flou, Maxalto and Walter Knoll — in a two-storey array of the best chairs, sofas, tables, beds, and an awesome selection of clocks that set my mind ticking towards a futuristic mode.
I landed back on earth, and back to the present, or rather the past, when I saw two familiar faces — sisters Jeanne Wee and Filaine Tan — who I remember meeting some 14 years ago as two excited, giggly girls who had just won the Philippine dealership for B&B Italia.
Both girls are interior designers who grew up in the furniture business of their grandparents, who opened a shop in Binondo in 1908 renowned for its traditional and oriental furniture characterized by ornate, old-world craftsmanship, the kind favored by its patrons such as Malacañang Palace.
Ironically, Jeanne and Filaine were not molded in this tradition and went the opposite direction, embracing the clean and sleek less-is-more philosophy. In the late 1980s — a time when nouveau-riche opulence was still prevalent here — Jeanne was strongly inspired by the famous Memphis group of designers known for their radical designs. For her grad thesis, Jeanne did a bold work that shocked her teacher but won for her her first commissioned project: the hip Subway Disco in Malate.
Today, Jeanne and Filaine are famous frontliners in the modern furniture business in the country. We sat on comfy Patricia Urquiola chairs and took bites on an Antonio Citterio table for a chat on, what else, but chairs:
THE PHILIPPINE STAR: I met you in 1997 when you had just brought B&B Italia into Manila. Please tell me again how that happened.
JEANNE WEE and FILAINE TAN: It was pure serendipity. We were at a party when an agent said that a B&B Italia representative was looking for a dealer in Manila. When we met the guy, he was sort of testing us if we knew the brand, and if we knew who Antonio Citterio was. He was impressed that we knew about B&B pieces. He saw the passion for our brand and awarded the dealership to us.
How would you describe the B&B Italia market in the Philippines? Was the market ready when you opened B&B Italia?
It is a very exclusive but discerning market. These are clients who are confident with what they want and understand what they see. That was 1997, when the Philippine market was beginning slowly to respond to a contemporary lifestyle. Those in the know were already procuring their furniture from abroad. When the Asian crisis ended, the market was ready for B&B Italia’s price range. It was only in 1999 when high-end condominiums started to rise here, and more people became more receptive. High-end pieces started to match the value of their condo units or houses, and it was also the time when people were preparing for the millennium party.
The Charles Sofa by Antonio Citterio is an all- time international favorite. It is a streamlined, very lightweight, elegant L- shaped sofa that can be re-configured to two pieces facing each other with the same length. The Andy Sofa by Paolo Piva has two to three sections with a reclining backrest, and the seat can be a pull-out as a lounge sofa, ideal for the family room, or bedroom...The Mart Chair by Antonio Citterio is an armchair with a mold form rested on a chrome base, that can be tilted or rotated on its swivel base. Very handsome. The Aletto Bed by Paolo Piva has a headboard in black or beige mesh, an aluminum frame, a very sharp contemporary look.
Every great designer is known for an iconic chair. British architect Peter Smithson said, “When we design a chair, we make a society and a city in miniature.” What would you consider the top iconic designer chairs?
From B&B Italia, it would be the Up 5 and 6 chair, designed in 1969 — by Gaetano Pesce. Described as “Mama’s lap,” you’re like seated on the lap of your mother, with a female form on it. When it was produced in the 1960s, it was presented in solid bright colors, red, yellow, blue, stripe red / beige, and black using jersey fabric which was “the” material in the pop culture era. When you bought this chair that time, it was placed in a flat package. So you could put it in the car and bring it home like a flat pillow. When you opened the package, the liquid foam inside now in contact with oxygen would start to rise, to the form it was designed to assume... Hence the name Up. Technology met up with design.
Oh, in fact, we carry new versions of the Up chair, designed for children’s rooms! Speaking of more iconic chairs, from Memphis Milano, there is the First chair, an icon of the ’80s design by Michele de Lucchi. Then there is “Miss Blanche” by Shiro Kuramata. With red roses floating in clear acrylic, it was created for Tokyo Design Week.
That’s the chair supposedly inspired by Blanche DuBois, the main character in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Doesn’t it make you feel like you’re sitting on a modern see-through Japanese kimono?
That’s right... And how about the Lockheed Lounge by Marc Newson, fluid shape in aluminum with rivets.
That chair reminds me somehow of The China Clipper Lounge of Peninsula Hong Kong. That Pen lounge, which has various airplane memorabilia and is really a mini-museum, should look even sleeker with that chair.
Yes, the chair was inspired by the Lockheed aircraft.
TV personality Andrew Zimmern once said, “You can soak in as much Roman culture ordering shirts at Brioni as you can touring the Collosseum.” Or I think his father told him that. Would you say the same, that you can soak in Italian culture by buying a Citterio chair?
Yes, we totally agree, you can soak in Italian culture by sitting and experiencing the pieces designed from the mind of an Italian.....the thought, the idea, the skills , the technology that went into the production of each piece can be experienced through the senses, you see, you touch, you feel, you smell — a total Citterio experience.
It is said that chairs especially serve to bolster egos and demonstrate taste, while revealing the owner’s real or aspirational social and economic status. Do you think designer chairs, like designer bags, are becoming status symbols in the home?
Yes, chairs have become status symbols in the home. Every investment put into a chair represents and reveals the taste of the owner.
You have many interesting designers in your showroom. One of them, French designer Jean-Marie Massaud, caught my eye for his organic style or so-called “ethic” brands. What are his most popular pieces here in Manila?
He designed the Terminal 1 Lounge Chair, Seven dining table, Springtime outdoor furniture, Delta floor and table lamp, all for B&B Italia. We also see his designs in bathroom fixtures that are available in the local market.
Architect-designer Patricia Urquiola designs those really big chairs that we Filipinos can relate to, they look like our basket-woven stuff. Is it because of a shared Spanish sensibility?
Definitely, she is so creative that she easily gets inspiration from common objects, like when she designed the Fat -Fat chair for B&B, her inspiration was the bilbil.... Amazing how Urquiola gave an old craft like basket weaving a thoroughly modern look. She is a Basque lady who spends a lot of time in Barcelona, she is definitely fun and playful.
Do you have memorable encounters with the famous designers whose lines you carry?
A memorable one would be with the founder of B&B Italia — Piero Ambrogio Busnelli — the drive behind the brand, a frontliner of Italian contemporary furniture design. We met him 13 years ago when he was still active and energetic, and he was sharing with us his experiences in the Philippines — how he liked our kesong puti, and the ways we cook scampi. He expressed his feelings with much passion, you could feel his energy. We felt that we were talking to an institution....overwhelming yet down-to-earth. We see him every year during the Fiera, and two years ago, he was present with Gaetano Pesce when the Up chair celebrated its 40th year anniversary. That was also a memorable moment where the two masters were present.
Tell us something about the lines you carry, and which particular products Filipinos love.
Maxalto has a classic contemporay feel, with excellent wood craftsmanship and traditional design infused with a modern spirit. A favorite piece is the Apta and Simplice by Antonio Citterio. B&B Italia is a leader in contemporary furnishing that reflects today’s culture and trends, banking on innovation, technology and creativity aimed at producing timeless products. Favorite pieces are the Charles sofa and bed, Andy sofa, Lens table, Diesis sofa and coffee table. Flou interprets the culture of sleep. Quality, design, elegance and performance are its hallmarks. A bed specialist, it has 40 models of beds and a wide selection of mattresses, bed linens, and pillows. Favorite pieces are Nathalie, the first bed designed by Vico Magistretti in 1979. And the Sailor bed designed by Carlo Colombo in 2004. Walter Knoll is Germany’s leading manufacturer of top-quality upholstered furniture. With 146 years of history, the company has produced many award-winning furniture classics. This is furniture with smart functionality and high comfort. Favorite pieces are the Living Landscape sofa system where the corner pieces can be rotated 90 degrees. And the My Chair design by UN studio.
How would you describe your dream home?
On top of a mountain, with a vast splendid view, preferably designed by Shigeru Ban or Zaha Hadid. A place to relax, meditate and to entertain, reachable by helicopter, private jet, and horses. It should be self-sustainable, with food crops from its surroundings.
If the two of you could invite 10 people to a dream dinner, who would these be?
A mythical dinner with us should have Blessed Pope John Paul II, St. Francis of Assisi, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, Antonio Citterio, Andre Putman, Zaha Hadid, Ettore Sottsass, Ninoy Aquino, Confucius and of course, Chef Morimoto. Well, if we could choose all living characters, we would dream to have Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, Antonio Citterio, Andre Putman, Zaha Hadid, Prince William and Kate, Leonardo di Caprio, Andrea Boccelli, Oprah Winfrey, and Chef Morimoto.
What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? Your favorite resto because of its interiors?
We like Puerto America in Madrid, a design destination, conceived by 19 top architects including Christian Liaigre, Arata Isozaki, Jean Pawson, David Chipperfield, Ron Arad, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Marc Newson, Jean Nouvel. Here, you experience a different atmosphere every day, each floor has a different concept and design.
Our favorite resto because of its interiors is the one at Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona by Patricia Urquiola. Its lobby and bathroom are fantastic. It was named Best Hotel of 2011.
Wow, I have seen photos of the Mandarin in Barcelona. Fabulous. I wish I could stay there, also because some of Antoni Gaudi’s works are so near this hotel.
Well, to paraphrase what you earlier said, you soak in so much art and culture by staying in hotels like Puerto America and the Mandarin Barcelona.
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Abitare Internazionale is located at Crown Tower, 107 H.V. dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati, with telephones 892-1887 and 892-1890 and e-mail address [email protected].