Rattan furniture will always spark childhood memories for me – the smooth, tactile curves and gentle creak as you sit into it. Somewhere in the back of mind there’s an old dining set made from it, or maybe it was a lounge chair. Yes, in fact I remember a large round seat my step-father had in the early days of our new family, the four of us would fight over which two got to spend Saturday night movie night in it (because it was that big). So arriving in Moxient just outside of Valencia last July, the penultimate day of our Sunny Days Design Tour and typically the only day it decided to rain, there was something completely comforting about meeting Expormim, makers of rattan furniture since the 1960s.
Behind the walls of this unassuming industrial building stood the most breathtaking view of the mountains shrouded in mist, and looking out at it a white washed courtyard, home to some pretty well established palms (how could I not notice those?) and Expormim’s showroom and archive.
A family business, for the first twenty years of its history Expormim had been the forerunner in rattan furniture, utilising traditional skills and using local Spanish materials which at one time were abundant. With the decline of rattan during the 1990s, the company looked towards new ways to evolve, sourcing the rattan from Indonesia and finding new man made materials to create longer lasting outdoor designs. In working with a much revered team of Spanish designers and architects including Benedette Tagliabue, Mario Ruiz and Mut Design, Expormim has found a way to continue its legacy.
The rattan has been given an edgier, more contemporary feel which still looks at home in more traditional surroundings, in particular the Frames collection, designed by man of the moment – Jaime Hayon, which includes a coffee table and screen as well a lounge chair.
FRAMES is a happy new chapter to an old story, the tale of old craft and tradition within a new framework of clever design using a joyous new approach to the material.
The more contemporary designs include the ‘Plump’ modular indoor/outdoor sofa and ‘Twin’ armchair, a minimalist’s dream with a more masculine aesthetic which is upholstered in a polyester mesh. Yes, I would love to lounge in this in my sun room.
The Lapala chair, designed for outdoor by use has a painted stainless steel frame with woven nautical rope replacing wicker. The simple clean lines and textured seat make a striking silhouette and it was one of my favourite designs of the day.
Past the showroom, we’re led onto the factory floor, a hive of activity dominated by the smell of sawdust. The rattan is steam moulded into shape by hand inside dedicated steam rooms. In their raw state, the reeds are left to pick up the moisture for a period of time before they become soft enough to manipulate into the soft curves that will become a piece of furniture. Alongside them, metal frames are being woven with polyester rope at lightening speed.
It’s easy to blame progress for the loss of traditional craft, but Expormim have proved that by working with fresh and innovative designers and new materials, the company can continue to produce their iconic furniture well into the next generation.