A rich and authentic Portuguese experience isn’t confined to vacationing in Lisbon and Porto; there are other ways to surround yourself with profusely enchanting culture, including being introduced to Portugal’s enriching designs and creative studios.
The nation’s design scene has seen much development in recent years, building itself from the ground up after a major recession hit in 2010. There are a notable number of artisans and designers in my home country who have taken up the task of reforming a design industry to shape a unique, home-grown aesthetic.
The change is being steered by business owners and Portugal-based entrepreneurs who have their eyes set on promoting the "Made in Portugal" brand on an international level. Growing up in Porto, I know of many businesses that have re-emerged, aiming to captivate a global audience, and designers who have inspired new brands to come forth and represent their ideas to the world. Here are a few that I have worked with and can recommend...
Ferreira de Sá
This is quite an old brand that sells exquisitely handcrafted rugs and was established in 1946. Ferreira de Sá started out as a small operation in an even smaller town in northern Portugal before becoming a reputable brand worthy of an international presence.
Their handmade products stand out for me because of their ethnic diversity when it comes to design as well as technique. The company creates rugs using three main methods: hand-tufting, Beiriz Stitch and hand weaving; I would say that their most affluent clientele are drawn to these signature techniques. Their products suit Middle Eastern homes very well as their environmentally-sustainable manufacturing methods align with the region’s design innovations.
I’ve had an impeccable experience with Ferreira de Sá and you’ll find the company’s lavish rugs featured in a variety of my projects. I wouldn’t speak of a brand unless the quality was of remarkable standards and, in addition, their commitment to a client and promptness is what sets them apart from other companies.
Ginger and Jagger
In 2012, Ginger and Jagger started out in Portugal with an elegant range of furniture. They boast contemporary designs, a hint of traditional motifs, use of natural materials and eccentric inspiration – the perfect formula to be recommended by me.
Ginger and Jagger’s originality extends beyond the borders of the final product. The creative process and everything in between is portrayed as quite mystical, especially the way they implement the use of distinctive mediums such as copper and brass. Personally, I feel that it is this innovation that adds the most value to any experience with Ginger and Jagger.
Although their concept isn’t what I’d call traditional, it is well-suited to the current design scene of the Middle East – based on nature, the wilderness, and the mixed outlook associated with adventurous travels. Another major factor is the handmade nature of their products, which exudes extraordinary artisanship. Regionally, they have a showroom in Saudi Arabia where they display their latest collections and interact with new clients.
This artisanal brand makes beautiful ceramic tiles using a creative method that hails from central Portugal. Because of their handcrafted technique no two tiles are the same; undoubtedly, this sets them aside from mainstream brands. Regarding their production method, New Terracotta defines the underlying theme as the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi.
Their mesmerizing craft is called Azulejos, with talented craftsmen making the tiles manually, but there’s a touch of contemporary personality, too, inspired by modern designs. The highlight of my experience with New Terracotta is their dedication that is put into the process, from the selection of materials to the moulding, and then to the glazing – each step adding value to the final product.
I can say it’s their traditional roots and practises that customers should look forward to, considering that such tiles make for an impressive collection as well as investment. The Middle East’s love for culturally enriching motifs make New Terracotta an ideal choice for homes in the region and I think that customers would relish the experience of choosing from their range of colours, finishes and patterns to create unique, customised tiles.
If I had to name one Portuguese brand that combines both classic and contemporary vibes in an avant-garde fashion, it would be the furniture company Frato. The reason why their products span a wide range is that their creative process isn’t limited to just Portuguese practices and aesthetics; it’s the result of multi-cultural exposure.
I have a taste for their products because of how their main focus lies in their customers’ preferences and comforts – meaning you can look forward to a pampering and be guaranteed a trustworthy experience.
Frato’s manufacturing practices fall into the category of being environmentally friendly. They aim to create designs that offer a solution to issues of climate change and they incorporate a theme of sustainability, making their brand better prepared for the future. Besides a retailer in Saudi Arabia, Frato has opened a showroom in The Dubai Mall.
This Porto-based, exclusive lighting company combines different mediums and creates unmatched designs through the implementation of ancient techniques. Creativemary is a brand that seamlessly fuses both the modern and age-old perspective into an assorted mix, something that is subtly visible across their product ranges – definitely something that I regard as worthy of praise. My experience with Creativemary has been more than just mere transactions – I have received a reliable service, creative solutions, and knowledge about their all-encompassing sources of inspiration.
Their sophisticated technique of implementing materials such as glass and metals leads to designs that show off an enigmatic character, completely different from that of the next product. Their best-selling collections Nature Mary and Cosmo Mary accentuate two contradicting realms of design, reflected in a range of lamps and luminaires. Based on the Middle Eastern narrative of natural aesthetic and modern innovation, the brand’s lighting designs fit well in the region’s homes because of their matchless collections that comprises both futuristic and nature-oriented themes.
Portugal native Sneha Divias is the founder of Dubai-based interior architecture practice Sneha Divias Atelier, working on residential, commercial and hospitality projects around the world.
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