Back in 2020, while in Germany to reveal its conceptual living space design for the annual Das Haus installation during imm Cologne, Valencia-based multidisciplinary studio MUT Design made a fortuitous connection with the team from Colombian furniture brand Ames – what began as a conversation around common interests soon led to the mutual desire for a future collaboration between the two.
Dedicated to preserving and advancing Colombia’s rich cultural heritage, Ames (which is headquartered in Germany) partners with family-owned ateliers and local artisans and craftspeople in South America to develop its strikingly colourful and tactile furniture and accessory designs. Using traditional weaving and pottery-making techniques, the pieces are handmade from domestically sourced and sustainable iraca palm leaves, fique fibres and werregue grasses, as well as modern materials like brightly coloured PVC cords made from recycled plastics.
It was this exceptional craftsmanship and use of raw materials – and championing of local skilled workers and artists – that attracted MUT founders Eduardo Villalón and Alberto Sánchez, themselves renowned for a unique creativity that reimagines everyday objects into remarkable works of art.
When it came to creating with Ames, Villalón and Sánchez first did their due diligence by extensively studying the brand and its place within the overall market, as well as the evolving indoor/outdoor sector. What they ultimately proposed introduced a new chapter for the furniture maker – its first-ever fully upholstered seating collection, COCO.
The concept for COCO came about in a rather innocent way – while in the studio ruminating and making paper models, Villalón and Sánchez were reminded of a game from their childhood, comecocos. A hand-held “fortune teller” constructed from paper, a comecocos is a type of origami with folded corners and eight flaps that reveal hidden messages or answers. “We thought it was a beautiful story for inspiration,” says Villalón of the ephemeral device that essentially informed COCO’s sculptural shape.
To realize COCO, the designers also developed a new weaving composition for Ames’s acrylic yarns that would cover the seating. Handwoven on a horizontal loom in the Bolivar region in north Colombia by weavers of traditional hammocks, the threads are comprised of four basic colours (each with five threads ranging from pale to bright) that are interwoven with selected yarns in contrasting shades. By modifying just one thread in the weft, MUT was able to create new levels of visual complexity.
“We tested many different colours on the thread, from dark to light to very bright, until the nuances appeared. The bright variegated colours create depth and perspective, and you get the feeling that the fabric is constantly changing,” says Villalón of the process. Of course, there were some obstacles to overcome. A post-pandemic shortage of available threads meant that colour combinations that had previously been settled on had to be completely reworked. “It meant starting again from scratch,” says Villalón, also noting that another challenge was to “figure out how to upholster COCO so that the fabric’s lines would play like the comecocos, diagonally across. The first prototypes didn’t work, the fabrics were beautiful but they didn’t produce any colour effect.” The upholstery process is a time-consuming one that involves a precise folding technique similar to how a comecocos is made and was carried out by expert upholsterers from the Valencia region.
The geometrical composition of the COCO modules – which include a foam-stuffed armchair, footstool and soon-to-be-introduced table – was softened by the smooth edges that resulted from the completely concealed seams, giving them a “welcoming, kind and comfortable” appearance. In the end, although inspired by a whimsical children’s game, COCO is much more intricate and sophisticated and could have only been realized through MUT’s singular vision and Ames’s network of highly skilled artisans.
The COCO seating collection is offered in eight colourways that blend yellow, pink, orange, green and blue and have a lovely shimmering effect.
With its Coco collection of upholstered seating, the Valencia-based studio introduces a new typology for Colombian furniture-maker Ames.