Some weeks ago I had the chance to visit the Kettal headquarters in Barcelona as well as the factory where furniture is actually realized, located in Tarragona around 40 kms south of Catalan town.
Kettal is a long tradition company being on outdoor furniture market for more than 50 years. However during the last 10 years it has started a radical change both in its design research and its reference market sector. This change occurred during the business handover to a younger generation: the new management realizing that the low market sector was going to be too hard and quality lacking, boldly decided to focus on research and products quality, commissioning their products design to well known designers and keeping the production site in Catalunia (rather than outsourcing in an eastern Europe industrial district) with the objective of not wasting the professional skill gained during the 40 previous years.
The collections produced according to the new wave were strongly marked out by their designers style:
- Patricia Urquiola has created Maia in which the elegant artisan braiding and the sturdy aluminium structure mix together in a strong energy blend, while the Mesh collection is based in contrasts between industrial and natural materials, hard and soft surfaces, transparent and solid volumes;
- Rodolfo Dordoni has designed Bitta matching aluminium frames, seats of braided polyester and confortable cushions, while Boma he attempts to blend the need of high performances requested to outdoor furniture with the increasing demand for huge confort;
- Jasper Morrison in Park Life outlines a collection based on technical sophistication and careful consideration of ergonomics factors, while Riva collection aims to refresh a long and varied tradition of woodmade outdoor furniture.
Both the headquarters, located in the heart of Eixample right over the showroom (currently under renovation) and the new factory clearly reproduce this design-oriented trend, which I rarely found visiting this branch top rated companies offices.
The headquarters are conceived as an open plan with Bouroullec designed Vitra workstations: flooring and cladding materials selection, common spaces and artificial lighting design, the informal products display as workbreak spaces furniture and the artworks enhanced outfitting show the company’s choice to realize a high quality workplace, completely different from traditional offices standard.
This design approach is strongly highlighted in the new factory: the areas addressed to production, in which it’s easy to realize how product’s high technology matches with workers talent, are naturally lit through large rooflights while the work environment is made more pleasant by the presence of trees. Furthermore common spaces (like dressing rooms and cafeteria) have the warmth usually connected to home spaces.
The path faced with strength and consistency by Kettal during these years allowed them to work with famed designers and to realize eminent projects showing that research, innovation and design are the right way forward to get good commercial outcomes adding value to the brand.