Studio Visit

Jader Almeida on Modernism, Globalization, and the Senses

The designer invites us into his seaside home and showroom on the Brazilian island of Florianópolis.

The designer invites us into his seaside home and showroom on the Brazilian island of Florianópolis.

Seeing your work set up around the studio, one notices a dynamism and a rhythm when looking at all of these pieces together. Is there a single quality that unites them?

Pieces talk to each other, but also to their environment, whether it’s a TV or other things in a room. You see it and understand that dialogue.

My inspiration comes from everything—not just from graphic or industrial design. The behavior of people is an element for me, how they use a chair, how they talk while sitting at a table. This is my alphabet, and it’s my goal to develop an object thinking of this.

I’ve always thought your work balances strong, robust structures with other more delicate, even frail elements.

My work has a combination of lightness and strength. Sometimes I put mass where it is necessary and subtract it from where it is not so necessary. I take out decorative elements, for example. It’s all about essentials. Essential forms, essential materials.

The thing about furniture is that it’s not just about how it looks. It’s about how it’s used. When you sit on a chair, you feel it—not just the way your back rests against it, but you feel it in your hands, as you run them along its surface, its sides. There is no one way of discovering a piece. It’s not just aesthetics—it involves more senses. Sometimes even the smell is important, like the smell of wood.


Inside Almeida's space.

What are you working on right now?

We just completed the Celine armchair, which launched this year in Milan. It celebrates what it means to be handmade today, with production techniques that combine state-of-the-art machines and very skilled workers. The design follows organic forms, and when you sit down, it’s as if the chair embraces you, like a custom shirt or suit.

Another piece that you often mention when speaking about your work is a sinewy wooden coatrack called Loose Hanger. Why is that a touchstone?

For me, it translates the style of Brazil—its way of life. It’s a useful piece, but it still has a very sculptural form. It relates to the heritage of modernism in Brazil.


Scene in Almeida's showroom, featuring pieces he's designed for Artefacto.

All of your work was created and developed here in the south of Brazil, yet you always mention how Scandinavian designers have been a major influence. How do these traditions come together in your work?

Beautiful things are about proportion. It’s not about a trend, or being Scandinavian, Japanese, or Brazilian. It’s about human design. When I first saw the work of Scandinavian masters like Arne Jacobsen, it looked like [that of] Brazilian modernist Joaquim Tenreiro. It’s not about tropical versus European. It’s a way of thinking. I don’t see my relationship with Scandinavian modernism from a distance. Like our modernism here in Brazil, it came from a time when people were looking for essentials.


Scene in Almeida's showroom, featuring pieces he's designed for Artefacto.

Your work ends up in a lot of different contexts, especially since you’ve been collaborating with Artefacto, out of Miami. What are the challenges or advantages of being a designer here in Florianópolis, far from the major centers of the industry?

I don’t have a need to be in São Paulo, New York, or Milan. Nowadays, globalization works to our advantage. We have shops in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, but Miami is our door to America. When we opened our showroom there, it was surprising because people accepted it immediately. There was no resistance to our furniture and our pieces. It has been a good way to reach buyers in New York, Los Angeles, and other parts of the United States.

Being a designer today is exciting in that you get to work with a lot of people all over the world. It also comes with a lot of responsibility because we make objects that will have a relationship with many different people. My work doesn’t all come from my imagination. It’s about curiosity, research, and thinking of materials, trying to get another sense of people’s relationships with objects.

How do you see your work developing in the future?

I have won awards and we are successful commercially, but what I want for the future is that every piece, in the end, will be able to solve problems. I want the work to be better than it is now. My goal—and my challenge—is to remain curious and keep on discovering new ways of making. I really like my work to reflect a balance of time, something aware of the past, made in the present, but looking forward to the future.

Scene in Almeida's showroom, featuring pieces he's designed for Artefacto.

Silas Martí is a journalist and art critic based in São Paulo, where he is the visual arts columnist and arts, architecture and design staff writer at Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.

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