Thirty-six years after founding his eponymous furniture company in his native Mexico, Alfonso Marina is overseeing a growth spurt. The 61-year-old designer’s daughters, Lucia and Isabel, recently added premium textiles to his furniture collection, which comprises some 450 pieces influenced by Mexican history and culture. They plan to introduce rugs and linens to the offerings later this year. In addition, the renovation of the company’s 12,000-square-foot showroom in Bosques de las Lomas, an affluent residential area of Mexico City, was expected (at press time) to conclude in March. (The company also has a showroom in High Point, N.C.) Fortunately, the company’s expansion does not seem to be distracting Marina from the handcraftsmanship that denotes his works, the latest of which include an 18th-century-influenced neoclassic armoire with Baroque elements, and a chinoiserie-style armoire painted with scenes of Spanish colonial settlers in verdant surroundings.
All of Marina’s designs are made at the company’s manufacturing facility in Mexico City, where craftsmen, many of them second- or third-generation artisans, employ traditional construction and finishing methods. “No corners are cut,” says Carlos Marina, the company’s CEO and Alfonso’s brother. “All decorative painting is done freehand, all painted finishes are based on gesso and then handpainted and gilded, and all ingrain moldings, carving, hardware, bone inlays, veneers, lacquers, and patinas are done on-site, by hand, by us.” Marquetry, which involves inserting bits of shell or other material into a wood veneer that then is applied to a furniture surface, also is done on-site. On the factory floor, a production system that Carlos (an engineer by training) designed allows for runs of as few as six pieces.
The items—including sofas, tables, chairs, benches, and beds—range in price from $2,500 to $20,000 and can be customized to fit a client’s space. A number of Marina’s pieces decorate rooms in the National Palace, the residence of Mexico’s president, and the lobby and other common areas of the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Santa Barbara, Calif. Among the standouts is the Barqueño, a piece that is based on the Spanish traveling desks of the 17th century. “The barqueño was an aristocrat’s or high official’s briefcase,” says Carlos. “[It was] meant to convey the owner’s position or wealth.” The desk features hand-forged iron escutcheons, distressed red velvet, and bone inlay.
Such handwork lends a sense of originality to the furniture, which, despite the company’s expansion, remains its primary focus. When asked whether he or Alfonso has a favorite design, Carlos replies, “How many children do you have? One is good at sports, one is a student, another has a wonderful character. But they’re all family.”
Alfonso Marina & Co.