Featuring minimalist, twentieth-century-inspired designs and a thoughtful palette, Cuco Handmade Furniture utilizes an innovative, sustainable approach to traditional craftwork and the use of natural materials.
Portuguese designer Ricardo Prata (b. 1978) is an architect by training, having studied in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Porto, at ETSAM, Madrid, and in the offices of Peter Zumthor, Switzerland. Upon graduating, he went into collaboration in 2003 with Porto-based architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. Always keenly interested in product design, Prata worked on several individual projects before establishing Cuco Handmade Furniture in Porto with João Carneiro in 2015. Prata’s focus is shaped not only by his extensive architectural experience, but by the creative influence of his university teacher, artist Alberto Carneiro (1937–2017), who had been at the forefront of the “Land Art” movement in Portugal. These practical and philosophical foundations are evident in the objects produced by Cuco, which are hand-made from locally sourced materials by skilled artisans, using traditional methods. Conceptually and physically formed from the natural environment, the pieces combine twentieth-century modernist influences with innovative, ecologically conscious material technology.
In keeping with the company’s thoughtful approach to landscape and to sustainable resourcing, Cuco makes elegant use of the Portuguese tradition of crafting items from cork – obtained in a non-destructive process by stripping it from cork oak trees, abundant in the region. One major reference point, both aesthetically and technically, is Japanese woodcraft; the precise, clean lines, along with the smooth use of joinery techniques, allow for an elegant expression and formation of the constituent parts. A key aim, for Prata, is to promote a coherent interaction between designer, producer, and end-user; each piece undergoes an extensive prototyping period, in which different manufacturing techniques are explored before it reaches a state of completion. The goal, once the object is finalized, is that the assembly is completed by the client, engaging them in the process by which the piece becomes whole. The objects themselves are thematically arranged in collections, each named in reference to the natural world. The S11 desk from the Light collection features a top in natural Parasol pine bordered by smooth edges of the cork border, and four cork legs reinforced by aluminum. Cuco’s Nest range, meanwhile, utilizes material composed of rubber and recycled cork particles, called rubbercork–which does not typically feature in furniture manufacture. Applied to their designs for its flexible qualities, it nearly resembles leather to touch, and can be mixed in different proportions and colors, leading to a brown or red appearance. This collection’s B series of stools, made using a supporting framework of wood or customizable valchromat panel, over which composite cork is draped and arranged. This results in a striking combination of graceful folds with a box-like design. The M tables, meanwhile, are rendered in sleek, curving symmetries reminiscent of mid-twentieth-century furnishing–some are produced with a playful inset in the surface, to hold a corresponding terracotta bowl. Throughout, the company’s thoughtful, pared-back color palette, which ranges from beiges to rusts, reds, and oranges, emphasizes the form, natural materials, and attentive craftsmanship of the objects.
Cuco Handmade Furniture has exhibited its work in several exhibitions and events, including the 100% Design festival in London, a display of product and industrial design at the Porto Business School, and POPs (Projectos Originais Portuguese) at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto. Their stockists include the Serralves Museum store, as well as Upcyclist, London, Vinterior, London, and Casaitaliana, near Milan, Italy.