Ask people what they think of modern furniture and the answer is invariably that it looks great but it’s too hard to sit on for any length of time. Hence contemporary furniture has tended to be the preserve of the contract market or those who don’t mind suffering a little physical hardship for the sake of aesthetics.
Valencia-based firm Koo International is very aware of this and has made comfort a priority from the outset. ‘Our objective has always been very clear. We design for the comfort and enjoyment of our customers,’ says Antonio Muñoz, who founded the business in 1992 and remains its general manager.
The company’s clientele encompasses the residential and contract markets. ‘Yes, we create pieces that tend to be low-level, considered a hallmark of modern furniture, but are upholstered and designed for people’s needs,’ says Antonio. Indeed, many of its sofas are intended for people to relax on while watching TV or reading a book, and not for perching on formally as they might do on furniture in an office reception.
‘Our products sell very well in Spain, and we want to expand into the residential and contract markets of France, the UK and Portugal in particular at the moment, ’ says Antonio. ‘People like the fact that our sofas have a distinctive look, a quality of design and manufacture that makes them stand out, yet are for using not merely for looking at.’
One key to the company’s success, he asserts, is its collaboration with top designers, such as Francesc Rifé, Lavernia & Cienfuegos and Odosdesign. They are given a free rein, but are asked to keep in mind the word international when designing. ‘We have our own design studio but also work with independent designers,’ says Antonio. ‘By not relying on a fixed design team, we can keep to the international, or cosmopolitan remit implicit in our name.’
Another key to the company’s success is its highly advanced production facilities. It invests heavily in manufacturing technology, and produces between 80 to 100 pieces of furniture a day. This means the factory can meet high demand without customers having to wait the standard 10 to 12 weeks for delivery of their goods.
Koo International employs around 80 people, and the workforce is skilled both in fabric and leather upholstery. ‘We can make “specials”, we aren’t limited in what we can produce for our customers,’ says Antonio, who is pleased to note that last year, turnover reached 9m Euros.
Having weathered the stormy economic waters of the past two years, the company is in a bullish mood. It plans a big export drive not only into Europe but also into Mexico, Morocco and other emerging markets. ‘We’re aiming to increase our exports to around 50 per cent of our production,’ he continues. And the more people see of Koo International, the more they like it because its pieces are modern, easy to live with and lovely to look at. ‘We are committed to producing very high quality furniture whose distinguishing feature is its innovation and design,’ says Antonio.
On the occasion of the recent Milan Furniture Fair, Koo International has unveiled its new products of 2012. Notable among these are Sum by Carlos Tíscar and Nest by Lagranja Design.
Sum is an idea based on the addition of modular pieces and auxiliary furniture used to create different seating areas which can be reconfigured.
The aim of the designers of Nest was to create a nice sofa made up of cushions in the spirit of the slowfood movement. The resulting piece is elegant and fantastically comfortable.