KriskaDECOR aluminium curtains may date back to the 1920s, but there is nothing old-fashioned about them. The company has re-invented the product for the 21st century and says the design possibilities for using it are myriad.
Delicate ribbons of aluminium chain can be coloured to reproduce images or patterns and when hung in place the curtains offer coverage, yet they also have a fluidity that reminds you of water rippling across the surface of a lake. You see the pattern but you also see through it and it's that translucent quality that makes KriskaDECOR products so interesting – and desirable. The curtains are also very tactile, you can't walk past them without running your hand through the strands.
World-renowned designers such as Patricia Urquiola and Philippe Starck have used the curtains in their projects and you can see KriskaDECOR in such diverse interiors as the Arsenal Emirates football stadium in London, Wahaca restaurants, luxury hotels and corporate headquarters; while they've also been used for decoration at events such as the Oscar ceremony in Hollywood and the opening of the Abba Museum in Stockholm.
KriskaDECOR is based outside Barcelona and has its own manufacturing plant which produces the curtains from start to finish. They are lightweight, making them easy to work with even when dimensions are large, and another huge advantage to them is that they fully recyclable – aluminium being the most easily recycled metal.
The company - which today has 20 patents and 25 trademarks - was started in 1926 by José Maria Sans after he bet colleagues at his college that he could design a machine to manufacture metal links that could be connected so they formed a chain.
Within a short time his chains had become curtains and they became popular as door screens for homes, bars and small shops in Spain and other Mediterranean countries for obvious reasons - they allowed air to circulate indoors, while preventing flies and wasps from getting in.
Fast forward and the company started to get serious about design, developing ways of anodising the metal to produce bespoke patterns and images – the Emirates Stadium's hospitality area, for example, has a large curtain 'printed' with Arsene Wenger's face.
Josep M Sans, KriskaDECOR's commercial director, is a third generation family member and manages the company with his brother and mother. He says the product has become increasingly popular with advances in customization: 'Being able to customize with any pattern makes the metal mesh a versatile material to work it. You can have a design that is classic or contemporary...it's up to the designer.'
And he says people like having interior spaces delineated but without rigid partitions. 'Using our curtains you keep a sense of space even if you're dividing it up.' Sans says people like being able to walk through the curtains, or to see shapes through them, so there's that feeling of life and involvement. Or to put it another way, it makes things more interesting.
Sans explains that while the chain links are fixed in terms of size and distance apart, KriskaDECOR can make curtains or wall hangings in any height and width, and almost any visual can be reproduced. 'And we have a large range of colours, more than 30.'
The company predominantly makes curtains for high end commercial and contract interiors, but homeowners are catered for too. 'Homeowners are using our curtains for room dividers or to decorate walls. They can choose designs from our residential Collections Line by Claire Davies,' says Sans.
In terms of new products, Sans says the company's innovations department is looking at using the chain mesh for chandeliers/lighting and more freestanding room dividers. 'We're working to see how it can be used more widely in situations that need products that are both creative and useful.'
KriskaDECOR is popular in Spain but it does export around 60 per cent of its product to some 40 countries including the US, Russia, South Africa and New Zealand.