In an unusual design collaboration that melds the aesthetics of German designer Matthias Lehner with the manufacturing of Portuguese brand Gual, O CÉU is a new furniture company, launched at Salone del Mobile, that embraces all the best parts of the European design spectrum.
‘The vision for the new brand was driven by the combination of Portuguese heritage and a "New Nordic" design language,’ is the explanation given to us by Lehner, the creative director of O CÉU. This mash-up of northern, western and southern European influences is tricky to make sense of; but it somehow totally works for the inaugural collection. In the hope of bridging the gap between Portuguese and German design, Lehner utilises the countries' cultural heritages, mixing them with Scandinavian minimalism and a strong modernist streak.
Lehner was initially immersed in Gual’s high craft after winning the 'Art on Chairs' design competition in northern Portugal. From there he channelled its traditions – like stone mosaics and intarsia marquetry – throughout the ten-piece collection, which includes tables, chairs and shelving. Lehner also embraced cultural symbols such as the andorinhas – the sweet swallow that artist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro popularised as a motif for the country – engraving it onto many pieces in the O CÉU collection.
The designer also explains that many of the pieces are imbued with ‘a small sense of irony and humour' – a result, perhaps of Lehner's German design heritage. This aesthetic is spread across our favourites from the range, such as a modernist cabinet bar, 'Douro', that appears as a modular storage box on high legs, but opens to reveal a compact, travel-friendly bar. Equally as quirky, the ‘Olá’ shelving system and graphic ‘Cantina’ benches and stools arrive in contrasting painted wooden hues, from a deep teal to creamy orange, and classic black and white.
Lehner has previously designed for the likes of Vista Alegre and Studio Christian Haas. For O CÉU (Portuguese for ‘the sky’), he explains, he intends to convey a positive, open and joyful vibe, evinced across the curves, patterns and experimental directions of the new collection.