It’s always refreshing to discover unsuspected pleasures from seemingly familiar sources. Carlos Junqueira does just that with his Tribeca showroom “Espasso” (Portuguese for “space”), which represents mid-century modern furniture designers from Brazil.
The designs have a quiet and restrained, yet functional aesthetic that belies a connection to the country’s infamous carnival. The subtlety of the relationship is exactly why Junqueira opened Espasso in 2002. “Brazil had, and still has, an important modernist movement that many people are not aware of,” the native Brazilian says.
As the exclusive US representative for Brazilian designers such as Etel Carmona, Arthur Casas, Claudia Moreira Salles, Carlos Motta, architect Isay Weinfeld and ceramicist duo Gilberto Paim and Elizabeth Fonseca, Espasso acts an international design liaison. The shop also showcases vintage pieces handpicked during Junqueira’s frequent travels throughout the country, including items by masters such as Lina Bo Bardi, Lucio Costa, renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer, Sergio Rodrigues, Joaquim Tenreiro and José Zanine Caldas. He also carries re-editioned works by ’50s architecture collective Branco & Preto, ’70s icons Ricardo Fasanello and ’30s designer Gregory Warchavchik.
“The unique appeal of Brazilian furniture design results from a blending of Brazil’s diverse cultural influences and a respect for traditional style,” Junqueira explains. “Its sophistication derives from the country’s rich artistic and intellectual heritage, which is reflected in each piece selected for Espasso’s highly innovative collection.” The steady expansion of his business proves that Junqueira is on to something: shortly after opening the shop, Espasso became the hotspot for design lovers and architects looking for the trendsetters of tomorrow, and, in 2004, he opened a showroom in Los Angeles. In 2006 he switched out his Long Island City location for a chic, 6,000-square-foot exhibition space in Tribeca.
Junqueira’s love for his country envelopes every aspect of his business: all the materials his designers use are from Brazil, including exotic woods such as Imbuia, Pequi, Sucupira, Freijo and Cedro. Given the deforestation problem, Junqueira makes sure that these woods are government approved for controlled harvesting from sustainable forests. Furthermore, the non-vintage pieces are made to order and each customer has a wide array of customizations available—leathers, colors, woods—to avoid unnecessary use of materials. All the employees are Brazilian, to guarantee the preservation of the uniquely Brazilian voice.
—Christina von Messling