written by:
May 23, 2015
Originally published in Bring the Outside In
The Next Generation
How Kettal, a furniture company in Spain, remains a vanguard of outdoor design.
Alex and Manuel Alorda in a Kettal canopy designed by Patricia Urquiola

Alex and Manuel Alorda recline in a canopy designed by Patricia Urquiola in 2009.


Courtesy of 
Salva López
1 / 5
Vieques rocking chair from Kettal

The Vieques rocking chair, launched in 2012, is covered in 3-D woven fabric.

Courtesy of 
2 / 5
3-D woven fabric

The fabric took Kettal three-and-a-half years to develop.

Courtesy of 
3 / 5
Jasper Morrison’s Park Life collection for Kettal

Jasper Morrison’s Park Life collection of 2012.


Courtesy of 
4 / 5
Vintage Kettal advertisement for folded aluminum furniture

The brand has evolved significantly since making folding aluminum furniture.


Courtesy of 
5 / 5
Alex and Manuel Alorda in a Kettal canopy designed by Patricia Urquiola

Alex and Manuel Alorda recline in a canopy designed by Patricia Urquiola in 2009.


Pavilion-like shade structures and sofas composed of intricately woven straps are a far cry from the humble aluminum folding chair, but for Kettal, the Barcelona-based outdoor design company, they are borne from the same spirit of innovation and reinvention. When Manuel Alorda founded Kettal in 1964, the first product he sold was one such metal seat. With his son, Alex Alorda, at the helm since 2006, the company has built a collection of technically rigorous and aesthetically daring furniture. Here, the Alordas brief us on design culture, the inherent difficulty of outdoor furniture manufacturing, and how they work with venerated designers like Patricia Urquiola, Jasper Morrison, and Hella Jongerius.

Kettal’s products today are leagues away from its first offerings 50 years ago. Has the philosophy changed?

Manuel: We have always been looking for differentiation through design and innovation. Kettal needed to evolve. Alex guided the brand towards emphasizing design.

Alex: When my father started the company, he did things differently. When people said “plastic chairs,” he said aluminum chairs; when they said “aluminum chairs” he called for a specific aluminum. He is a very curious guy, which is important. The day you lose curiosity, you become a dead man. It’s not about age; it’s about spirit. My father has that spirit, and he taught it to me.

What should good design accomplish?

Manuel: Furniture must improve our daily lives, not only from a functional and ergonomic point of view, but with a good balance between creativity, method, values, and experience.

Alex: It’s something that’s timeless on your eyes and in engineering so that 30 years after a piece is designed, it still has consumer demand and is still in production.

How do you grapple with the constant push for “newness” in the contemporary furniture industry?

Alex: I want my tenure to be remembered for working with a team to create maybe one, two, or three future classics. It takes us about four years to develop a new collection. You cannot release two durable, long-lasting collections every year. It’s not possible because you have to innovate with the materials.

Kettal works with a small, elite group of designers. Tell us about your collaborative approach.

Manuel: It has to be natural. We approach designers who think and conceive design the same way we do. They have different personalities and sensibilities. The commonality is that they’re all product people.

Alex: We don’t “collect” designers. We work with few people—people whom we view as friends and whom we respect very much. They give us the design, and we bring it from paper to reality. Vieques, our second collection, launched in 2012, has a fabric that took us three-and-a-half years to develop. Eight years ago, Patricia [Urquiola] brought us an oil filter with a 3-D texture and said, “I love this and I want to do something with this fabric.” She created the design, and we worked from that language to make it possible. You will never create a “good” design only with a good designer. You need a good designer and a good company to create good things.

Why are materials a linchpin for Kettal?

Alex: If you want to do something interesting, you have to innovate with materials; you have to think of new ways of doing. 

Why was bringing manufacturing back to Spain from overseas important?

Alex: We can control the production and finishing of each piece and feel proud of what we produce. Because of the actions we took, everyone at Kettal felt more empowered. Having a motivated team that feels proud is much more interesting than a six percent cost reduction. 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016