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Made of rare materials, this Italian furniture brand will be the star of your home |


Made of rare materials, this Italian furniture brand will be the star of your home

CULTURE VULTURE - Therese Jamora-Garceau - The Philippine Star
Made of rare materials, this Italian furniture brand will be the star of your home

Italian brands are typically at the cutting edge of furniture design, but there’s one Italian brand that prides itself on going against the grain, not following trends, and using materials so precious and rare that Michelangelo himself once used them.

That brand is called Henge (pronounced “henj”), and Casa Bella Home and Living owners Joseph Tay and Stephanie “Stenie” Coyiuto-Tay were so blown away by their pieces that they had to bring the brand to the Philippines.

“I feel that it’s very timeless,” says Stenie. “When people ask us about why they should invest in furniture, I always say that you invest in a piece that you love — that will last forever in your home.”

Joseph recalls he first discovered Henge at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan: “One of the products they had was a coffee table (made of stone), and I said, wow, it looks so elegant. And the stone looked so different. They only get the best stones and the frame was burnished brass — it’s hand-processed, so everything is done by hand.”

Striking geometry: Interior designer Cecil Ravelas designed the Henge showroom on the fourth floor of Casa Bella Home and Living.

The Tays were so taken by Henge that they have a handful of the brand’s pieces in their home.  “So I like all the different kinds of stone for the tabletops, but even at home, our chandelier is from Henge,” Stenie reveals.

“The dining table,” adds Joseph. “We mix it with other brands.”

From left, Casa Bella Home and Living founders Joseph Tay and Stephanie Coyiuto-Tay with interior designer Cecil Ravelas and Henge sales director Patrizio Papini in front of Henge’s Airlight

“We don’t want it to look like a showroom,” laughs Stenie. “We mix it with Filipino designers at home.”

Sinuous organic forms: Tape lighting by Henge

The Tays also asked local designers what they thought of the brand, and got a lot of good feedback. “They like that it works a lot with natural materials, for example, glass and stone,” notes Stenie. “So these are things that really add value to the home. It really stands out. I like it because it’s not just beautiful but it’s also an investment, and there are very few brands that I feel resonate with me that way.”

Modern comforts: Henge’s Bistrot, a bookshelf made of hand-burnished metal, Test floor lamp and Voyage armchair

“The owners have a very crazy vision,” laughs Joseph. “What I got is it’s beautiful, the materials are so premium, the craftsmanship is amazing, so it just resonated with me in the sense that wow, I’d love to have this in my home.”

Henge was founded a decade ago by Paolo Tormena and his wife, architect and interior designer Isabella Genovese, in a remote area of Italy between Venice and Cortina, the Dolomites and the sea in the Prosecco hills, according to Henge’s sales director Patrizio Baldi Papini.

“We have good inspiration,” he says, “and the beauty of it is that we are the only one in furniture there. So we struggle, of course, but the good thing is that we have our own taste and our own direction.”

Tormena is passionate about searching out rare materials like Breccia Medicea Dell’Acquasanta stone and swamp woods, and, with the help of renowned architect Massimo Castagna, artistic director of Henge, turning them into one-of-a-kind pieces that straddle the line between furniture and art.

“They are totally hands-on, 100 percent,” says Papini about the founders.  “She’s more into the fabric and leather colors. And Paolo is like the captain. He’s driving the designers in one direction. He wants to have Henge be like the Coca-Cola bottle — since it started it’s the same, but it keeps evolving.”

For their raw materials Henge doesn’t go to suppliers but directly to mountain quarries to buy blocks of marble and stone, and once the slabs are finished, they’re gone forever, making the pieces crafted with them unique and exclusive.

“That’s why commercial industrial companies, they will never be able to work with these materials because they need continuity,” notes Papini, who says 80 to 85 percent of Henge’s products are artisanal. “We don’t want continuity, we want unicity.”

He shows me a photo of a precious marble they use. “This stone is coming from the quarry of the Statuario, the stone that Michelangelo used when he made David.”

Henge also bought a pink stone slab that was so old it belonged to the Medici family, which they converted into a kitchen and table.

A standout piece is Argon, a kitchen counter whose top glows from within, made as it is from backlit white onyx.

“This unique piece blew my mind when I saw it,” Joseph admits.

“White onyx is the rarest,” notes interior designer Cecil Ravelas, whom the Tays got to design the Henge showroom on the fourth floor of Casa Bella because she loves and understands the brand.  “Normally you see the yellow one, which is sourced from Iran, so seeing something as clean as this is really special — it’s almost like ice. And onyx, if you are into energy healing, is actually a good stone to cleanse the space. There’s a spiritual aspect in the brand’s intent to develop the products — the metaphysics of materials.” 

Other stunning pieces are Airlight, a chandelier made of glass rods blown by Murano masters, and Bistrot, a bookshelf composed of burnished metal modules.

“Massimo Castagna started with us, and he did the majority of the products,” notes Papini, “then we met Ugo Cacciatori, he is a very good jewelry designer and architect. He comes from Carrara, so that’s why he knows the marble. And he designed a table using traditional techniques of the sand casting, and he wanted to give lightness to something that usually is heavy — the stone and the metal. That’s why he called it Origami because this looks like a piece of paper. All the time is contrast. Something light that is not. This is always our aim.”

“I think it’s a love of design that makes them super perfectionist,” notes Stenie. “We don’t want trendy, and we feel that Henge is the opposite of trendy.”

“The architecture of Italy, the history — it’s just so long and deep that it enables the culture to produce such craftsmanship and design,” says Joseph.

“Taste changes also,” adds Stenie. “Now we’re older. So when we were younger, we tended more towards the modern, but then you realize that you really want things that last. Henge is kind of like if you’re wearing a dress, ’yon yung earrings mo. It’s like the star.”

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Henge is available at Casa Bella Home and Living, 8 Jupiter Street, Makati City, tel. no. 8354-0685.

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