Rafael de Cárdenas’ Design Aesthetic

“The appeal of almost everything I like in my life, I like because it has this nostalgia,” Rafael de Cárdenas says. “It resonates somehow that way; it reminds me of a time in my life. Not every single thing, but I would say most things. So everything [in my studio] is either something that’s like what I grew up with, or a fantasy that I never had but I coveted. I love this chair because I love the chair, but also because I love the idea of Philippe Starck doing the Royalton Hotel with Ian Schrager in 1984—the whole story of that is very appealing to me. So I feel like I have a little bit of that history here.”  

On the reason he uses vintage, de Cárdenas says, “I think the fact that less people potentially have it. I also like things that look unusual. I think things that are unusual are more noticeable. [However], I don’t care for bronze hooks and handlebar moustaches and things like that—which everyone else in America is obsessed with. And I am going on record: I am so against this old-timey bullshit.” So what does he like? “Stripes,” he says. “Geometric patterning is something that we do in every project, whether that be in the material or in surface treatments.”

What else does de Cárdenas love? “We have all these fabrics,” he says, standing next to a floor-to-ceiling wall of shelves filled with archived fabric swatches. “But we use the same fabric over and over—Maharam mohair or vinyl. It’s like you can’t eat eggs without toast,” he says, laughing, while reaching for a box marked “Favorite Materials”. “We always combine hard and soft, both in fabric and in stones and woods.” A former menswear designer for Calvin Klein, de Cárdenas admits, “I never had any formal training in interiors, but I like tactility. I think because I came from fashion, I respond well to materials. And I like clothes a lot; clothes and material juxtapositions in clothes are very important to me.”

Photographs by Clemens Kois

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