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December 22, 2012
At their Buenos Aires shop, a couple reissues classic Argentine designs—and moves the regional furniture design field forward, one “simple object” at a time.

Calma Chicha's high-ceilinged storefront displays home wares at every scale. “Pouffes (from $46) were one of our first products, and we have become famous for them. When we first started, the traditional, pear-shaped version was the only one on the market. So we started doing other shapes, including oblong ones big enough to seat three people. The covers, which can be changed, are made of elasticized gabardine, so they stretch to accommodate every type of bottom. We were the first here to make sheets in cotton jersey ($95). And we sell a lot of cowhide placemats ($15), as well. Argentina is a big exporter of cowhide, but it’s much cheaper to buy here. It’s worth remembering that the hides are from animals that have already been slaughtered for meat, so the material does have an ecological aspect."

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B.K.F. Chair, $320“We have always loved the B.K.F. chair, and back when we started, nobody was reproducing them. Now they’re in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Very few people know it is an Argentine design. The frames are made locally, and we offer various covers: canvas, cowhide, fur. At the moment, we are working on one printed with a crocodile pattern.”

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 Robin Day Chair, $60

“This is one of the few pieces we buy from an outside supplier. They’re extremely comfortable, well-priced, and you can use them all over the house, indoors or out.”

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Co-owner Diego Olinik, pictured here, says, "Twenty years ago, there were very few original designers in Argentina; there was more of a tendency to copy from abroad. Now there is more inspiration from within. The development of Palermo as a creative hub has helped this process immensely.” 

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Striped Cushions, from $35

“We make cushions in lots of materials and sizes. They’re one of our most popular products. Here there is a big demand for large cushions, maybe because Argentines like to sit on the floor!”

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Penguin Jug, $14

“These are made in a local ceramics workshop. It’s a reissue of a traditional jug, used to serve barreled wine, that always came accompanied with an old-fashioned soda siphon. These days, you can use it as a water jug. The fun part is seeing the water pour from the penguin’s beak. They make a great souvenir.”

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Patchwork Cowhide Rug, $430

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The Vertical Bag, $95

“This is another one of our own products, inspired by a plastic shopping bag that we had made up in leather. It’s one of our best sellers and roomy enough for a laptop computer.”

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Zinc Box, $65

“We have been using zinc a lot lately, loosely inspired by the roofs of Argentine workshops and factories. Zinc doesn’t rust and doesn’t need a second finish, so it’s easy to work with. You can use these boxes for storing rubbish or dog food or toys. They’re very useful objects.”

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keep calma interior1

Calma Chicha's high-ceilinged storefront displays home wares at every scale. “Pouffes (from $46) were one of our first products, and we have become famous for them. When we first started, the traditional, pear-shaped version was the only one on the market. So we started doing other shapes, including oblong ones big enough to seat three people. The covers, which can be changed, are made of elasticized gabardine, so they stretch to accommodate every type of bottom. We were the first here to make sheets in cotton jersey ($95). And we sell a lot of cowhide placemats ($15), as well. Argentina is a big exporter of cowhide, but it’s much cheaper to buy here. It’s worth remembering that the hides are from animals that have already been slaughtered for meat, so the material does have an ecological aspect."

When textile designer Carla Bonifacio and entrepreneur Diego Olinik moved in together in the early 1990s, they had trouble finding well-designed, reasonably priced pieces with which to outfit their new home. So they decided to open a shop and make their own. Calma Chicha, located in Palermo Soho—a once industrial, now trendy neighborhood in Buenos Aires—has since become renowned among design-savvy locals and in-the-know tourists seeking unique keepsakes to take back home.

The majority of the products at the 1,938-square-foot emporium are designed by Bonifacio and Olinik. They’re all made in Argentina, from the vivid gabardine pouffes to the reissued, cowhide-covered B.K.F.  chairs, originally designed in 1938 by three architects and today the country’s most iconic design piece. Another item the couple has rescued from the obscure archives of Argentine ephemera is the jarra pingüino, a rustic wine vessel shaped like a penguin that landed on every taberna table around 1940. “Most of our designs are very simple, with little adornment,” says Olinik. “We are more about strong forms and high quality.” Here are some of his favorite pieces, new and old, plucked off the shelves of their shop.
 

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