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Bobbin for Inspiration

Designer Patricia Urquiola channels childhood memories into the contemporary Nub seating collection for Andreu World America.

By Janet Wiens

Designer Patricia Urquiola channels childhood memories into the contemporary Nub seating collection for Andreu World America.

I have a confession to make. I love writing about new products that are inspired by the past—designs that have been reworked to make them more modern, or that turn an image of a faraway place into a carpet or upholstery pattern. Perhaps it’s because of my personal love of history and things tied to a time when life was slower, or just an aesthetic preference developed after seeing thousands of products as a design writer; in any case, the inspiration for the Nub collection by Andreu World America strikes a special chord with me because of the memory that inspired Patricia Urquiola’s design.

The collection, which includes a lounge chair and armchair, takes its cue from bobbins Urquiola played with as a child—bobbins that her grandmother used to make lace. The nubs, inspired by those bobbins, are seen on the seat’s exterior, and ultimately bestowed the name for the collection.

“Nub is an emotive object, an element of the memory located in the context of my infancy, when I used to play with my grandmother’s bobbins,” Urquiola says. “These small wooden bars were playmates, which I have revised and redesigned. I always incorporate my domestic private and past lives into my projects.”

She adds that the idea for using the bobbins in a project has been germinating for some time. “In addition to using a bobbin-like image, I also had the image of a comb-back chair in my mind. I was looking for ways to industrialize this piece, but with the same quality as a handcrafted chair. I wanted to transform that iconic idea into something contemporary.”

Urquiola’s desire to blend the past with the present resonated strongly with company officials at Andreu World America, who admired her interest in non-traditional designs and had been looking for the ideal opportunity to collaborate with her.

“We met years before, and I knew that one day I wanted to use her talent to design a product for us,” says Jesus Llinares, chief executive officer of Andreu World America. “Patricia is well respected, produces outstanding designs and has a broad international reach.”

Llinares also says that Urquiola’s appreciation for his company’s manufacturing capabilities was important. “Our company is recognized for working with artisans, and in this instance Patricia took the time to really learn about our processes and capabilities. She saw the art in what we do as much as we saw the art in her work. This mutual respect and understanding regarding the best attributes in each other helped us during the development process. We talked extensively about our vision and our company’s capabilities on the way to finalizing the designs for the Nub collection.”

Those capabilities were surely tested in the development process, as the Nub collection is quite challenging to produce from a manufacturing standpoint. The team at Andreu World America had to develop very specific tools and add steps to their manufacturing process in order to properly execute the nubs on the outer part of the chair back and the smooth finish on the inside of the cylindrical bars, which widen at the lumbar region to provide comfortable support.

Despite the technical challenges of production, the Nub collection is produced in a variety of configurations, making it suitable for a range of interiors. Designers have the option of specifying the Nub collection with a beech seat and back coupled with a steel base finished in white, black or red chrome; with a central swivel base; or with four solid beech legs. The wood portions of the chair are made with 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood.

The combination of a wood seat and back with a steel frame comes from Urquiola’s experience in melding the sensory elements of a design with the material realities needed for successful specification. “I wanted the feel of wood for the parts of the chairs that come in contact with the body,” she says. “At the same time, I wanted a more technical base that would offer a high-level of performance and that would be suited for any habitat.”

The available auxiliary cushions enable customers to add a splash of color in solids or a variety of patterns, and the color combinations of wood and steel have been carefully thought out. According to Urquiola, “the idea was to offer an abacus of possibilities of materials, forms and colors to offer a myriad of different combinations.” She believes that the line offers both coordination and contrast, which is the best of both worlds.

The response to the Nub collection has been very positive, according to both Llinares and Urquiola. The collection won a Best of NeoCon People’s Choice Award in 2011, and sales have continued to be strong. For more information on the collection, visit