Interview with Ebanistería Summum: "A table is best understood with a bottle of wine".
Few materials have served us as well throughout our history as wood. From boats to firewood, from tables to houses, it seems difficult to imagine a life without this noble and simple material, straight from nature to our hands. And wine, obviously, could not do without it. Both the grapes and the wood of the barrels in which they are made form an intrinsic part of the wine's flavour.
Today we join hands with the cabinetmaking sector, thanks to the union that wood offers to both sectors. We meet David and Laura, managers of Muebles Summum, a family cabinetmaking workshop that was founded in 1914 by the great-grandfather of the current managers and that today reinvents itself to offer unique furniture with large format wood.
/ Have you always been involved in cabinetmaking? /
No, it was a decision we made relatively recently. We studied INEF and set up our own personal training centre. We created custom-made furniture along the lines that we now work with in the cabinetmaking shop, and our clients were interested in this furniture design and I referred them to my father, who makes the furniture. In our training centre we met the high net worth client profile that we are now targeting at Summum.
/ Is it complicated to sell made-to-measure furniture / Is it complicated to sell made-to-measure furniture?
It's a different way. Our shop works like a tailor's shop, where we show the finishes and the qualities. As it is 100% made-to-measure, the opportunity cost is very high. Instead of working with a board with certain characteristics and adapting it to a piece of furniture without having the client's measurements, we prefer to have the client and adapt it to their needs. Otherwise, we could be working with a 300 year old plank of a certain size and the client needs it in a different way.
/ How do you feel about creating a table, probably the most important element in a house? / How do you feel about creating a table?
The most common thing we do at Summum are tables. We always say that tables should be used and enjoyed, so we advise against using table mats. It's like having a piece of leather, the more you use it, the more beautiful it becomes. It's a piece of nature brought into the home.
/ Do your tables improve with a bottle of wine? /
Definitely. Wine is a good accompaniment to our tables. For us, a table is best understood with a bottle of wine. Besides, wood brings us together in both sectors: cabinetmakers and winemakers.
/ What does wood mean for the world of furniture? /
For us, everything. We have always made wooden furniture, since 1914. It is a raw material that is warm, elegant, gives you a good finish and lasts well over time. For us, wood is everything. It would be the opposite of a glass table, which is cold and "perfect". We are not impartial (laughs).
/ What is your favourite wood? /
We work mainly with two, always national products: chestnut and walnut. Both are extraordinary, although perhaps we have a predilection for Spanish walnut. When it comes to working with these woods, walnut is better to work with, it is a very noble and manageable wood.
One of our favourite jobs is to look for the wood, the trunks and even the trees, and every walnut tree is a surprise. Chestnut or oak are more homogeneous woods.
How do you reinvent a family business with such a long tradition?
It has pros and cons, but in general it is very comfortable because the communication and the treatment is very good, and we know in depth all the phases of the work, from the manufacturing to the sale.
The company came from working with furniture for third parties, with high quality but with designs that were becoming outdated: classic and more rustic furniture. This is something that is no longer in demand today.
When we saw that the traditional business was not working well, we had the family spirit to lend each other a hand. We all wanted to go for change, and that requires testing and experimenting whether it works or not, and being a family business has worked in our favour.
/ What's the best thing about your work? /
That the client can take home the piece they really want. When we make custom-made furniture, the client doesn't see it until the end, no matter how much you tell them how it's going to look. When they tell us that they love the result, it is very gratifying for us.