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The Fair
November 01, 2023

Norma and Cynthia Maldonado think design should always be honest and inspiring. As the founders of Tana Karei, a Mexico City-based architecture, interiors, and furniture company, they specialize in furnishings that use natural materials and are made via artisanal processes. They work with some of the best craftspeople in Mexico, with their products drawing upon traditional weaving and woodworking techniques.

Following, they detail some of their influences and proudest moments.

The Emma chair, which features traditional weaving an a back shaped using a CNC machine.

What is your design philosophy?

It is rooted in simplicity and elegance. We like to show the materials in their essence and portray a sense of calm and peace.

Was there a moment when you realized you wanted to be a designer?

Norma: In high school, when I had to design furniture pieces with clay.
Cynthia: I have always been fond of creating art [as well as] creating electric circuits with lightbulbs. I began making lamps when I was a teenager, and a question to my father about what I would have study to make lamps got me into industrial design.

Which designer or piece of work inspires you?

Norma: I visited the house of  the late Japanese ceramist Kawai Kanjiro when I was in Kyoto, and I was really inspired by his use of color and shape and seeing his pieces surrounded by the environment he created.
Cynthia: Richard Serra. Just being next to one of his pieces makes me really feel present.

  • La Casa Tabasco (The Tabasco House)

    La Casa Tabasco (The Tabasco House)

  • Morocco chaise lounge by Tana Karei

    Morocco chaise lounge

How long have you lived in Mexico City and how does it influence your work?

We have been here the majority of our lives and have explored the vastness of this city in and out. We are also very connected to nature and acknowledge the sense of peace that comes from being in it. I think that’s why we are interested in finding (and creating) places of calm, especially after going around the busy streets of Mexico City!

Which of your pieces, products, or projects are you most proud?

Norma: I’m most proud of our Tabasco house project. It served as the space for us to find our designer identities and express ourselves.
Cynthia: Also the Tabasco house. But of our furniture, I am most proud of our Emma chair. It symbolizes our philosophy completely, with the combination or technology (the back was made by a CNC machine) and the artisanal heritage of the weaving.

Tana Karei's Cienega chair

Who are a few designers you follow on Instagram?

Norma: Axel Vervoordt, Kelly Wearstler, Anndra Neen
Cynthia: Alfonso Marina and Axel Vervoordt

What are you up to next?

We are continuing to experiment with weaving techniques and want to experiment with more patterns and textures.

And just curious: What are your favorite movie, band, and song?

Norma: Favorite movie: The Little Princess. Favorite band: Hermanos Gutierrez. Favorite song: “Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey.
Cynthia: Favorite movie: The Darjeeling Limited. Favorite band: Radiohead. Favorite song: “Amor de Mis Amores” by Natalia Lafourcade.

  • Mojave mirror

  • La Casa Tabasco