Made with love

Bespoke, natural and Portuguese

In 2009, master craftsman Jose Manuel “Alambre” Bailhote sat with his two sons, Marco and Paulo, thinking about ways to move their furniture production business forward. Eldest son Marco proposed the novel idea of using cork.

Under their father’s watchful eye, Marco and Paulo started to experiment with different bonding aids and techniques. Jose continued to make his bespoke furniture pieces, while his sons began to put the cork coating side of their business into practice from their workshop in downtown Portimao.

When Jose unveiled the first piece to his sons, they were astonished with the result. Paulo told us, “My father had been working on an old chair, which he completely coated with cork sheeting. He presented the chair to us and we were stunned. The quality and beauty of the finish was breathtaking. We were really excited and started to think of items that we could coat with cork, soon realizing that the list was more or less endless.”

Cork is one of Portugal’s provincial treasures. Elegant, classic, luxurious and impermeable, this valuable natural resource was the perfect material to launch the new brand.

As they began to get to grips with the limitations of cork coating, they realized that cork’s durable and impermeable qualities would be perfect for the handlebars on bicycles. Luckily, the brothers had connections in the cycling industry and contacted their friend Sergio at Metro Bikes in Ferragudo. Sergio saw the potential in a collaborative effort and instantly agreed to a joint venture, where he would supply bicycle parts and the newly formed Cork Coating division of Alambre would coat the pieces in cork. The successful joint venture has resulted in more and more people ordering cork finishing to their custom bikes.

Paulo explained: “We tried so many different objects. With the aid of a 3D printer, we started to make small nautical themed anchors, fish key rings and fish bone trinkets to sell at the Lota Cool Market in Portimao, where we were exhibiting our new range of cork-coated items. The small pieces where more for people to be able to feel the texture and offer something cute and portable to take away from the market. This isn’t really our main production line, they were just for fun.”

Their presence at the market was proving popular and people were enthusiastic about the cork-coated telephone, typewriter, briefcase, chairs, helmet, lamps, USB pens, bottle openers and star of the show, the cork-coated bicycle.

Then, tragedy befell the family. While Marco was exhibiting the bicycle at the market, he fell unconscious and subsequently died from a heart attack at the tender age of 36. Following Marco’s death, Jose and Paulo picked up their tools again, and in a touching tribute to Marco, turned their focus to pushing forward with the brand using cork wherever possible.

Speaking to Paulo about their future plans, he told us, “Our primary focus is to build on the cork coating side of our business. We are constantly experimenting with new objects and are really happy with the results. We can make anything from a key ring to a house,” he laughed. “Seriously, it would be a very expensive house but we could do it if someone commissioned it.”

With recent projects including a large counter and table set in the funky hangout Casa da Tocha in Portimao, and beautiful bespoke personal projects, Alambre is going from strength to strength, building solid foundations for what will no doubt be a very popular design brand. Watch this space.

Find Alambre on Facebook alambrefurniture

Text Mia Wallace

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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