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How design brand Greenapple celebrates Portugal’s craft traditions on a global stage

Portuguese design brand Greenapple creates luxury furniture, lighting, and accessories that combine a crafted sensibility and timeless Art Deco details with contemporary forms and cutting-edge technology

Economics and design might seem like an unlikely pairing, but for husband-and-wife duo Rute Martins and Sérgio Rebola, business nous has been key to the success of their design brand, Greenapple. The former economists met as undergraduates while studying in the coastal city of Faro, and founded the company in 2005 with a focus on importing interior accessories to appeal to the Portuguese market – think decorative trays, candle holders, and vases. By 2012, their ambitions and desire to fully explore the creative potential of the brand had grown and they began to design and produce their own, in-house collections celebrating Portuguese craft.

The Bongó bar cabinet is a stunning expression of Greenapple’s ethos, combining Art Deco-inspired details and luxurious natural materials with a distinctive contemporary form. The Mary Stool is also an evocative example of the organic lines that define the brand.

It was an apt move for the duo, who seven years previously had named their company after the powerful symbol of the apple – which they see as a metaphor for human creativity – and their belief in sustainable business practices. “Western art, literature, and folk tales are keen on using the apple as a symbol for concepts such as life, knowledge, sensuality, and desire,” explains Rebola. “The apple being such a universal symbol of life and sustainable human activity was the right choice for the name of the company.”

The couple took everything they learned from their first seven years of business and their innate understanding of the desires of a global marketplace when planning the dramatic shift in Greenapple as a business from importing to design and production. “Our goal is to create products for the entire world and be a distinctive brand,” says Martins. “We believe that design and craftsmanship should be increasingly valued since it is something that is in growing demand but harder to find.”

The Greenapple collection includes both dramatic statement pieces and more subtle furnishings that can be grouped together to create impressive interior settings. Here, the elegant curves of the T50 armchair and the graphic marble inlay pattern of the Biloba sideboard are paired with the elegantly understated form of the Twins sofa and the Armona coffee table. The Opposite floorlamp acts as both striking sculpture and functional illumination.

Today, there are two Greenapple showrooms – one in Lisbon and one in Dallas, Texas – and the pair split the running of Greenapple between them. Martins is the creative director, with a love for organic forms and the rich craft traditions of Portugal, while Rebola heads up the impressive in-house production and the business side of the operation. “Just as a composer or writer uses their art to express their inexplicable and intangible inspiration, Rute uses design to express herself through her creations,” says Rebola of his partner in both life and business. 

The Greenapple collections are defined by striking graphic forms produced in solid and noble woods, such as oak and walnut root, as well as marble, and brass. Many pieces draw inspiration from bygone eras, transforming Art Deco and Modernist design cues into undoubtedly contemporary furniture pieces destined to become modern heirlooms. Other pieces are more sculptural in their expression. Take, for example, the Laurence collection of chairs that evokes the abstract form of a woman wearing stilettos.  

The Bongó bar cabinet is a particularly iconic Greenapple piece, and takes both its name and rounded form from the renowned Afro-Cuban drum style. “In addition to the challenge of designing and producing a round cabinet, we also faced the challenge of incorporating sliding marble doors that open automatically,” says Martins. As the doors effortlessly glide open, backlights reveal an interior crafted from Patagonia granite – and this pairing of timeless luxury and cutting edge technology is another defining feature of the brand’s output.

There is no doubting the beauty of Greenapple designs – and, unlike so many contemporary design brands, there’s more to these pieces than aesthetic appeal. Since the beginning, each piece has been produced with an unflinching eye for detail and dedication to uncompromising quality. “We achieve this by producing in Portugal and benefiting from the use of traditional techniques that are part of the Portuguese savoir-faire,” reveals Rebola. 

This production takes place entirely in the 50,000-square-foot facility in village just outside of Lisbon. The sprawling premises is divided into various sections, each dedicated to a particular craft: joinery, finishing, upholstery, metalwork, stonework, and – more recently – an electronics workshop where the brand’s pioneering smart furniture is equipped with groundbreaking technologies. It’s a setup that not only allows for strict quality control, but also enables the team to produce customised and bespoke pieces with a lead time of just four to five weeks. 

We searched for older artisans who had knowledge and extensive experience in techniques working with wood, marble, and metal. These artisans are also able to pass their knowledge on.

Rute Martins, co-founder of Greenapple

“From the very beginning, we searched for older artisans who had knowledge and extensive experience in techniques working with wood, marble, and metal,” says Martins. “These artisans are also able to train and pass their knowledge onto the younger members of the team – it’s a real laboratory with a highly motivated team and a wealth of experience.”

The Bongó bar cabinet requires the talents of multiple artisans to produce. The elegantly rounded cabinet is crafted from bronze, brass, marble, granite, and walnut timber. When the large doors slide open, LED lighting automatically illuminates the finely crafted interior.

In less than two decades, Greenapple has more than fulfilled its early ambitions of bringing Portuguese design to the world. The brand’s products are found in more than 50 countries, and the brand participates in major international exhibitions in Paris, Milan, London, across the US, Shanghai, Dubai, and Mumbai – and this exposure to the global market has empowered the brand to respond to international desires more effectively than ever before. As a result, the team has collaborated with leading design firms and supplied pieces for some of the world’s most prestigious brands, from Tiffany & Co., to Louis Vuitton, and Christian Dior. 

Minho puts a modern twist on the traditional chaise longue. The striking, curvaceous silhouette, draws inspiration from the Minho River, which forms the border between Galicia and Portugal. 

“Seeing our creations all over the world is truly rewarding,” says Rebola. “For the future, we want to ensure that the knowledge of traditional Portuguese techniques is not lost and is passed on to younger generations.” He adds: “We also aspire to continue strengthening the brand’s recognition and presence in the international market, satisfying customers around the world with our unique furniture pieces.”

Read more: Gallerists | Interiors | Design | Lighting | Portugal