At Furthur, table­tops are treated as art

Los Angeles Times - - HOME & DESIGN - By Jeff Spurrier home@latimes.com Twit­ter: @la­timeshome

There are some wood- only ta­bles for sale at Furthur on Sunset Boule­vard but not many — the spe­cialty at this fur­ni­ture store is mo­saic table­tops.

“I love tile,” says Michelle Arias, who, with her hus­band, Ray­mond, opened Furthur 20 years ago. “It’s so easy to live with and it’s nearly in­de­struc­tible. Wa­ter is not go­ing to hurt it; it takes hot and cold. And there are so many color com­bi­na­tions.”

Un­like glass- tile ta­bles, which they also pro­duce, ta­bles with ce­ramic- tiled tops have of­ten been rel­e­gated to pa­tio and pool ar­eas — strictly out­doors.

But that’s chang­ing, she says. Ta­bles adorned with 4- by- 4- inch Mex­i­can azule­jos ( ce­ramic wall tiles) are now in- home wor­thy be­cause the qual­ity of the tiles that she gets in Dolores Hidalgo, about a 40minute drive north from San Miguel de Al­lende in cen­tral Mexico, has so vastly im­proved.

Azule­jos can be traced to Moor­ish inf lu­ences in the Ibe­rian penin­sula. Both there and in Mexico they be­came an ob­vi­ous sta­tus state­ment — or­na­men­tal wall art that also func­tioned as a tem­per­a­ture mod­er­a­tor. Azule­jos turned up on walls, f loors, ceil­ings and were fea­tured in churches and royal man­sions. Now they’re the stars of Furthur ta­bles. In the last 20 years, Michelle says the big­gest change in the tiles she uses in­volves the re­moval of lead and cad­mium in the ce­ram­ics process in Mexico. Lead can be deadly, but it also gives col­ors an in­ten­sity that’s hard to du­pli­cate. A lead- free pal­ette, for ex­am­ple, has trans­lated into terra cot­tas that are pink rather than brown­ish and blues that lack the cobalt hues from colo­nial times.

Nonethe­less, she con­tin­ues to be en­thu­si­as­tic about the im­ports.

“When I look for tile, I look for de­tail,” Michelle says. “Some tiles are hand­painted, some are seri­graphs and then painted. I like shiny tiles. I like to mix matte and a high- gloss f in­ish that looks like melted glass. I don’t like shiny whites. I like the Mex­i­can white, blanco talavera. It’s matte.”

In the Arias fam­ily, Michelle says, Ray­mond is the artist. “I’m the editor,” she ex­plains. “I think we make a good team. Ev­ery­one needs edit­ing. We feed off each other.”

Furthur ta­bles fre­quently use dif­fer­ent types of tile, a com­bi­na­tion of bor­der tiles with a de­sign cre­ated from four printed azule­jos.

“If they’re in the same color pal­ette they’ll go to­gether and there won’t much of a push to it,” she says. “But some­times we do com­bi­na­tions of tiles that are a lit­tle bit busy. You can pull it off, but it may not be to ev­ery­one’s taste.”

Back when they started, the tile ta­bles were built of teak or other ex­otic hard­woods. No longer.

“You had to have a hard­wood that can take grout­ing and fin­ish­ing,” Michelle says, adding: “We don’t do that any­more. There’s no need to get in the way of the tile. It’s beau­ti­ful on its own.” Furthur, 4312 Sunset Blvd., Los An­ge­les, www.furthurla.com

Pho­tog r aphs by Ann Summa

MICHELLE ARIAS, who runs Furthur with hus­band Ray­mond, at store.

ONE OF the Arias’ cre­ations, made of tiles from Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico.

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