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Houston’s Haute Hub

More than a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, Internum’s Italian lines are turning heads.

Internum’s Carla Munoz

Quick study B&B Italia’s Flat C wall unit comes with its own LED lighting.

Style Siren
Somehow this showroom slipped into Houston without any fanfare, but Internum’s ( tantalizing array of the latest pieces from Italian manufacturers like Minotti, Giorgetti, B&B Italia, Arketipo—is the answer to the Gulf Coast city’s thirst for more modernism. The 11,000-square-foot, light-filled showroom on Kirby Drive had an official grand opening in April in a part of town that’s rapidly developing into a design district. “Our Italian manufacturers have been wanting to come here for a long time,” says Carla Munoz, who oversees the Houston store. “They really saw a niche here.” Munoz is witnessing a lot of modern houses being built across the city, following Houston’s long appreciation for modern architecture and design. “They belong to people who are moving here from all over the world,” she says, “plus well-traveled Houstonians like a clean look.” Internum has accommodated the demand by adding new in-house designers and bringing in new lines.

The Italia Job
With all its new products, B&B Italia seems to be in a celebratory mood after recently buying itself back from the private equity fund that had owned it since 2003. Their new incarnation of the Flat C wall system designed by Antonio Citterio, above, is fun as well as practical. Designed for smaller spaces, the system’s specially designed back wall panels and shelving can be configured to house books, a flat-screen, and music components without any visible cables or seams. Dimmable, low-tension modular LED bar lighting is incorporated into the cable ducts, illuminating the system with a stylish glow. Munoz is crazy about B&B’s new Mart Relax armchair with tilting mechanism, which Citterio designed in the shape of the impression that his son’s body made when he landed backside-first in a snowdrift while skiing—Relax is the epitome of ideal ergonomic composure. It looks great, too. Munoz observes: “Having one of these is like having a really great purse. No matter what else you have in the room, everything just looks better. It’s so Italian and so perfect.”

Grand Gesture
The name Baxter refers to a tufted veddy, veddy English-looking leather sofa that used to be the Como, Italy-based company’s signature item, but Baxter has gone back to its Italian roots in the most eccentric ways. The Chester Moon sofa is a case in point—tufted all over, it’s an exaggerated reinterpretation of the icon Chesterfield tufted-back sofa. There’s a matching chair, too. Baxter asked Paola Navone to design a collection for them and the Italian design legend complied with leather-upholstered sofas and chairs that are as soft as velvet and just as luxurious. Look for one-of-a-kind pieces made by artisans in the Baxter factory who have a particular talent for, say, deconstructing a chair or writing poems or drawing on a piece of furniture. At left, the asymmetrical Typo table (whose surface features poetic phrasing), makes a bold statement with Baxter’s oversized metal lanterns.

Ooh la Mod!
The family-owned design company, Minotti, is now run by the third generation, which seems to be taking a backward glance at the '50’s with much-improved results, thanks to new technology. Take the Prince chair, one of Munoz’ favorites. The armchair has a sculptural flair and minimal lines with four aluminum die-cast legs and down seating. But Prince changes personas depending on the upholstery, which ranges from super-sleek leather to irresistible sheepskin for those moments when you just have to be groovy. Also new, the Wilson family of tables with their curvy silhouettes. Get more than one of these pert tables and group them over, under and around each other. Munoz loves them in high-gloss walnut, the newest Minotti finish.