“In contemporary societies, design is not a luxury anymore—it’s a necessity.” This mantra guides the practice of Ignacio Cadena, founder of Cadena+Asoc. Concept Design, a Mexico-based firm that dreams up incredibly vibrant interiors. He tackles, with a unique joie de vivre, any project that lets him approach design from new angles. “We are currently working on master plans, urban hospitality projects, culinary concepts, education, social housing, high-end real estate, and retail,” he notes.
Cadena frequently collaborates with fellow Mexican designer Héctor Esrawe of Esrawe Studio in a partnership that took home an impressive two Interior Design Best of Year awards in December (one for their joint perfume venture, Xinú, and the other for kaleidoscopic creamery Gelatoscopio). Cadena sat down with us to discuss his partnership with Esrawe, how he founded an award-winning perfume brand, and how his desert upbringing influenced his design approach.
Interior Design: Where did you grow up, and how did it influence your work?
Ignacio Cadena: Northwest Mexico in the Sonoran desert. The arid landscape and beautiful contrast of ocean and desert strongly influenced my perception of aesthetics. My love for monochromatic visual languages surely finds roots there.
ID: How did your partnership with Hector Esrawe start, and what keeps it going?
IC: It started ten years ago when we got commissioned for a project, and it goes on thanks to the respect we have for each other’s work and our mutual understanding of our design beliefs.
ID: What’s been your most memorable project with Esrawe, and why?
IC: Projects for public spaces like Mi Casa, Your Casa at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Los Trompos at Houston’s Discovery Green park, and La Musidora at the Denver Art Museum. They have a special place in my heart for what they have accomplished for social and human interactions.
ID: Tell me about Xinú. It seems unlikely that two architects would launch a fragrance line!
IC: The project is an initiative of Verónica Peña—Hector and I are just two of the three components. We are fragrance lovers so it was natural to explore something as amazing as a niche perfume brand.
ID: What’s your favorite part of practicing in Mexico?
IC: Freedom to explore and artisanal craftsmanship.
ID: If I had one word to describe your work, I would pick “invigorating.” Would you agree?
IC: Agreed! It is the reflection of happy souls taking work very professionally... but not too seriously.
ID: What’s your favorite current design trend?
IC: I hate design trends.
ID: What’s a secret source you’re willing to share?
ID: My little girl’s writings and my little boy’s drawings.
ID: Best thing about your job?
IC: I can do what I love every day—I create, collaborate, travel, learn, and teach. I go to work and I smile.
ID: What’s next for you?
IC: Learning and doing things I have never done before. I want to always keep searching and exploring.