La Artística: Guiding Costa Rican Design for 70 Years

July 29, 2005

SEVEN decades have gone by, and LaArtística has seen it all. And, arguably, thelong-established San José home-furnishingsstore has not only followed designtrends, but introduced them to Costa Ricaas well.La Artística plots a history that hastaken it from Poland to Costa Rica and, asof last year, to the United States.The business traces its beginnings to1933 and a small upholstery workshop inthe western San José industrial district ofLa Uruca, says owner Sergio Rudelman.His grandfather, founder MoisésRudelman, then recently arrived here, hadsought refuge from the harsh economicrealities and looming crisis that would facehis native Poland. That proverbial“¡Venga!” from friends who had found anew life in Tiquicia enticed the elderRudelman to set up shop in Costa Rica.THE second generation of the familybegan to diversify the business – the elderRudelman died a few years after hisarrival in Costa Rica – and began to craftits own line of furniture, selling it from thefirst of its stores on Avenida 2 in downtownSan José.“Ninety percent of homes here are furnishedentirely with furniture made inCosta Rica,” Rudelman explains.The business continues to design andconstruct its own furniture, but La Artísticabegan to import high-end products for salein the 1980s, introducing lines such asAshley, Simmons, Maytag, Amana andWestinghouse, all names well known in theNorth American world of furniture andappliances, but which Costa Rica hadnever seen before.“Prices were high back then,”Rudelman remembers, alluding to thecountry’s hefty import taxes. “They havecome down quite a bit.”NATUZZI remains the product namemost closely linked with the business. Thehigh-quality, Italian-designed line ofleather furniture features prominently in itsSan José-area showrooms. In 2004, LaArtística opened a Natuzzi store in Dallas,Texas, its first foray outside Costa Rica,and the first non-Natuzzi-owned storedevoted entirely to the line.All the rage this year, according toRudelman, is the iJoy, a line of vibratingrecliner chairs. Although president of thecompany, he seamlessly slips back intosales mode and says excitedly, “Go on. Sitdown and try it. You’ll see how wonderfulit feels.”The company’s 300-plus employeesreceived three months of training, learningthe product lines before they hit the salesfloors. Rudelman has not forgotten. Or heeagerly will show off the toughness ofDurapella, the newest innovation in upholsteryfabric.“Go ahead; write your name,” heencourages, handing you a pen and a swathof the fabric. A little water, a cloth and afew rubs and, voilà, the ink disappears.“It’s a great fabric for your home if youhave small children or pets,” Rudelmansays. The fabric may be 100% polyester,but banish any visions of 1970s leisuresuits from your mind. It fits in perfectlywith the store’s quiet elegance.IN addition to its downtown store, LaArtística has showrooms in the westerndistrict of Pavas and the eastern suburb ofCurridabat. (Both opened in the 1980s, adecade that Rudelman refers to with asmile as “the era of lacquer-finish diningrooms.”) The latter is today CentralAmerica’s largest furniture store, weighingin at 5,000 square meters.La Artística is at: San José, Av. 2, Ca.7/9, 223-5544; Curridabat, across fromHipermás, 272-8787; and Pavas Hwy.,296-2590. The store is on the Web atwww.laartistica.net.

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