Designer David Netto considers this wooden umbrella an heirloom

This product has been carefully selected by tastemaker David Netto for Instant Heirloom.

The last piece you think a room needs is often the very first thing you should buy. At least that’s what interior design David Netto believes. “Sometimes to get into the role you have to buy the weirdest thing you don’t need and then defend it. Because you know there will be a sofa, there will be a pair of lamps – all of these will find their place. But you have a chance to buy something unique with this kind of poetry. And then you have to jump,” he says.

We commissioned Netto and his keen eye for unique, leap-worthy home furnishings to highlight a new product that he believes is an heirloom – and why it deserves to be passed from one generation to the next. His answer? The 6 panel Pombal Linen folding screen by decorative artisan Mike Diaz of Blackman Cruz furniture gallery in Los Angeles. “If you ever want to find an heirloom, that’s the best place to start,” says Netto. “I also love screens because they are not necessary. They’re very effective in an interior, but it’s the last thing someone doesn’t need using a decorator might think they need it. Read on to learn more about this masterful piece that will become an instant heirloom.

What drew you to this piece?

“I think Mike Diaz is a unique genius because he makes furniture from the past as if it were from the future. He’s in love with Mexican baroque and makes it look like it was dreamed up by a movie set designer in the 1930s. It’s furniture that looks like it used to be, but it hasn’t gotten that far yet. He gives it patina using very old woods. The screen is a great example where you can see the wood and you can see it’s old. The raw wood aspect of what he does is where the boldness of his pieces begins,” says Netto.

Why do you think it has staying power?

“All of Mike’s works have staying power because they don’t date from a specific period. It looks like a piece of history. I find it very exciting when someone obviously has the intelligence to know the past on their side and informs their work in a way,” says Netto. “I also think that plain wood goes with everything. This could fit in a country house or a townhouse – it’s not hard to like.”

Does it inspire new storytelling in its form or artistic details?

“Any time you put a Mike Diaz piece in a room, it will dominate the story. It’s very hard to imagine anything with more narrative power and theatrics on its side. Being a screen it already has that whimsy of being the unnecessary but the most compelling. The carving is sturdy. You see what you want to see when you see it. You can imagine it’s an antique or this weird thing that could only be made now. I think the whole history of the room is kind of locked in there,” he says.

“As with any decoration, it’s not about an object – it’s about the three things you put it next to. Next to a chrome bed by B&B Italia, it behaves in a certain way. Storytelling skills aren’t just about the object, it’s about what you put next to it,” adds Netto.

How would you envision using this piece in a room?

“I would make it a star,” says Netto. “Modern architecture is sometimes irregular. A screen can create an elegant transition between the place where you eat and the living room. A screen can go into any corner and soften it. Light it up and put a tree in front of it, turning a corner into an event. And a screen can be placed behind a bed as a kind of reinforced headboard,” he says.

Are there designers of the past who seem like kindred spirits to this piece?

“Michael Taylor would love anything Mike Diaz does. Taylor loved boldness and greatness, and he loved finding new ways to capitalize on the West’s past. Its California decoration of the 1960s and 1970s used a lot of 18ththProvincial furniture from the 19th century – nothing special, just rustic furniture that still had the curves and the size,” says Netto. “Syrie Maugham or Dorothy Draper would love it because in the 1930s they weren’t afraid of anything.”

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