Percival Lafer

Gabriel & Guillaume / Percival Lafer

Percival Lafer (1919 – 2007) began making furniture in 1961. His vision was to “bring good design to everyone, not just the intellectual elite” with modern, well-made pieces. “Percival’s furniture not only captured the modern aesthetic of the moment, but was exquisitely crafted using gorgeous, solid hardwoods” With burnished leather upholstery and meticulous finishing details, Lafer’s pieces were also big sellers in Western Europe and Scandinavia.

Ironically, Lafer never intended to be a furniture-maker. Lafer planned to practice architecture—until his father, a furniture dealer, died right before his graduation.

While mourning, “my brothers and I decided to all work together to insure the continuity of the company,” says Lafer. “But I didn’t want to do retail, and our lines were traditional.” He found solace in the store’s small custom upholstery workroom, where his tinkering yielded the streamlined MP-001 armchair, produced in 1961. A T-shaped steel base covered with thin pieces of solid rosewood, it had an upholstered seat crafted out of layers of foam instead of springs.

By 1974, Lafer had produced a prolific and diverse range of work, including the now-vintage MP Lafer sports car, kiosks, telephone booths, and fiberglass architectural components. In 1985, when shipping costs increased exponentially, Brazil Contempo stores came to an abrupt halt in the States.