Silvina Petrate came to the United States from Argentina 16 years ago to join her husband, who was pursuing his MBA at the University of San Diego. A year ago, they opened a furniture and design store in Hillcrest, just a little 2,800-square-foot shop.
Today, what is now Nativa Interiors, boasts two spacious showrooms, one in La Jolla and another in Solana Beach's Cedros Design District, and an 80,000-square-foot factory in Mexico.
"The furniture we sell is unique," said Petrate. "We design it, we manufacture it, it's all hand-made. It's very unusual to walk into a furniture store in a city like San Diego and find that every piece you see is unique to the store."
Nativa manufactures and sells pieces for every room in the home, as well as draperies, carpeting, and even painting and sculptures. Materials come from all over the world, from Italy to Turkey to Petrate's native South America.
"We offer furniture made of solid wood," Petrate said. "That is our specialty. We sell solid black walnut, solid cherry, exotic woods from all different parts of the world."
Besides variety and quality, the emphasis is on environmental responsibility. "Any wood that we buy, we buy from certified lumber suppliers," Petrate said. "We don't buy lumber that is taken out of the Amazon. We never have. Back in 2001, nobody was talking about that. But even then we didn't think it was right to make a business out of destroying that (the Amazon). We wanted to sell quality and sell real things but make sure that it was done in a responsible way."
Indeed, the Nativa Interiors website emphasizes that the company is constantly working to "minimize our footprint."
It's not uncommon for a single customer to come to one of Nativa's showrooms and purchase furnishings for an entire home. Petrate recalls clients who have spent more than $3 million with Nativa. "Most of the time our customers are professionals between ages 35 and 70. They are well educated, looking for quality, people who drive nice cars and they want to have nice furniture to sit on. "They are exposed," Petrate said, "to nice things and that's what they're looking for in their furnishings."
Because materials used in Nativa collections come from all over the world, Petrate and her husband are often on global buying trips, but they have contacts abroad who send them pictures of potential materials as well. In addition to the manufacturing end of the firm, "We have a team of five, full-time interior designers working in the company," Petrate said, "and all of them have 16 to 20 years of experience."
If you haven't visited a Nativa showroom, you may have seen its furnishings at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, one of its commercial clients. Petrate's company is currently at work on the storied Marine Room restaurant as well.
Petrate particularly likes hearing from her homeowner customers, though, including one who she said wrote, "Your furniture will be part of my family for generations."
• Nativa Interiors at 7770 Girard Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. (858) 454-1874. nativafurniture.com
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