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Betty Cobonpue and her '80s groove on display at Material Environment

November 4, 2010 |  8:57 pm

In a spell-check-challenged exhibition titled "You ... Go, Girlz!" Ramon Delgado-Maynes, owner of the L.A. vintage design store Material Environment, celebrates contemporary female artists and furniture designers including decorator Kelly Wearstler, fashionista Linda Loudermilk  and sculptor Karin Swildens. The show runs through Nov. 21 at 7466 Beverly Blvd.

Betty portrait finalThe big discovery: Betty Cobonpue, right, a Philippines-based designer who in the 1980s created a line of furniture called Scultura. The collection included the bedroom ensemble above. The pieces are superbly crafted with prices that reflect their rarity: A dresser with ribbon detailing that twists and curls to form pulls on the six drawers is $2,850. The matching side tables are $2,450 for the pair. The lamps, which sit on flared marble tables, are $1,400 for the pair.

Looking at them? Free.  

Delgado-Manes discovered these unusual items at an estate sale of a Filipina homeowner in Agoura Hills who had commissioned a suite of furniture from Cobonpue.

"At face value, the unique fantasy beauty of the pieces was enough," Delgado-Manes said. "Discovering her philosophy surrounding this articulated yet organic design inspired this show."

Cobonpue has described her design sensibility with a simple mantra: "No hard edges." In her work, lines flow smoothly through the entire piece. She often includes decorative embellishments such as leaf patterns and scalloped edges. Unlike contemporary furniture that is woven, Cobonpue's furniture is made from thin pieces of rattan vine, meticulously cut, heated and wet-bent over wooden forms.

"This method makes them very strong, not wobbly like most furniture made of the same materials," Delgado-Manes said. Her ability to maintain a consistent finish is "mesmerizing."

Though she has retired, Cobonpue passed her skills and sensibility to her son, Kenneth Cobonpue, who sells equally innovative contemporary furniture at Twentieth. Keep reading to see more of Betty Cobonpue's designs ...

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The sofa above is $3,800; the chairs are $4,200 for the pair. The table in the foreground is $2,450.


Cobonpue's Cowl etagere with a twisted braid edge, above left, is $2,450. A lounge chair with leaf-patterned arms is $3,250.


For the boudoir, Cobonpue designs include a desk ($2,150) that can be paired with the mirror ($1,800). The rattan-vine-wrapped storage box ($1,250) appears to have a ribbon tied around it.

-- David A. Keeps

Photos: Store vignettes by Wahb Photography; portrait and furniture shots by Material Environment