Marie Antoinette and other creative minds behind 40 years of Sancal’s designs

Sancal is a 100% family business.

Sancal is the Castaño-Capena family. Santiago, Pepe, Antonio and Elena are the only four shareholders. Besides the three brothers’ wives (Concha, Luisa and Mónica), five members of the second generation have joined this amazing project.

But let’s see how the story begins!

A tribute to the court of Louis XVI.

Santiago was surprised when he was reminded about the anniversary “it seems unbelievable that forty years have passed since I started up on my own” he commented. Yet, surely enough, a young man from a humble background began an adventure some four decades ago that would lead to the creation of Spain’s leading design orientated upholsterer.

He was just twenty when he decided to set up shop on his own. In true start-up style, he established his company in a rickety old garage. With a little experience and a lot of determination, Santiago’s workshop started to manufacture classic chairs in the Marie Antoinette style for a customer in northern Spain. “Back then I was a one man band: I drew the plans, created the templates, cut, sewed, upholstered, visited suppliers and customers”. The quality of the chairs captivated his customer and, as demand grew, he enlisted the help of his brother Pepe and his wife Concha. Together, they converted Sancal into the family business it is today.

Marie Antoinette in a painting by Martin van Meytens in 1768.


Sick of tufts, gold thread and deep buttoning while inspired from his trips to Milan, Santiago made a radical change. Sancal’s revolution coincided with a new period of openness in Spain as the country successfully made the transition from the oppressive dictatorship of Franco to a liberal democracy. In keeping with the spirit of the times, the new designs were for everyone.

The star product was Model 33, a modular sofa that could be configured into a range of compositions, and thus Sancal Tapizado Modular (Modular Upholstery) was born. The company moved out of the garage and into a small factory unit in the countryside, sharing the space with the family’s goats and chickens. The company continued to grow along with its reputation for honesty and quality. By this time the two other shareholders joined the company; first Elena and then Antonio.

Santiago and Concha celebrate their wedding at the factory with his parents, brothers Pepe and Antonio and his sister Elena.


The 90s where a key to the development of the company: Sancal started to collaborate with industrial designers and interior architects. Designs by Miguel Milá or Gemma Bernal shared the pages of the company’s catalogue with more commercial designs by Santiago and Florian Moreno. Art direction by Daniel Abate held the concept together. This also marked the moment that Sancal started to export.

The new millennium brought the company into contact with more designers: a new factory was signed by OF Architects and Javier Peña became the new art director. Santiago headed up the creation of a dedicated design department with Rafa García and Juan Ibañez taking on the roles of industrial and graphic design. Freelance designers remained welcome at the company, amongst them, Quim Larrea, Ricard Ferrer, La Cubitera and Ximo Roca.

Letargo chaise longue by Miguel Milá with the Mar Menor in the background. Photograph by Juan de la Cruz and concept by Javier Peña.


In 2007, after the addition to the staff of the three children of Pepe (Sergio, Sandra and Antonio Javier), Santiago and Concha’s elder daughter took the reins of the family business. A sociologist by profession, Esther is also passionate about design and is naturally creative. She took on the role of art director and centred the mission of the company on design. External designers like Toyo Ito; Karim Rashid; Nadadora; Estudihac; Luis Eslava; Ionna Vautrin and Sebastian Herkener, were personal favourites, but it has been the off-the-wall insight of her sister Elena with her degree in Art that she values the most. Together they enjoy design in all of its facets.

The two sisters grew up with the company. They remember with some nostalgia playing with cushions, skating between sowing machines and making their own costumes from offcuts, meeting suppliers and visiting trade fairs.

Their latest projects go beyond product design, to window displays and, projecting their creative philosophy onto the factory itself. Apart from the obligatory showroom visit, from now on a factory tour will be a must with Sancal’s products set off against incredible murals created to celebrate the brand’s 40th birthday. “We think that the best way to celebrate the passage of time is to leave a mark on the walls and give our team the gift of art to inspire them as they manufacture our marvellous designs”, explains Elena.

Designers during the Milan show. From left to right: Juan Ibañez, Elena Castaño-López, José Manuel Ferrero of Estudihac, Ionna Vautrin, Esther Castaño-López, Sebastian Herkner, Pedro Ochando, Isaac Piñeiro and Cristian Alonso of Nadadora studio and Rafa García.

The show must go on!

Far from the ostentatious riches of the past, Sancal’s “palace” is dedicated to all those that have toiled over the past forty years to design the future.

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Diseño gráfico por Estudio Sancal.
Diseño y desarrollo web por Sixtudio.
Graphic design por Estudio Sancal.
Web design and development bÿ Sixtudio.

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