Atelier Areti’s New Lighting Collection Embraces Romance

For their 2022 lighting collection, Elements, Gwendolyn and Guillane Kerschbaumer — the sisters behind Atelier Areti — set a challenge for themselves: to create something innovative using only the simplest composition of a light (base + arm + illuminating element). Their latest collection, Reflections — which debuted last month as part of Alcova in Milan — was a kind of response to working within those parameters. Embracing their freedom from a restrictive framework, the collection welcomes romance: “Having worked intensely on very abstract compositions and color concepts within the Elements Collection, we longed for the opposite — lyrical and figurative expressions,” the sisters explain. And while Reflections is still distinctly within Areti’s visual vocabulary, the collection also includes a series of lights inspired by the shape of tulips, one that features filigreed trees sprouting from its base, and a piece, designed by Alberto Gaiotto, inspired by the elegant neck of a swan.

There is a regard for balance found throughout Reflections. Through their formal education in visual art, architecture and product design, both sisters have a certain distrust of the decorative and romantic, of being silly rather than serious. “The dominant discourse in most design and art schools is still critical of classical and romantic notions of beauty,” the sisters note, and while they enjoyed giving way to the romantic and nostalgic, they were still wary of lacking restraint. To accommodate both, the figurative elements in this collection (a leaf, tree, a flower) are arranged in strict geometry. Their Leaves pendant is a good example, where brass plant-like fronds are organized formally in a perfect circle.

Reflections came about under the looming deadline of Milan Design Week. It had been several years since Atelier Areti had a solo exhibition at a design fair when they plucked up the courage again and signed up with Alcova late last year. “As all exhibitors know, doing one’s own exhibit is no small project, and for the past years, with many small children at home, it did not seem feasible.” The time was also finally right for work that had yet to be finished or published. For the show, Atelier Areti relooked at work from the last five years — some pieces originated from design ideas they’d vaguely experimented with as long as a decade back — but they also conceptualized new designs with only a few months to go.

The showstopper was to be a new central piece for which they extended their own deadline several times. “We went through a large number of designs because we felt as though there was a yet unknown design waiting to be discovered for this space,” the sisters say. “The pressure we felt to show something we were really convinced of was quite intense. We just knew that what we had so far was not perfect for this exhibit, and that there were a few designs waiting to be created.” In the very last week, they designed the Fan ceiling light, finished mere hours before it was due to leave for Milan. Its expressive, metallic fingers stretched out into the space, with a round globe finishing each tip. “It was such a joy to see visitors react to it because of the intense work behind it. We are always driven by the desire to create a piece that is able to provoke a visceral emotional response in ourselves and the viewer, creating a feeling of intrigue, pleasurable contemplation, and attraction,” they say. “To us, a good design must be able to elicit this intuitive response.”