Giancarlo Valle

New York,
An architect and interior designer by trade, Giancarlo Valle dipped a toe into the furniture world this year with an instant classic: his Smile Seat, shown above, covered in shearling, mohair, linen and suede. We’ve seen a peek of where his furniture collection is going next, and trust us — it’s gonna be great.

What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?

Generally speaking, American design has felt very experimental and open — in a way without the heaviness of European tradition — a true mixing pot. That is even more true today thanks to social media. Federico Garcia Lorca said that the ideas of poetry are floating in the air, available for everyone to use. In a similar way, the ideas of design are not owned by anyone but instead belong to a history of its own. It is not so much about creating something completely original for its own sake; it is the idea of creating something that can communicate with what is around it. I like to think design at its best is a conversation — between objects and styles, between objects and spaces, and between spaces and buildings. So much of it has to do with memory, and how something makes you feel.

What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?

We are a design studio rooted in architecture (following my background and formal training) with an interest in creating indelible interiors and objects. We look for projects and clients that encompass that immersive philosophy. For example, we are developing a hotel concept where we will be creating the overall building down to the door knobs and bedspreads. We are working on a home for a sculptor, as well as a country retreat for a painter, both in upstate New York. We are about to break ground on an exciting pool project for an estate in a historic area of Rhode Island. And, lastly, I’m wrapping up a three-year project of my own home in New York City.

Until recently, our furniture had been mostly commissioned for specific projects, but we decided to bring some of those special pieces to life in limited edition. We are also making our inventory of antique and historical furniture available for the first time through our new Tribeca showroom. I’m very particular about the pieces I collect and say if I can live with them they are good enough for my clients. The way I collect is not specific to a period or style, but is more about looking at the fringe or transition between styles. I enjoy finding pieces that move between eras, that were made at the beginning or end of a designer’s career, whether it’s French Modern, Primitive American, Art Deco, or Tribal.

What inspires or informs your work in general?

I’ve taken a tourist’s approach when it comes to the design world. Having spent a decade working in architecture prior to my own design studio, I wanted to stay rooted in that tradition while also having the ability to explore the immersive world of interiors and furniture. In the US, architecture and interiors have become increasingly segregated from one another; they are conceived of and commissioned by different specialized groups. My studio takes a more holistic approach to this process. The designers who influence me tend to have a similar sensibility and were able to transcend their classifications, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Gio Ponti, Robert Mallet Stevens, Lina Bo Bardi, and Le Corbusier. I’ve recently started looking at the incredible work of Renzo Mongiardino, Axel Einar Hjorth, and Jean Royere, all of whom resisted the dominant style of their time and today feel more relevant than ever.

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