An Introduction to Italy’s Favorite Anti-Minimalist

It is perhaps ironic that Paola Navone should release a book entitled Tham ma da, a Thai word meaning "ordinary." Tham ma da doesn't refer to Navone's design sense, however, nor is it an adjective to describe the interiors she creates. But it is a fitting description of how she can take a humble material and multiply it so that the effect is something much, much greater.
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We Spent Two Months With 12 Artists in a Tuscan Paradise

When you tell people that you just got back from a two-month stay in a 19th-century Tuscan villa with three swimming pools where you had your own artist's studio and a gourmet chef cooking you dinner every night, the first thing they tend to do is giggle: It sounds like you're making it up. But the Villa Lena is no fairy tale, it's a very real place with a very real residency program that we participated in this summer, and documented here with the help of Berlin art director Sarah Illenberger.
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Italian Product Designer Giorgia Zanellato

About six or seven years ago, when Jill and I were still editors at the late, great I.D. magazine, we had a gut feeling that something was happening in Italian design. For years its reputation had been seemingly stuck in the '80s — no one ever, ever talked about its contemporary scene — and yet suddenly we were seeing a few young talents pop up here and there. We commissioned a story on the subject, but despite our prescience (as evidenced in part by the subsequent head-spinning rise of Luca Nichetto), we missed something seriously major: Fabrica. Neither of us realized the impact its residency program and Sam Baron–led design studio would have in nurturing Italy's brightest new voices, from Matteo Cibic to Matteo Zorzenoni to today's subject, Giorgia Zanellato.
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Studiopepe, Stylists and Set Designers

When describing their sensibility, Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto of the Milan-based Studiopepe invoke the versatility of classic white shirt: “You can wear it anytime, to go to the supermarket or to a soirée. The same is for design. Good design — whether a masterpiece or anonymous — goes with everything.” Their evocative aesthetic, though, is anything but simple. “Eclecticism and curiosity” are important starting points for them, and their output is rich with visual references, ranging from the harmony of classical forms to the glamour of Italian cinema in the ‘60s. But they don’t merely quote their source material, they transform it.
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Michele Reginaldi, Architect

Michele Reginaldi is an established Italian architect and visual artist. Born in Teramo in 1958, he has been a partner at Gregotti Associati since 1998. He began working on a series of form studies — what he refers to as constructions — in the late 1980s that have grown to include more than 120 individual pieces. These constructions range in size and shape, but all are made from the same material — brass. Reginaldi classifies his constructions into four categories: studies around the circle, studies in verticality, light structures, and constructions for architecture. These pieces are crucial to his success as an architect; on their own the constructions are beautiful sculptural works, but when put into the context of architecture they become important explorations in scale and proportion. Knowing this, his constructions’ influence is clearly evident when browsing the architectural projects of his practice.
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Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi’s Associations Vases

Italian product designer Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi worked as lead designer for Diesel Home — developing furniture and lighting for its collaborations with Moroso and Foscarini — for three years before becoming a freelance creative director in 2012. Since then, she's also developed a personal body of work that includes video art, photography, and ceramics, exploring "the relationship between the natural and artificial." Her latest project, Associations, is a series of vases that take inspiration from '70s craftsmanship but with simple, expressive shapes that evoke Ettore Sottsass and the Italian artist Gino de Dominicis. All of the pieces in the collection are made by artisans in Veneto, Italy.
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Patch of Sky by Fabrica

People who know me well consider me to be semi-obsessed with the weather. I check it often, and I've long had the habit — often wondering if I was the only one — of bookmarking the cities of my friends and family in my app of choice, Weather Underground, just so I could picture from time to time whether they might be out frolicking in the sunshine that day, or cowering from a nasty snowstorm. It's no wonder, then, that when an email came in this morning from the folks at the Italian design-research studio Fabrica touting their latest project Patch of Sky, a "set of three Internet connected ambient lights, enabling you to share the sky above you in real-time with loved ones, wherever they are," I dropped what I was doing and decided to post about it immediately.
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Calico Wallpaper at Villa Lena

A couple before they were partners in design, Nick Cope and Rachel Mosler founded Calico Wallpaper together two years ago in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Mosler was an art therapist on paid leave from NYU's temporarily shuttered hospital; Cope ran a design/build firm whose projects had all been put on hold. "We'd always wanted to do a project that touched on both of our backgrounds — something for the home that had an art-like quality," says Cope. "Rachel studied sculpture at RISD and has a Master's in art therapy, and I went to NYU for photo and digital design." On a lazy afternoon in the East Village, Cope found an image of obscure types of paper marbling in an antique shop and brought it home. Mosler loved it and immediately began delving into the history and process of the ancient technique. "We realized quickly we had something interesting on our hands," says Cope.
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Sam Baron on Fabrica’s Extra-Ordinary Gallery Collection

When we found out that Fabrica, the Italian design studio and research center, had just launched its striking new Extra-Ordinary Gallery collection in its online shop earlier this month, the pieces were so intriguing and beautiful that we thought we'd struck editorial gold — turns out we weren't the only ones! The collection has been all over the design blogs in the past two weeks, and deservedly so. Yet we couldn't pass up the chance to share it with our readers anyway, so we got in touch with our old friend Sam Baron, creative director of Fabrica's design department, and asked him for some special insight into the collection, which he curated. The result is a fun little personal diary, featuring five of the line's standouts as they relate to Baron's daily routine.
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Benetton: The Art of Knit

Tourists emerging from the Broadway/Lafayette subway station in New York’s Soho were in for a shock this fall: Perched atop an old garage behind the BP gas station were two life-sized mannequins, clad in knitted wool and engaged in a rather un-family friendly act. (New Yorkers, used to such things, weren’t particularly fazed.) The artwork was part of the Lana Sutra series by Fabrica artist-in-residence Erik Ravelo, and it was commissioned for a Benetton pop-up shop that opened in the space this past September and closes at the end of this month. But once you stepped inside the 2,200-square-foot garage, you realized that though the knit sculptures were the attention-grabbers, the space was actually full to the brim with ingenious objects that offered clever takes on color and wool, created by the young talents at Fabrica — Benetton’s Treviso, Italy–based designer-in-residence program — under the creative direction of Fabrica’s design head Sam Baron and Benetton’s brand-new creative director You Nguyen. “The concept was to adapt Benetton’s DNA to a more modern vision,” says Baron.
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Sam Orlando Miller, Le Marche, Italy

We talk a lot on this site about inspiration, and with most of our subjects that conversation assumes a certain measure of materiality — that we’ll be discussing the things they’ve amassed over the years or the places they return to over and over again on their travels. But for the British artist Sam Orlando Miller, it’s the lack of these things that gives him the energy and space to create. In 2000, after spending more than a decade in London building up his interiors firm, Miller and his wife, Helen, left it all behind for a quiet life in the Le Marche region of Italy, a mile from the nearest village, close to the coastline of the Adriatic Sea. But though they live in an admittedly enviable location, Miller says, “it didn’t need to be Italy. It just needed to be somewhere that was wilder than London, away from the culture I’d been immersed in. I found it difficult to think when surrounded by all that stuff. Here, you have to think about your own creativity and what your voice is. When you’re surrounded by nature, all of a sudden you’re on your own, psychologically.” And so rather than things, Miller collects thoughts and sketches and conversations, running over them again and again in his head until one bumps into the other and becomes a full-fledged idea. That’s what happened with his most recent body of work, The Sky Blue Series — a collection of mirrors and objects commissioned by the San Francisco gallery Hedge for a solo show, on view until this coming Monday, that marks Miller’s American debut.
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