The Wall&Decò collection is incredibly rich in storytelling, yet your designs are among the most narrative of them all, real full stories. Native American writer Sherman Alexie used to say about one of his characters: “Storytelling was a disease he had taken into his mother’s womb”. What is storytelling for you and is there a difference, in your mind, between an illustration for wallpaper and an illustration for editorial purposes?
As a teenager (but even later) storytelling saved my life.
I am talking about literature. I was your typically shy teenager, fighting with acne and making an even bigger deal about it than it really was. So I took refuge in books.
I remember thinking: it cannot be only about the looks, I cannot be limited by how I look. The first book I read in this state of mind was Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was the most perfect book for a 15-years-old facing a teenage crisis and worrying about his appearance.
Later I became an omnivorous reader: Kundera was very important, from Immortality onward, then
Goethe, Schnitzler and many, many more.
At 20 I started attending creative writing at Holden School in Turin. I used to commute between Turin and Milan twice a week, arriving home at midnight. Oh, the cold of those winter nights. And the hunger, because I was skipping lunch! So exhausting. Yet, it was a marvelous time.
I came to understand that writing was too much a complex job for me, I was not talented enough, but I also realized that I could draw. I could tell my stories through drawings. That is where my talent lies! (laughs). So this is the story of how I became an illustrator.
To answer your question, there is simply no difference for me between a drawing for wallpapers and an editorial illustration, so long as it conveys an interesting story.
Irony, sharp and witty, is another constant in your works. How do you see the role of irony in the world of interior design today? In the past we have had great designers that were also blessed with a sense of irony (Achille Castiglioni comes to mind), today is may seem everyone is just trying to look cool. How do you feel about this?
I totally love that kind of design you are talking about. The golden age between the 40s and the 60s. In my house I have Castiglioni’s Arco and Parentesi, the AC04 fruit basket, Vico Magistretti’s Atollo and Eclisse, Hans Wegner’s CH163 sofa and so on, a lot of stuff.
Concerning irony, I see myself as a purist of sorts. Among Castiglioni’s works, I favour the less ironic – of course the fruit basket is inspired by a scolapasta (colander), but it is subtle, you have to notice that. If irony is too much in the forefront (I am thinking about the Mezzadro stool or the ubiquitous Sella) it just annoys me and distracts me from the fundamental thing: usability. As in: a seat has to be comfortable, a lamp has to make light.
The ideal of cool design does not really hit home for me. I care about elegance when is paired with functionality and, possibly, minimalistic aesthetics. Cool is often about a famous name, about buying an item just because it is cool to have it. I claim the right to choose: it does not matter to me if an object was designed by someone famous or by a complete unknown – all that matters is if it has a purpose in my life, in my home.
I am surely partial to the great masters. As I am partial to classic jazz, stuff like Coltrane’s Giant Steps or Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. My point being, if something is still relevant after 3 or 4 generations, you cannot get tired of it. If I put a design item in my house, I need to be sure I will not be weary of it after just one year.
That said, it is in the nature of wallpaper to last for, well, a shorter amount of time. But that is the nice thing about wallpaper: you can completely change a room just by decorating a wall. It is made for the eyes, not for the body, so you can discard all the ergonomics stuff. As such, irony on wallpaper certainly makes more sense, and that is why you can find plenty of it in my designs!
A room dressed with one of your wallpapers. Inside, a character from History or Fiction (from literature all the way to movies). Who are they?
Now that is a hard question.
Quick answer: Buster Keaton. Funny and tragic at the same time, a somber comedian. Try and figure a black and white design, a wooden house that falls apart and him standing in the middle of the rubble, hammer in hand! A classic.
Also some character from Tarantino’s or Wes Anderson’s movies. They are so iconic, it would be fun to turn them into a design.
As for literary characters, I am sorry but it is too much crowded in my head right now, I cannot make out anyone!