A new showroom aims to dispel the myth that bespoke design is difficult to produce, tricky to access, and crazy expensive. We sent writer Nancy Lazarus to experience “artisanal products in a real-life setting.”
Custom design comes to life in a new take on the traditional showroom. Design-Apart, known for delivering bespoke Italian design through its online marketplace and design services, recently launched its first “living showroom”—a real apartment where people live, cook, clean, and work—in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
“I thought we could do more to present Italian designs than traditional showrooms do. There are so many showrooms out there, but they’re just aesthetic,” explained Design-Apart founder Diego Paccagnella (pictured) at a recent press preview. “Here we live and interact with design, giving people a deeper experience of living in a place designed by Italian artisans.” He and his family are living there for a year.
Paccagnella and Stefano Micelli traveled around Italy to source designers. “We selected companies not by their size or by how famous they are, but more for their flexibility in producing customized projects for clients,” said Paccagnella. “The objects here are built by artisans and they consider the people who live here,” Micelli added.
The showroom will also serve as a cultural events hub, offering an in-depth look at Italy and its interaction with food and art. “Here professional designers and architects will show their handcrafted and advanced techniques,” Micelli said. “It’s a laboratory that’s also a comfortable place for coffee.”
Twenty Italian producers are involved in the living showroom. A group of “I-crew” members were on hand at the preview, and they shared (and translated) their brand tales:
• Filippo Berto, whose Berto brand makes upholstery, sofas, and made-to-measure designs. His firm is active on social media, with a blog highlighting their workers’ involvement. They also shoot videos and post them on YouTube, demonstrating how their products are made.
• Ignazio Pomini of Exnovo, whose firm has long specialized in 3D printing. They produce limited edition lamps, interior accent pieces, accessories, and custom jewelry, using a range of materials.
• Gianluca Tondi, project leader at TM Italia, whose company manufactures kitchens from natural materials and textiles. The showroom kitchen featured folding cabinets that hid the shelves after their use.
• Daniela and Paolo Ponti of Ermes Ponti. At their workshop they create wood interiors and modern wood furniture. They use other materials such as metal, stone, and glass as accents.
• Alvise Bertoncello, VP sales and marketing at Technogel, which created the showroom’s sleep surfaces. As their name implies, they invest in technology, and their mattresses and pillows are filled with cooling gel. They also make benches, nightstands, and colorful floor gel mats.
New York is the first stop of Design-Apart’s “Viva Italia” design tour. The next location of the living showroom, in Sydney, Australia, bows next fall.
Writer Nancy Lazarus is a frequent contributor to UnBeige. Learn about her here.