Roman Style

The tradition of Italian interior design has a strong historical context, richer and more impressive than any other region. Over 2000 years ago, the ancient Romans developed highly sophisticated architectural and decorative art forms that were heralded not only in public buildings but also in the private homes of the leading citizens.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  March 2, 2006

|~|Italian-Brix--Body.jpg|~||~|The tradition of Italian interior design has a strong historical context, richer and more impressive than any other region. Over 2000 years ago, the ancient Romans developed highly sophisticated architectural and decorative art forms that were heralded not only in public buildings but also in the private homes of the leading citizens. Interior design reflected the population’s values, philosophy and love of beauty and comfort. Intricate frescoes and elegant mosaics are now synonymous with the vestiges of Roman culture. In addition, the art deco movement of the early 1900s impacted heavily on the Italian designs emerging from contemporary Italian designers too. In modern Italian interiors and furniture, unique colour schemes and bold design are matched with attention to detail, emphasis on quality, and a penchant for creative and original solutions. In fact, if one particular aspect can be identified as characteristic of Italian design it is the need to express individuality. The basis of Italy’s strong furniture and design tradition is in no small way due to the rich heritage of specialised tradesmen and master craftsmen. The ability to adopt tailor-made solutions, backed up by a throng of highly-skilled artisans sets Italian design apart from its global competitors. An additional aspect of Italian style is the use of certain traditional materials which themselves are the outcome of centuries of experimentation and use. The areas around Prato, Como and Biella produce exceptionally beautiful fabrics, suited to a wide range of decorating needs from upholstery to wall covering to curtain materials. The impressive colours and designs of these fabrics are equalled by their high quality, the product of technological innovation and leadership in the textile industry world-wide. Gianni Sharrouf, business and development marketing manager, Purity, says: “Italian design combines a rich cultural and artistic heritage of a land that saw the birth and expansion of one of the greatest contributors to the journey of Humanity, the Roman Civilisation. During many centuries, Rome and the Italian Peninsula has become a melting pot of different artistic schools, which eventually lead to the Rinascimento or Renaissance of the human and social sciences. Modern Italy inherited this rich history of art and design and transformed it into a trademark of its own. If we add to this the characteristics of the Italians, we get people that live in continuous passion for life. So, art and design are the perfect means to express that passion into objects that reflect an artistic view of life.” Purity is responsible for bringing brands such as Ritmonio, Curvet, Boxart and Dipiusrl to the Middle East, and its most recent acquisition — Boffi. Purity is was conceived by Nizam A. Baki, managing partner, who says: “Our concept offers beauty and style to the design conscious. In fact, Purity’s tagline is: Design-conscious living.” He has chosen Dubai because he believes it is the city where local trends are born and where international trends are first imported in the region and then re-exported to the neighboring states. “We believe in Dubai and the UAE and we are actually starting our geographical expansion which will include Abu Dhabi and the major capitals in the Middle East region,” he says. ||**|||~|Italian-Ivano-Body.jpg|~||~|Fernando Fiore, Italian Trade Commissioner states: “I feel confident that the sustained trend of appreciation of Italian design in general in the UAE and the Gulf will be a blessing to both parties. It is the result of many years of attention to quality and aesthetics of the ‘Made in Italy’ brands that the bilateral trade and movement of goods and capital between Italy and the UAE is growing steadily, year after year.” Talking about Purity’s newest Italian brand, Fiore says: “Boffi is indeed a school of Italian design of its own. Its contribution to the success story of the Italian way of living is undeniable.” With such tantalising designs combined with a long history of craftsmanship and attention to detail, Boffi now dominates the market for high-end exclusive kitchens and baths. In addition, new and energetic companies such as Ritmonio are now enjoying a great deal of success as well as artistically shaped Murano Glass mosaic artisans such as Di Piu which combines tradition with modernism and still uses the artisan techniques in designing and producing true pieces of glass mosaic art. Sharrouf continues: “If we talk about Italian design and its differentiation of other schools of designs, we would notice that it combines general design trends from other countries: Scandinavian clinical minimalism, French romanticism, German obsession with functionality, East Asian essentialism and South Asian large color palette. Italian Design is the essence of all that, with a plus: Passion.” It is this underlying insistence on creating functional items that still retain challenging aesthetics that sets apart Italian-designed furniture from the rest of the world’s offerings. A brief look at some of the other Italian brands available locally proves the solidity of the country’s design heritage. Baituti are responsible for bringing a number of world-famous Italian brands to Dubai including B&B Italia, Casamilano, Orizzonti and Verdeguer Navarro. Other brands include Flexform, whose current furniture designs are born out of a long family tradition still operating in a small town in the North of Italy. In addition, Promemoria is a brand rapidly gaining accolades and popularity within the design industry, specialising in predominantly leather and wood furniture. Promemoria “believes that designs are dreamt before the design is executed,” according to Baituti. Bin Hendi has also acquired the company Porro, who has a solid place in the history of Italian design. Founded in 1925, the company successfully combines the traditional European artisan tradition for high quality with sophisticated, new production technologies. The majority of Porro’s product line consists of shelving and storage. Yet a wide variety of beds, tables, chairs and containers complete the collection, which is versatile enough to be suitable for both residential and commercial use. ||**|||~|Italian-Presotto-body.jpg|~||~| B&B Italia has been a leading company in the field of contemporary furnishings since its founding in 1966. With the headquarters still based in Novedrate in Como province, the company remains very close to its origins. The Company’s ability to reflect contemporary culture, to sense and anticipate trends, to respond to changes in taste and living needs, has resulted in a furnishings collection, which accounts for a crucial chapter in the history of Italian design. Its ethos is to produce “timeless” products “lasting through time,” which may account for their four “Compasso d’Oro” awards, the most prestigious honour in the field of Italian industrial design. A suggested reason for B&B Italia’s constant design success is that research represents a crucial and strategic element of the corporate development policy, funded with over 3% of annual B&B Italia sales. The hallmark of the B&B Italia line can be found in its capacity of expressing contemporaneity through high quality products mainly based on design, innovation and technology. Today, the B&B Italia collection takes shape with the contribution of prestigious names from the world of international design: Nicole Aebischer with Atelier Oi, Roberto Barbieri, Mario Bellini, Jeffrey Bernett, Antonio Citterio, Vincent Van Duysen, Uwe Fischer, Carsten Gerhards and Andreas Glucker, Chris Howker, James Irvine, Gaetano Pesce, Paolo Piva, Marc Newson, Studio Kairos, Patricia Urquiola, Afra and Tobia Scarpa, Richard Schultz. Using superior materials and retaining the dependence on luxury and excellent workmanship is another hallmark of Italian design, as business partners Gabriele Ghetti and Carla Botti understand as the managing partners of Gamma. “This commitment to quality and constant improvement has been carried out by our Forlì-based firm ever since 1974. Everything is strictly “Made in Italy”, from the hide origin to the production processes, so that in every product it’s easy to recognise the quality and richness that only the ancient Italian craftsman tradition owns,” Ghetti explains. ||**|||~|Italian-Alloy-Brass-Mosaics.jpg|~||~| The sophisticated design of Cuba Libre is the model worldwide symbol of Gamma, but a recent move toward embracing modern style, simplicity and elegance can be witnessed in the new ranges of Portofino, Planet and Sicily. Soft and gentle lines are outlined by rich seams and marked by sophisticated individual details that have always been Gamma’s signature. Presotto Middle East is a division of Presotto Italia, designed and manufactured in Italy, it combines infinitely flexible, minimalist, contemporary styles with a myriad of hard and soft material options. “Italian design is increasingly associated with simplified and refined solutions that suit the lifestyle of the occupant. Combining various textures and colours to provide specific accents, accompanied by some unique and exotic accessories all adds to the beauty that is Presotto,” Rami Kadri, managing partner, Presotto Middle East says. Presotto products are contemporary and stylish. The underlying characteristic is the quest for individuality. The structural composition is of the highest standards, as Kadri explains. “Combining high quality materials, modern technology and craftsmen who, to this day, take pride in their workmanship is truly a recipe for greatness.” Another key player in the Italian interiors industry in the GCC is the sister company of Al Bawardi Group, A&M Gulf Services. It has an ever-increasing selection of Italian brands under its umbrella. Its base office in Milan acts as a research centre ensuring that the interiors industry in the GCC is provided with the latest and most exclusive products available in the Italian market. Brands include: glass mosaics by Vetro Colour, Villiglass and Megaron; ceramics by Ragno, Brix, Appiani and Aurelia; furniture by Toscoquattro; lighting by Solzi Luce and Rosettilight; Stone by Stone Italia, Casa Piu and Riverstone. In addition, the arena of kitchen design is dominated by Minotti Cucine, established just after World War II (1949) by Adriano Minotti, father of the current managing director, Alberto. In the 1960s, it began to produce kitchens modelled on American standards; this continued until 1999, when Alberto changed tack and moved toward a streamlined, minimalist and natural design. This interior change was suggested to him by some important thinkers and architects of our time: Adolf Loos, Mies van der Rohe, AG Fronzoni, Claudio Silvestrin, Louis Barragan, and Shiro Kuramata, to name but a few. Minotti explains: “Minimalism in fact is the simplicity of stripping away the previous superstructure, which makes us believe we can have anything through false myths. It is not only a style, a way of being, but an attitude, a dislike of noise, a search for visual silence and perfection that goes beyond time and fashions.” “In our kitchens, we use only natural materials (wood, stone and iron) putting them together as our forefathers would have done hundreds of years ago. The use of laminated plastic is banned by us because it is a modern material, a by-product of petroleum, which appeared only in the last century. Our kitchens on the contrary aspire to timelessness; they come from the past and are projected towards the future,” he says. ||**|||~|Italian-Mussi--Body.jpg|~||~|Evidence of this is the new Minotti model “Terra”, designed by the Italian architect who lives in London, Claudio Silvestrin, who defines architecture as a “way to create poetry about the earth and with the earth.” He continues: “Alberto Minotti hired me to come up with a design, which grew from a desire to express the immense value of the earth with clean lines and natural materials, such as cedar wood, porphyry and other precious and exclusive stones,” says Silvestrin. The glamour of Italy has permeated the accessories market too, with VGnewtrend arriving in Dubai. The company was founded in Treviso 50 years ago. CEO, Giancarlo Vanin, has earned recognition for the company’s well-known attention to detail. VGnewtrend proposes furnishing objects and accessories for interiors and exteriors that are devised, designed and selected by the designers Giorgio Tesi and Raul Romaguera (G+R Design), whose idea is to show how public spaces can be “experienced and decorated in a contemporary way, with objects that are full of charm and appeal.” Especially rich is the collection of vases, which are laden with stylistic attractions of the tradition. The pottery vases boast gold decorations reminiscent of the Renaissance Age with large resin vases adorned with gold foil finishes. As this brief overview of the Italian market in Dubai has shown, the dominant keynotes of Italian design is quality. An insistence on the best materials, coupled with stout refusals to down-size or mass-market a product has meant that a certain elitism or superiority surrounds the designs of Italian companies. In fact it is this point that Purity’s Sharrouf says makes other global companies want to emulate: “Surprisingly, Italian design’s main threat is counterfeiting: in simple words, years of research, experimenting, designing, planning and execution of renowned designers are washed away by badly copied designs which sell at a fraction of the original ones. In our business, we face a lot of those cases where some people believe that by purchasing a similar tap or shower or washbasin or a kitchen furniture system from dubious sources, they would save across the line while jeopardising the quality and durability of the products.” Italian designs will always be sought after as the quality and originality is founded on a heritage going back hundreds, if not thousands of years. The future success of the country’s offerings in the GCC market is similarly rosy. Sharouff concludes: “Design and art trends are, by nature, unpredictable. But we foresee a sustained increase in the interest for Italian design in the future, which will, in my opinion, get more and more exclusive and high-end. In fact, a good design is timeless and has no boundaries: with some different aesthetical perceptions across cultures and nations.” Contacts: ||**||

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