Reflections on Italian Design

Collecting and Sources in New York

9 APRIL 2016,
Cole & Son Wallpaper, Fornasetti, Ortensia
Cole & Son Wallpaper, Fornasetti, Ortensia

The experience of traveling in itself is a keepsake yet when we return home after a few days we may feel a let down. My solution is recreate some of the feel good feeling of the place we visited at home. It might include the sense of taste and smell in the contrast of cold and hot by treating myself to a gelato and an espresso at one of my favorite places, Sant Ambroeus at its Madison Avenue location. I like to sit, take in my surroundings, enjoy people watching, pause and recall my travel experiences. Nearly, every time I’m Italy I imagine myself living there, I look in the windows of the real estate offices; a farmhouse in Tuscany that needs a little love, a small Villa in the lake district, a place in Umbria, or an apartment in Dorsoduro Sestiere of Venice. Today, we find our phones full of photos that we may never print. Perhaps it’s time for something more tangible. When traveling I witness friends and family spend all their cash and getting rid of their coins before coming home. I never do, as they are my talisman that I will go back and soon.

“People inevitably decorate their houses with personal obsessions.” Charlotte Aillaud

Though, I have sourced for decorative objects for clients and interior design firms a like I rarely buy for myself. When I was a young adult starting off as interior designer it was for financial reasons that I didn’t include myself in the fun. Yet, there have been times I’ve contemplated buying when money wasn’t an immediate concern and still held off. I tend to look and say to myself why, you don’t need it, why collect, why display, don’t spend your money on things only on experiences, it will become a dust collector and weigh you down and inhibit your mobility. All the while I find delight and maybe even solace in the whimsy and the artfulness, handcrafted of decorative objects of Murano glass for example. In essence I have been an virtual collector.

We can tell stories with a table scapes by the way we arrange them. Friends invite me over with the distinct purpose of helping them arrange their collections. There’s a story too in how decorative objects come to us as they may have been thoughtfully selected for us by friends and family as presents. I seasonally rotate my collections; a sculpture will be moved from the fireplace mantel to rest on the top of an armoire when house plants are moved out to the front porch in warmer months. Sea shells are bought out of cupboards that were collected from various destinations. Decorative objects don’t have to be expensive. It’s the thought that is put into it and we find it when we buy vintage, handcrafted, artisan or Artist made. When buying it’s important to consider the environment and fair trade. I wouldn’t advise making a habit of buying anything mass produced as they tend to be void of personality.

For this article, I spent sometime sourcing the internet, consulted with books for inspiration, then I headed to New York to see the things I fancied in person and then filtered through samples, brochures and business cards I came home with. I consulted with dealers in person and by e-mail in order to create a personally curated selection of Italian design in New York. To assist you in adding Italian flair to your home décor, and perhaps a little la dolce vita to your life. I share the following:

A stone throw from New York’s Decoration & Design building we find ourselves facing Dylan’s Candy Shop on East 60th Street. Here you will find Cosulich Interiors where I met Fabienne and Franco Cosulich at their store. Where Fabienne’s passion is apparent in all of their exquisite offerings and feels as if one is in Italy here. The aroma of espresso and spoken Italian in the air lend to that feeling with an interior brimming with colorful inventory of 20th Century design and Murano glass and Venetian handmade masques. I have come to appreciate more and more the decorative arts of the Twentieth Century. Previously my passion for the decorative arts was deeply rooted in the formality of 18th Century of French and English antiques. An unique way of living with water is evident in Venetian decorative arts as it is in this gondola shaped Italian Orientalist Murano glass bowl centerpiece exclusive for Cosulich Interiors. The colors of this centerpiece consist of red and two blues - marine and aqua with insets of white murrine. This would add a punch of color to today’s popular stark white kitchens.

Lighting is an illuminating entry point to collecting as it’s functional and decorative. Barovier e Toso round Murano glass lamps circa 1960’s have a retro futuristic feel and a clean elegant élan with its clear and frosted stripes. A very rare 1970’s colorful crystal Italian design glass coffee table is an objet d’art in itself designed by Eugenio Davico for Studio Davico. No further embellishment by way of accessory is necessary, with it’s burst of color and texture this coffee table offers. I could see this coffee table working well with white upholstered sofas. For ones dining room an attractive rare 1960’s Italian playful sideboard with six drawers exquisitely executed out of glass, bronze, gold and wood. The color palette is unique one of deep raspberry that reminds me of a the perfect lipstick color contrasts nicely with grey and creme. The handmade clear glass handles are the perfect balance to this fun piece. This will certainly will give your dinner guests something to talk about. It reminds me of a well dressed woman if she was a sideboard.

At Gail Garlick’s Good Design at New York Design Center’s I found a striking and rare pair of hall chairs by Roberto Menghi for Arflex 1960. Specified by Gio Ponti for Milan’s Pirelli Tower. Fully restored to original specifications, with new upholstery. Bespoke refinement captured in a 1947 six door cabinet with brass hardware by Paolo Buffa.

“I like my accumulations of things on my walls: I see them as a bastion against death” Bernard Minoret.”

My fondness of wallpaper has been a capricious one as I have been opposed to it for the practical reason of expense, and the labor to install and to change out. All the while I have a crush on some wallpaper. So many homes are bare canvases ready to be personalized to put it nicely and wallpaper does the trick. I cannot imagine a soul not loving the prolific and fanciful work of Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988). Consider Fornasetti wallpaper collection by Cole & Son Wallpaper available through Lee Jofa at New York’s Decoration & Design building. A few of my favorites are: Chiavi Segrete silver skeleton keys that mysteriously float against a dense pattern of foliage, the feminine floral Ortensia - a pattern was originally designed for tables and trays in the 1950’s. Ex Libris wallpaper pattern inspired by a detail of a screen and is appealing to my love of books. All are available in a range of colors.

If you prefer you to own an original Fornasetti piece we can return to 60th Street where we find Gaspero Asaro. He praises Italian Design and his delightful store reflects this. I find myself drawn to; a fish sculpture of Murano glass by Cenedese 1960 as I have a weakness for fish, an 1950’s umbrella stand of Fornasetti with it’s design of umbrellas and a small side table of brass and glass designed by Gasparo Asaro himself.

Let’s add a cool white, crisp, linens from Frette to complete your Italian infused interior. There’s nothing like ending one’s day in well dressed bed.