Appliances: Design, Italian Style

<< Back to Robb Report, September 2003

“I work within my personal line of elegance and thinking, my personal line of life,” muses Piero Lissoni. The prolific Milanese architect and designer has spent the past 20 years perfecting his own brand of Italian minimalism through showrooms, corporate headquarters, private residences, and, of course, furnishings.

Lissoni designs for an array of distinguished furniture companies—Cappellini, Cassina, Flos, Kartell, Living Divani, Matteograssi, and Alessi—but his relationship with Boffi, the manufacturer of kitchens and baths, has been the most enduring. By the mid-1980s, after an extraordinarily innovative postwar period, Boffi was feeling the heat from its German competitors. Lissoni, fresh out of Milan Polytechnic, had just opened Studio Lissoni, an atelier of architecture and industrial, interior, and graphic design. In need of a fresh approach, Boffi hired him as art director and designer. “I took a huge risk,” Lissoni recalls. “I chose a fantastic label with an incredible history, but one that was not perfect at the time. And—voilà! We have arrived, 20 years later, a strong company.”

Today, as creative director, Lissoni is responsible for Boffi’s global image. His style, which merges minimalism with understated warmth, can be spotted in everything from the architecture and interiors of the company’s showrooms worldwide to its luxuriously spare kitchen and bath products—such as the new Swim bathtub, Liquid taps, Up basins, and Universal bath system.

“He has an eye for good proportions and an innate sensibility to know when something is beautiful and when to stop,” observes longtime friend and devotee Nasir Kassamali, president of the Miami design emporium Luminaire and Boffi Studio.

“Understatement has always been my primary impulse,” says Lissoni, who draws inspiration from the German Bauhaus movement and modern American industrial designers Ray and Charles Eames and Florence Knoll. This refined spirit is especially apparent in his recent Coupe sofa for Cappellini, Ile seating and occasional tables for Living Divani, and Plastics modular seating for Kartell.

Architecture, however, is still the driving force behind the multifaceted Lissoni. Recent projects include the interior renovation of three hotels, including the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal in Venice, as well as corporate headquarters for clients Living Divani and Matteograssi and a number of private residences in Italy and Japan. “Architecture is my first love,” he acknowledges, “but I get bored with specialization. Design is so connected with architecture. When I design a space, I also think of the furniture.”
This continuity ties everything together. His furnishings echo the spare, linear forms of his buildings. His kitchen and bath products resemble the lithe modularity of the furniture. Stainless steel, aluminum, Pral (a white Corian-like surface), glass, plastic, and oak (either stained graphite gray or bleached), with occasional bursts of color, are all part of Lissoni’s current, carefully edited, visual vocabulary.

“My job, as a designer and architect, is one of continuous motion to build on small pieces,” reflects Lissoni, a task that, by all accounts, this contemporary man of all trades appears to have perfected.
 
Boffi, 212.431.8282 and 310.458.9300, www.boffi.com

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