19 December 2019

Gold, Silver and Red

The Christmas season is a time that manages to transport us elsewhere, in both time and space. Back, right back to our childhood. Elsewhere, in places to be shared with those dear to us. Often, just an object and a few – highly traditional – colours conjure up the atmosphere of the festivity and trigger a unique and all-pervading alchemy. This is true of every home. Our homes. Because no other place in the world can make us quite so happy.

So, let’s try and find out how design can make our rooms more atmospheric, with an informed mix of decor and essentiality, iconic impact and extravagance, in colours that even the Pantone Institute couldn’t fail to describe as Christmassy – red, gold and silver.

Let’s start with the kitchen, the setting for all the delicious things that will issue forth at this time. Having one already done up in festive colours undoubtedly puts us in the right frame of mind and means that decorations can be kept to a minimum, allowing it to remain super-functional and efficient, thus optimising the preparation of the many meals that will be cooked there. Cesar has come up with a contemporary red for its Unit kitchen, while Brummel is betting on a pure gold colour which confers an elegant and sophisticated allure. If there is one time of the year when we should be brave and give into our dreams, it’s Christmas. So, for those who can’t resist the appeal of a Made in Italy icon in this space too, the SMEG500, made from original Fiat parts and assembled entirely by hand, could be the answer to their dreams: it not only gives rein to a passion, it also keeps the champagne cool.

Now for the table. The Christmas dinner table must radiate conviviality, and therefore needs to be very large in order to seat everybody comfortably. Better still without a head of the table, to avoid hierarchies and facilitate conversation. One such example is Roberto Cavalli Home’s Cooper dining table, with platinum or gold accents and a white onyx top that brings the whiteness of snow into the home. There is also the exclusive and stunning table from Knoll’s Platner Gold collection (along with the chairs in the same range), finished in 18 carat gold. Designed in 1966 by the architect Warren Platner, who even then wanted it made in gold plate – unthinkable for the times – it is reminiscent of the generous shapes of wheat sheaves, the allegory of abundance, reward and peace.

The Circus collection by Alessi, channelling the imaginary world of Marcel Wanders, conjures up a different sort of conviviality, partly playful and partly functional, proving that design can short-circuit the apparently irreplaceable archetypal banqueting table with new decorative styles. Then there is Seletti’s Kintsugi collection, in which the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with powdered gold takes on a contemporary form, with the accent on the beauty of imperfection, dumbing down the idea that “perfection” is a must for these occasions. Rather than the usual centrepiece, why not go for Bosa’s Owls vase/containers, which summon up a magic, mysterious world? After all, in the popular imagination, owls are seen as symbols of wisdom and intelligence, as well as harbingers of good fortune. Those who tend towards a more abstract sort of creativity might want to opt for the Showtime 10 stoneware collection by Bd Barcelona, designed by the eclectic Jamie Hayon: in white or decorated with gold, these five little sculptures will set off the red berries of the Ilex aquifolium, the Biancospino or the Viburnum opulus to perfection in their own particular way.

Right now, we would warmly recommend a capacious coat hanger, perhaps a themed one such as Stella, designed by Alessandro and Francesco Mendini for Caimi Brevetti − a real “symbol” that, stripped of functionalism at all costs, serves above all as a cheerful decorative element.

Equally, it’s worth giving serious thought to ramping up the living room seating. Your guests will be delighted not to have to stand for hours on end. One simple solution is EMECO’s Heritage, designed by Philippe Starck, in silver aluminium; these stackable (not too much effort is needed), classic and modern chairs come with an optional vinyl seat pad for added comfort. Equally welcoming, but very poetic, Desalto’s Strong chair, designed by Eugeni Quitllet, is characterised by its continuous, linear shape, unequivocally red. A more informal and softer option would be to sink into the versatile and irreverent (and, as of today, also environmentally-friendly) Sacco beanbag chair by Zanotta, in bold, bright red. Sacco adapts to the needs of whoever is sitting in it, allowing each of us to become the “designer” of our own relaxation experience. Osvaldo Borsani also had relaxation in mind when he came up with the P40 for Tecno, in which ergonomics and design work in tandem with practicality to accommodate the body in increasingly relaxed positions, with a gradual inclination system that also allows it to be closed completely. What could be more gentle, warm and welcoming than a mother’s embrace? Possibly only an attempt to replicate that feeling by snuggling up in B&B’s Up armchair, designed by Gaetano Pesce. With its curvilinear shape and pop-art personality, this chair radiates a feeling of protection, comfort and ease. What could be more hygge at Christmas? And during this season of gestures of goodwill, why not invite your friends to settle down on Moroso’s red Victoria and Albert sofa, with its continuous flow of curving lines, a horizontal figure of eight, a symbol of the infinite, of fecundity and prosperity? Ron Arad was well aware of this when he designed it.

If we’re keen to live in and bring alive not just spaces but also emotions and unforgettable moments, harnessing light is fundamental. There are some objects that manage to do so in a really special way: Atollo by Oluce – designed by Vico Magistretti and now an archetypal table lamp – in a gold finish to mark the occasion, Eclisse by Artemide, also designed by Magistretti, a cutting edge balance of form and function, design and utility, or Twiggy by Foscarini, designed by Marc Sadler, which describes a linear and flexible, generous and spare, elegant and formal arc.

If you’re looking for design storage containers for large and small gifts (but not just for them), there’s a choice between the essential Componibili by Kartell, born of a winning idea from Anna Castelli Ferrieri, in the triple red, gold and silver version, and Edra’s stunning Scrigno range from the Campana brothers. The extraordinary exterior surfaces are a mosaic of glass shards (also available in a gold finish), unique pieces made by hand. A whole world exists between them.

Although we all go back to being children at Christmas, the same question rears its head each year: what to get for the little ones. The answer in this day and age is this: objects that stimulate their creativity, intelligence and curiosity, designed and created by companies that successfully mix practicality and design, without losing sight of the more playful and lyrical side of design. So, let’s entertain them by getting them to sit on the Happy Bird or the Puppy by Magis, the animals in EO’s Zoo Collection, or encouraging them to hide in Circu’s Teepee Play or play with Vitra’s Wooden Dolls.

Once we’ve given our homes, our friends and children due consideration, there’s nothing more relaxing than a long soak in Glass Design’s gold or silver leaf bathtub followed by a restorative sleep in Opinion Ciatti’s four-poster ILletto bed. Its characteristic shape and pure function are easily recognisable, and the gold version is simply stunning, whisking you straight off into a land of fairytale dreams.

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