25 January 2021
Personal and professional partnerships take the most courage and run deepest and, when they’re solid, are harbingers of success and happiness. This is the case with Leonardo and Marzia. He is a designer of objects and she is an interior architect. They met by chance during a work trip to South American and immediately realised that their paths would always be conjoined. Different yet complementary characters, in 2007 they set up Dainelli Studio, with offices in Milan, bringing together their individual characteristics and particular strengths. Constant aesthetic and formal research, a distinctive feature of their work, makes for sophisticated design, careful proportions, and harmonious forms, colours, materials and finishes. Their stylistic hallmark has always channelled references to architecture and the Italian design masters. Analysing forms and sections, breaking them down and then reconstructing them in order to create totally new objects is a frequent approach during the creative phase. There’s no shortage, however, of nods to an international and extremely contemporary aesthetic. Dainelli Studio creates interior projects for public and private spaces and has worked with prestigious furnishing companies such as Mogg, Fendi Casa, Fiam, Frag, Fratelli Boffi, Gallotti&Radice, Giorgetti, Lema, Londonart, Arketipo and Porada.
Like all stories, yours also had a beginning. Can you tell us about it?
We were both working in the furnishing field in Italy, but our first meeting has a rather exotic air to it! We met during a work trip to South America, on which we were both invited. Straight away there was a strong affinity, which soon led to our joining forces personally and professionally.
We set up Dainelli Studio together in 2007, working on products (Leonardo) and interior design (Marzia), respectively. The studio was based in Tuscany for years, where Leonardo was born and grew up. It was a hugely important time for us, which we still carry in our hearts and which continues to influence our projects. We are very fond of marble, for example, which is probably a legacy from the years we spent at quarries and with suppliers in the Carrara area.
In 2018 we decided to move our family and studio to Milan, which has always been a second home to us, so we could follow the companies and projects that have increasingly pointed us towards Lombardy and abroad.
Leonardo takes care of product design, Marzia designs and creates interiors. How do you share your visions and tackle the creative process together?
It’s a constant dialogue. We have a common, shared vision on lots of things – we both love a rational, yet distinctive style, a bourgeois taste but without too many frills, we are both fascinated by the architecture and projects of the great Master of Design, Italian in particular.
At other times, clearly, our personal characteristics come to the fore. Marzia has a more decorative touch while Leonardo has a more rigorous approach. This helps with our designing. The input we give each other while we work has often led to new equilibriums, shattering both our convictions, and making for a more finished balance.
There is a thread running through your projects, an idea and a story that are expressed in a clear, appealing and contemporary style. Which interior worlds do your products channel?
Our projects aim to narrate a contemporary way of life, discreet luxury, with objects of desire that trigger a desire to use them, rather just owning them.
Lema, Gallotti&Radice, Giorgetti, Arketipo and Londonart are just some of the brands you design for – is it a challenge moving between different worlds?
We are lucky enough to collaborate with companies that we feel have an affinity with our worlds, even though they’re all very different. We find it very stimulating to translate our thoughts into the styles of different brands, the way you do with a bespoke garment. Every company has their own distinctive materials, their own processes, their own demands – this means that we learn something new each time, not just from an aesthetic point of view but also from a manufacturing one.
Material is very much under the spotlight again. Which material are you most drawn to and which would you still like to experiment with?
The materials we feel the greatest affinity with are undoubtedly the ‘classic’ materials such as wood and marble, which probably stems from our strong connection with Tuscany. The marble quarries and woods on the hills formed a natural backdrop to our daily life for many years! Our first self-produced pieces, for example, the Faces sculptures for Artemest, convey an anthropomorphic narrative through marble and quarried stone.
Right now, we’re just starting to work with ceramics, a new and very fascinating world for us, as both interior and product designers.
We’d like to experiment in the future with plastic and explore its latest transformations from a sustainable perspective.
Sustainability is on the agenda of many designers, architects and companies. Is this an issue that your projects take into account?
We want to make products that last over time, both aesthetically and formally, and we try to rehabilitate existing finishes and materials.
What does designing for a “fragile” world, such as the post-pandemic one, mean?
2020 was a year of fracture. After every fracture or crisis society changes, needs change, requirements change, and so do limitations and consumptions. The challenge facing designers in the near future will be to pick up on, interpret and respond adequately to the demands of a world with new needs and desires.
Has this experience changed the way you think about and design spaces and objects?
Our creative process has remained the same. We have appreciated the chance to have more time to devote to the design stage, as we did during the first lockdown, but we have also realised just how important it is for the sort of work we do to be able to meet people, go to exhibitions, see installations, travel and absorb as many stimuli as possible from the outside world.
How many times have you taken part in the Salone del Mobile.Milano?
Lots, 25 I think, first as students then with our products and installations!
What are your expectations for the next edition?
We’re anticipating an edition that will certainly be different – as regards the layout of the pavilions, mobility and accessibility, the construction of the stands, the number of people there and the new products being showcased.
Equally, we’re sure that it will be a very popular and much anticipated Salone del Mobile for the companies, the designers, and all those working within the sector, and for the city of Milan. We believe that it will be a powerful signal of recovery, a positive charge and a spur, after a long year of deep uncertainties.