The duo Palomba Serafini talks about their sensitive perspective on furn & Italian leather
Since 1994, Ludovica and Roberto Palomba are the minds behind Palomba Serafini Associati, a studio focused on bringing real life to their designs & architecture projects. Roberto is from Sardinia and Ludovica, from Rome, different beginnings that somehow met in the middle to create their innovative and long-lasting pieces with passionate stories behind them.
We met the duo in Milan (where they're based) and, when asked what connects them both, this is what Roberto had to say:
"I think love is the most important point of connection in whatever you do, it's the engine. Love for what you do, for the person you love, for your friends, for the people, for life, for food, I think love is the engine of the world. We can try to be intellectuals, which I think we are, but at the end we are very simple."
This love engine worked so well that they collected numerous awards for their work, such as the Compasso D’Oro, Red Dot Award, Design Plus Award, Product Innovation Award, Ahead Award for our Palazzo Daniele project, Best Hotel of the year 2019, German Design Award & Elle Decoration International Design Award. Their approach to furniture gives life to the high-quality leather they insist to work with. And that was their goal since the early days, as Ludovica says:
"What we wanted to do in the beginning was to create much simpler objects which could represent us better, because we both are very free people. Since we couldn’t find these around us, we had to make them. Then, gradually we kept going ahead, always in the contemporary direction, it’s hard for us to make something classical."
Their projects always make the design for itself stand out more than the designer signature. And one of Roberto's sentences has been in our minds ever since, so we just had to ask: "Once you said, 'when done, a well-designed project completely transcends its function and becomes timeless'. What did you mean by that?"
"We have to understand that what is right for me, sometimes is wrong for you and vice-versa. We don't have to try to leave our mark, we have to try to create a connection with the people that are going to use our designs. When you create a good connection with people, those designs become timeless and you're going to use them forever. On the other hand, I think design is difficult, many times we try to explain what design is, and many times we try to define it, but I think that design is impossible to be translated. I'll give you an example: when our ancestors looked at the rain, they didn't understand it, because they didn't know that it was a law of the nature, that's why they thought God was crying, so what they didn't understand they turned into an emotion. What we create can also be turned into an emotion, 'cause when people don't understand the creation, they call it a design — I think it's very poetical that if we can't explain it, it's a good design. Otherwise, it's just function and function is not what we are doing, we are giving emotions to functions."
Palombas's creations give another perspective to our everyday furniture, transcending its functionality and giving a feeling of belonging to spaces such your home for years and years to come. When asked how they relate timeless design with the materials they use for their creations, this is what Roberto had to say:
"One word: quality. One of the most important rules of environmentally friendly products is quality, 'cause when it's good, you never throw it away or create trash. And that's why we have the chance to work with some of the most important brands in design. During the process, we select the materials, the way to work these materials & create the quality of the piece, especially with a material that can last for a long time. We worked with leather sofas, for instance, with Poltrona Frau, one of the most important brands working in leather in the world. They have competence to select raw materials that come from a certain certified background. They know the durability of this product, they know the treatment, the chemical that has been not used to produce it, if the color is coming from natural things and so on.
When you produce and do the finishing work correctly in order to protect the leather, it is valued for a long time, creating quality. When I see a leather sofa that is new, I don't like it because leather is very interesting when it gets that life of the people and little scratches. For example, when I was young and had white shoes, I always tried to make them dirty 'cause leather gets quality from time. Other materials, like fabric, don't do that, and the way you work with different materials add value. Time can sometimes be a good ally, not an enemy."
Speaking of leather, there's such a strong history and quality of the material industry in Italy — and the design duo is a crucial part to creating new within a classic industry. So, our next question to them was: "How does the production of leather here in Italy compares to other countries?" Ludovica answered:
"We’re extremely lucky to work in Italy where the production quality is much higher than in other countries, so it’s easy for us to approach quality 'cause it's what we have around us. Ideas without matter remain only ideas and drawings, the ideas need to pass through a company to become a product and we’re never alone when we’re projecting. The companies are our interface and the ones we work with are mostly Italians and have super high quality, so we already know that we’re working on a product that has very high finishing and quality. This is so important from a sustainable point of view because a product with great quality is not a product that you can just through away. They last a very long time."
In timeless materials we find creations that have simple concepts & so much history to tell, like the Lama Chair, a chair that fits two people extra comfortably in one place — perfect for bringing people (& snuggles between books) together. And there is no better person to tell the history behind it than the creator himself, Roberto Palomba:
"The Lama Chair is one of our icons, we love it very much and it was born watching Ludovica read. When she's into a book, she sits with her legs up moving non-stop and at that very moment I stopped reading, took a pencil and started to sketch all the poses she was doing while reading. So, the Lama Chair is exactly a redesign of the posture she had on that chair. She's not only the muse, but she's also the model designed on it."
What we didn't expect was the power Lama & the souls of the objects they created had for the duo's trajectory. Ludovica told us about the impact of the design on them:
"When Lama was made, it was also photographed in a location. Right after that we were looking to buy a big place for our studio, so we bought a place and moved there. We already had one Lama where we stayed before and we brought it here with us, but I thought there was something strange, so I decided to see the picture of the photo shoot with the prototype Lama Chair again and it had been photographed exactly where it is now. This story is incredible. It came back by itself, because when they photographed in this location we didn’t know this house existed, it's completely destiny. We made a house with the concept of the objects energy and aura, we used this concept to furnish an entire house in Salento and our house in Salento also lives this concept. "
Ludovica and Roberto Palomba's point of view on their projects gives a powerful perspective to everything they make... well, alive. Their destinies are so connected with the souls of the objects that even an exceptional piece like the Lama Chair found its way back to the start by itself, to the very spot & position it was at the photo shoot in their living room. Yup, the exact same one. "We designed the Lama Chair. Then, we received as a gift its first prototype ever, which was exactly the one they used for the photo shoot", explains Ludovica.
Noticing sensibility like that is what makes a design stand out. It shows us how to combine a contemporary vision of society with an extensive knowledge of the roots of design, especially with their Italian heritage.
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