Tommaso Spinzi on his passion for cars and interiors design
The Italian designer eats innovation for breakfast while inventing never-before-seen leather-centered pieces.
Spinzi is a pro at mixing different areas & inspirations, and he reinvents the furniture universe without even trying. How? By applying his love for cars – from timeless rides to memorable motorcycles – into interior design.
Now that we think about it, is there any better way to bring an adventurous attitude indoors?
His practice is a fusion of bright epiphanies, meaningful concepts & flawless craftsmanship, as expressed in his most representative design, the Gentleman Driving Armchair -- GDA for close friends (and fans). The piece combines a nostalgic vibe with contemporary looks that reminds him of the prestigious Benz from the 1960s, but also represents the inevitable urge modern men seek to escape. Spinzi extends his refined taste to his personal collectibles displaying them loud & proud in his space in Milan.
Yeah, we are talking about the white Porsche in the room.
We were so inspired by Spinzi’s approach that we went speeding for this exclusive interview. Scroll down & have a nice ride.
You are a creative designer that veers into architecture often. What inspired you to pursue this path, this career?
I've grown up with this passion for motorcycles. I got my first one when I was a kid and even then I would disassemble it and assemble it over and over and, you know, explore the mechanics in general. I carried this interest throughout my whole adolescence too, so, bikes, motorcycles & cars, all of these “toys for boys” have been a part of my life since then. That’s why nowadays I'm still customizing and crafting different things. So, in any field, I apply a creative approach to mechanical things, and that’s the same when I design a product. My newest collection, called Meccano, was just launched on spinzi.com, and just like in all my collections it boasts well-defined Italian-style andcraftsmanship, that veers away from being tacky.
How would you define your design principles and your work as a whole? And what have those different areas taught you?
From each area I’ve learned different things. For example, in mechanics, every piece is designed to have a function. So, from there I started to fuse areas together, that’s why my style of work is fluid and dynamic. It's a lot of things put together in a way that becomes a unique whole, and where each element has a key role. Thus, even a classic piece of furniture from the 1920scan work well with a motorcycle from the 1970s, or maybe with a café racer from the 2000s, all they need is to be paired with style, of course.
Your goal is to inspire, stimulate & create meaningful environments. What does this philosophy mean to you? And how do you practice it?
I don't know, it comes from within. It's something that I've been gifted with and only now am I aware of it. You know, when I was younger, I didn’t know I was so inspired, but now it's coming out naturally. It's like when seeing a nice car, some people will hardly notice it, and just say "oh, yes, it's an old car."But I’m usually drawn to it to the point that I crave to study and learn from it. It's as if I get trapped by it and lost in it. And besides research, it’s through that process itself that I’m able to learn & work. It's part of who I am.
Your studio has a pretty personal + customized service that foresees working closely with your clients throughout the whole design process, doesn't it?
I mean, this approach to work came naturally. I had clients that would come to me and ask for something specific. So, I started to take them into my world, guiding them to understand specific details. That way I would learn about what things they liked more than others. Whether it’s art, furniture or a piece of textile, I would blend everything I observed together. So, when I meet with clients, first I try to understand their taste, so I can help them develop their own way of thinking and help them make comfortable decisions. It's like a suit - if you don't like to wear suits, you don't feel comfortable in them. But there are people that are so comfortable in suits that they wear them every day, and they go to a tailor and order all kinds of suits, in black, in gray -- it's custom-made, it’s a unique work.
Speaking of custom-made things, Tommaso has sent us the Spinzi Vintage International quarantine vol. 2 playlist so you can dive into an Italian quarantine mood & keep the inspo flowing while you read our chat.
Could you tell us a little bit more about the process and why you have chosen to work that way?
My clients usually come to me with an idea -- they have a project either for a house or a space to renovate. So, I study their lifestyle, I help them understand their own taste when it comes to interior design and other things related to it. Basically, they tell me what they like and what they don't like.
And then, when I present the first concept of the project, I analyze their reaction: if they love it and wish to take it to the next level, I help them take it to the next level. Other people or even companies may ask me to work as art director or refresh their brand, because they cannot do it themselves. Sometimes there are clients that ask me only to draft a few pieces or give them some direction in terms of branding, identity, and style. I don’t promote all of this on my website because it does not fall into my core business, I only put out there the things that reflect my style. Sometimes, there are so many different projects, with more classical aesthetics and even minimalist approaches that are slightly different from what I normally do. There is beauty in everything.
Would you say you have a signature? Like some particular element you implement into all your designs?
That's a tough question. There is definitely one thing, a multifaceted element -- that works from interiors to cars, boats, planes, and all automotive vehicles -- that inspires my work: the love for traveling. Through the experience of traveling or moving from A to B you must come back to something that feels like home. So, for me it's important to translate all these experiences into a design you’d like to have in your home.
You are a collector of many things, like decor, cars, bikes & furniture. Your home seems like an amazing sanctuary for design. When did you start crossing references from all these areas to create your personal space? And how do you do it so well?
It all started probably when I was 14 or 15 years old. Even then I remember being attracted to pieces of furniture or some specific motorcycle. I used to collect motorcycles, so I ended up having a lot of them, especially the off-road ones since I was doing off-road trips with vintage bikes from the 1970sand the 1980s. After that I got into cars, then into miniature toys, and finally artwork. I'm now into this big process of selecting artworks because they create part of the energy around my house.
Being from Italy must have also inspired your good taste for decor, right? As the country itself is a sanctuary for art in general.
You know, I lived in Australia, the US, Switzerland, but now I’ve decided that I want my work and my home to be based in Milan because Italy has such great energy and has significantly influenced all of my passions. Here is where everything started -- that’s why the first collection I ever designed is called Origini, because I wanted to come back to my origins, to Italy and especially to Milan.
It was kind of interesting when I drove around Milan exploring it for the first time with this 1980s vintage Honda XL -- because, even though I’m Italian, I had never lived there before. So, I would admire ceppo stones, a famous material used in Italian buildings, and this is how I decided to use this gray stone in furniture pieces of the Origini selection.
That was when I started to properly design my own furniture collection. And now I'm going to present some more pieces over the next few months. I have tables and sofas – around eight or nine pieces more. I would really like people to know how, after living overseas for 15 years, I came back to Milan -- to my home country, to my origins -- and that has inspired me to create this space which is a fusion of all of my passions. It’s not just my furniture and my designs, it’s about my ethos.
Let’s talk about the white Porsche in the room. Why did you put a car in your living room? We loved this idea!
Well, I’m like a boy with a lot of room for all my toys. Actually, some time ago I had to bring the car inside, because I had a problem with my storage place. It started out like that. Then I thought: "I want to be able to create an experience, to tell a story." So, I decided to mix the Porsche with some vintage pieces, like a Coronado sofa by Tobias Scarpa, some Minotti pieces, and some other collections of furniture I had. It turned out classy somehow, and I thought "Oh, I like it, I'll leave it there for a while."
It was a game-changer. Since then, maybe two or three months after that, I noticed people all over Milan placing cars inside their living rooms, in window shops, or even inside stores. In the latest Alfa Romeo ad they placed a modern Alfa Giulia inside a living room, and I was like "What is this?! What is this?!"
Okay, now back to your designs. We are particularly dazzled by your leather furniture. Mostly by the Gentleman Driving Armchair. What's your relationship with this material? Why did you choose to incorporate leather into your pieces?
Well, the Gentlemen Driving Armchair is something quite different. I was driving around in my Mercedes and the idea came to me. I have grown up with this old car and its scent, and the beautiful leather material that had a saloon feel, you know? If you think about the S600 Mercedes model, you might recall that it used to be one of the most stylish and elegant cars and it was very comfortable as well. Then a thought came to me: "Why not turn this special car design into a piece of furniture for car lovers to add to their living room?" It looks a bit cool, a bit edgy, a bit different. And this piece can also be made in different finishes. The car I own has this green leather interior, so I decided to make this chair match the same green.
It is also made in Italy. I found an artisan that produces high-quality furniture right near Milan, so I took him to the factory and we came up with this artful design.
It is called the Gentleman Driving Armchair because it’s basically for a gentleman to feel like he’s driving away in his favorite car, you know? Because you can't drive your car to escape somewhere every day, but you can sit in your living room and daydream that you are.
GDA itself is a tribute to your two passions. Would you say that leather is one of the factors that connect both furniture & wheels? Tell us a little bit about how these two worlds overlap in your life.
Leather is definitely an important factor. I love timeless materials and leather is one of them. I like to see how it ages over time. I love everything that is made of leather: a sofa, a car seat, or even a jacket.
There’s something special about this material. Even though nowadays it is important to be animal-free, when you find something made of leather -- if it’s a vintage piece, like a vintage sofa or jacket -- it's also important to understand that choosing leather is a way to be more friendly to the environment, so as to avoid waste. Depending on its age, some kinds of leather are almost special, they are so rare and unique. Nowadays, given the quality of some materials, you won't even notice the difference between what’s real leather and what’s not. But leather has such a singular character, an aesthetic that everyone tries to copy. Just like wood, it’s a prestigious material.
For instance, in my living room I have a leather sofa that dates back to 1969. This piece has survived for such a long time because of what it’s made of. Imagine buying a sofa right now that will stand the test of a lifetime because of the quality of its materials.
That’s why leather is so important to me. I still have the same leather jacket from the 60s/70s and it's in perfect condition; while the faux leather jacket I bought maybe three years ago is not in the same condition.
So, you agree with us that nothing makes cars cooler than leather seats, right? What are your favorite car/bike models in this aesthetics?
I have to say that I love Italian cars. My favorites are Alfa Romeo and Lancia from the 1950s. When it comes to motorcycles, there so many options, but most of my favorite models are Italian as well, so I would have to say either the Ducati 750 SS or the Moto Guzzi S3 -- a V-twin I have in my collection. Yeah, I like the V-twin. They can be customized, and for being café racers they have these 1000cc V-twin engines. But I like the ones with round cylinders, not with square ones. That's very important because they have completely different aesthetics. Anyway, my favorites are either the Ducati 750 SS from the 1960s or the Moto Guzzi S3.
Wanna take a road trip with [metcha originals]? This way, please.