Made in Italy: Milan’s Interior Design Renaissance

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Next week, designers of all ilk will gather in Milan for the annual Salone di Mobile exhibition. In itself, this wouldn’t be a noteworthy development as design gatherings happen around the world all the time.

But this is the country that gave us Rinascimento, la bella figura and the expression “sanza tentazioni, senza onore.” It also gave us some of the most stylish people in modern history, and an enduring fascination of everyone else with creativity, beauty and the uniqueness of Italian lifestyle. “Creativity is about artistic vision, crafting vigor and exuberant vitality: all natural traits of Italians,” claims Umberto Angeloni, Chairman and CEO of Raffaele Caruso.

Everything that’s happening in Italy when it comes to design is noteworthy.

Milan itself has always been known for its highly crafted and handmade products that are at the same time contemporary, creative and innovative. In fashion design only, the city has been seen a recent boom, with Milan Fashion Week 2015 being the most prosperous ever.

When it comes to furniture design, Milan benefited from the renaissance in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when The Memphis Group defined the era’s postmodern lines. Now we are seeing a new renaissance, with the values of inconspicuousness, transparency, sustainability and meaningful consumption.

There is a generational turnover in interior design, with new, young and fresh generation of designers infusing creative vitality, curiosity and innovation in the industry — and garnering fans and recognition in the process. We spoke with Cecilia and Elena Maresca, a creative duo behind Maresca Interiors, to uncover what makes a modern interior design.

1. Why do you love design?

Getting into the world of (interior) design happened to us as a natural step on our career path. Like most Italians we have ingrained in our culture and upbringing a very defined sense of aesthetic. The attention to the design’s world and the devotion for details was furthermore inherited from our mother’s side, an archaeologist and restorer of Japanese lacquers. Whilst the passion for Brazilian modern furniture is fueled by our family’s ties with this land, in which our ancestors immigrated at the beginning of the 1900’s.

2. Creativity is today regarded differently than 10 or even 5 years ago. What would you think that today’s most creative ideas come from? How is this different than in the past?

To be creative is the ability to observe, reflect on the observations and then make meaningful connections. In today’s world, more than ever before the only way to separate oneself from the rest is not with the fancy resume or GPA one has attained. It is how well one think for themselves and actually uses their own creativity to separate themselves from everyone else. Creativity today has changed not just in terms of accessibility but in the way that is considered a major asset and is highly valued in the corporate world.

3. What do you think are the most exciting things happening right now on the global design scene right now? Who is leading them? Who has the most power?

Due to the influence from multicultural exchange, global economical flows and communication technologies, the new ways of architectural and urban organization are by far the most interesting and exciting thing happening in terms of design today. The raising of new eco-cities and the reshaping of big metropolis into socially harmonious, environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient places to live opened a new dimension into the design’s world. Different players are on the forefront like Norman Foster, BIG, Steve Holl…

4. If you’d have to describe your business in three words, what would you say?

Timeless. Sophisticated. Fun.

5. These days, one can be a food critic without working for New York Times or a collector without having millions of dollars. What would you say is a good marketing strategy in the world with so much creative output? How does a creator find an audience? How does an audience find a creator?

Find your niche and work your way into mainstream from there (or not).

6. What are modern design connoisseurs willing to pay for today? What are they looking for?

Quality. Design. Uniqueness.

7. What are you offering to the global design connoisseurs that they can’t find elsewhere?

Our Studio specializes in designing, directing and implementing interiors for residential houses and sourcing mid-century Brazilian furniture. Having worked for years in the fashion and design field, myself (Cecilia) as PR for some of the top fashion brands and e-commerce such as Vivienne Westwood and farfetch.com and my sister Elena as interior designer for London’s coveted firms Waldo Works and Russell Sage Studio, Maresca Interiors epitomize our DNA: a mix of exotic elements of Brazilian modernism fused with the timeless elegance of Italian design. We bring a new aesthetic on the table that is influenced by our ‘wild’ Italian-Brazilian roots and our passion for mid-century furniture that we source from both countries.

8. Is there a common thread that connects the products they make? Is there an underlying current reflected in them all?

The rich and sensually textured hardwoods, the grace and simplicity of the design and their overall uniqueness.

9. How do you see your business evolving?

Our goal is to become a point of reference in Europe for Brazilian modern design’s dealing as well as to create a very solid trademark style. And who knows maybe one day make our own furniture.

10. What do you personally fall in love when it comes to design? What makes for you a coveted design product?

Quality. Design. Uniqueness.

Big thanks for Cecilia and Elena Maresca of Maresca Interiors for this fun conversation.

Strategy Executive. Author of “The Business of Aspiration.” Doctor of Sociology. Forbes’ one of The World’s Most Influential CMOs.

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