Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Giorgio de Chirico – all artists named as possible brain fuel for the interior and product designs of creative duo Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto of Milan design practice Studiopepe. But the pair, who started out as stylists, are just as likely to have a eureka moment studying the junction of colours and shapes in a detail of a painting or film. They have a way of exploding the seed of an idea into cohesive roomsets for clients such as Kvadrat and Spotti, as well as their own product lines, including their cult Kora vase.
To us, they are masters of shaking up expectations when applying more than one colour to a situation. Most recently, for their launch of a monochrome tile collection in collaboration with Refin Ceramic Tiles. This was introduced at the brand’s striking space – once the studio of Ettore Sottsass. Here Studiopepe offer us more insight into their approach to design as we reveal some of our favourite colour moments in their work.
How do you work as a duo (who does what, do you tend to be drawn to very similar things etc) – and in particular on this project?
“It’s always a dialogue where each of us adds a little piece to the creative process and the result is more like 1+1=3! Then, we translate our vision in different frames: set up, interior design, graphic, style consultancy on products…we are storytellers at the end and when you tell a story you have to carefully consider every aspect, not only the plot.
Our projects are developed by a team of professionals under our artistic direction and come to life thanks to unexpected synergies based on observation, analysis and insight. In particular we pay tribute to Italian masters through meticulous research, starting with the study of unusual materials and archetypal forms. Colour itself is fundamentally important – it has a sort of ‘structural’ value that goes beyond the limits of the surface. Also, by researching the contrast between raw and finished materials, gloss and matt, rich textures and essential volumes, we perform research on the language of design characterised by a balance between contrasts.”
Tell us more about your approach to colour – is it instinctive, or reactive to things you see?
“Our approach is based on continual research of colours and materials in relation with their shapes and the environment. We love to investigate the subjective and objective sensations and experiences linked to colours in order to create the best way to define the personality of each project. This allows us to design the identity of a product and its physical perception.
We spend a lot of our time experimenting with new combinations of colours, shape or materials in order to find out a new aesthetic. We look at shapes and forms a lot, from ancient Greece to modern masters, from art to photography, then we try to forget, keep only the archetypes and always follow our intuitions.
Ours project are eclectic. We combine the themes of common memory to a particular unexpected one, and one of our strengths is the use of colour, sometimes bold, sometimes with an unusual but harmonious mix between the materials chosen.”
When developing the new tile ranges for Refin (Twist, Tailor, Trend and Tatami) what was the starting point?
“It was ‘fabric’ in its broadest sense: fabric as weaving, matting. Different yet complementary patterns that convey a single concept. Fabric is a physical union, the perfect and repeated interweaving of warp and weft, abscissa and ordinate, X and Y – the coordinates upon which the Cartesian geometric system is based. Geometry is the other guiding concept of this collection – through partitions made directly on the ceramic surface the universe of geometrical combinations becomes almost infinite.”
When creating the installation in Refin’s studio – which was once the work space of Ettore Stotsass – what was your approach to inserting ‘new’ into such an iconic space?
“We created a domestic landscape with postmodern references that reveals the versatility of the collection. The space is characterised by geometric shapes, weaves and colours that live together. Therefore the result is an abstract universe filled with totemic elements that explore the different combinations of patterns.”
How did you reach the palettes for the launch installation (above, the colourful Ettore Sottsass room)?
“The chromatic choices were associated with the colours of the original elements by Sottsass that were already in the Fireplace room. The furnishings and totemic compositions were inspired by the Memphis sculptures and the tiles haven’t been used in a traditional way, but in a new way to create wonderful works of art. Some of the colours we used recalled those of the veins of the marbles and of the fireplace wall, like the yellow-goose and bordeaux accents of some elements. Other colours were chosen to be in dialogue with them, like the pink shade chosen for the whole room.
Wooden slabs were laid on the floor and on the walls creating a box-room effect. Their pink color, in contrast with their thick black groutes, came from a graphic-composition choice that aimed to create a strong visual impact.
The palette of the installation was completed by the colours of the Twist porcelain tile collection, which includes five chromatic variants: a reinterpretation of the classic black and white, a trend reminiscent of terracotta, and two half tones – grey and beige. The colours are deliberately mellow and neutral and able to intermingle and express the versatility of ceramic as a material.”