Mood Board: Luca Nichetto on Combining His Italian and Swedish Design Influences
Italian multidisciplinary designer Luca Nichetto does not believe in playing it safe.
“My tactic is to always try to surprise myself and jump out of my comfort zone. That means I’ll always try to do something unexpected—not just for my clients, but also for myself. If someone asks me to design something and I’ve never attempted that particular typology, I'm much more interested to do that rather than another sofa or chair,” says Nichetto over a Zoom call from his studio in Stockholm. His second office was launched in Sweden in 2011, five years after the creation of the first studio that’s still currently based in Venice, Italy.
“I still consider myself a 100 per cent Italian designer,” says the Venetian maestro. “For sure, when I first moved to Sweden, there was a curiosity to better understand Scandinavian design. When you move to another country, you try to breathe and to learn different cultures; filtering different parts to have them become part of yourself, and then you grow as a person in that sense.”
The Scandinavian nation is home to the designer and his young family; his firm's presence in both Sweden and Italy is reflected in his distinctive designs, which are marked with a well-executed juxtaposition of the elegant Italian design language with the Scandinavian flair of modernity and sustainability.
“After moving to Sweden, I’ve come to understand that we should be paying much more attention to the eco-sustainability part of the product that, for example, 10 years ago when I started to work, never happened to me in Italy,” Nichetto recalls. “When you’re a young designer and you start in Italy, it’s quite hard because it's like a jungle; there are so many layers and such a heavy concentration of designers. It’s quite hard to stand out, so you really need to—of course—have talent, but also to put in the effort to think about how you want to make your work noticeable. There’s a lot of pressure on yourself to create a product that has a strong aesthetic characteristic.”
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Comparing the intensity of Italy to the laid-back design approach found in Sweden, he observes that the Nordic country has broadened his horizons. “The society here is quieter. It’s interesting that there is a lot of research regarding the material or process when it comes to making the product, but it’s also mostly related to creating a well-thought product with function; something that’s not too bold and holds a timeless aesthetic,” says the designer. “In that sense, Italy is the opposite. It is very driven by having to be unique, to create something very different. It’s much more focused on the research and the empathy and relationship with the object, that for some reason needs to express not only a function but also emotion.”
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Armed with his thirst for adventure and inherent curiosity, it comes as no surprise then that the designer’s colourful career spans beyond architecture, interiors, as well as the product and furniture design industries. Just this year alone, Nichetto has not only ventured into the realm of fashion by launching his first clothing line with French lifestyle brand La Manufacture (where also he serves as art director) but he’s also released his first podcast, Opinionated.
When asked about the pressure of the numerous projects and collaborations that the multidisciplinary designer is involved in, he waves off the admiration with an unpretentious air. To Nichetto, working across various spectrums should be the norm; citing Italian maestros the likes of Gio Ponti, who was involved in design and architecture across numerous fields, he noted that designers of the past had an “open mind and applied their creativity in different fields”.
He enthuses: “When you’re trying to work in different fields and design across various typologies, there is always the opportunity to challenge yourself. You are learning and growing by not being static in a situation.”
When you’re trying to work in different fields and design across various typologies, there is always the opportunity to challenge yourself. You are learning and growing by not being static in a situation.— Luca Nichetto, founder of Nichetto Studio
Never one to rest on his laurels, the designer has recently launched a playful and eclectic collection with contemporary Asian design brand Stellar Works. The eye-catching furniture collection merges a multifunctional aspect with bright hues as well as quality craftsmanship and materials.
“When I first started the process for the collection, I looked at the current portfolio of Stellar Works and started thinking of how I can make things more colourful and playful in a brand that was very perceived as high-end with plenty of neutral and subtle tones. I decided to call the collection Space Invaders because the products are like little companions that can be placed in various spaces to create little twists and contrast,” Nichetto shares. “I think all of the pieces together create an entire collection that I really like. It was also interesting to connect my origin to the designs through the use of materials such as the Murano glass beads, it forms a bridge between me and the brand.”
Here, he shares more about the process and what one can expect from the collection; the tastemaker also picks out a selection of furnishings and art that has piqued his interest lately.
Where do you seek design inspiration from?
Luca Nichetto (LN) Yeah, it's a funny question because I really don't have one way to find inspiration; I think (inspiration) can come from more or less everywhere and everything. It can be from a movie, from watching people on the street, or being curious to see how the people behave. I can be reading a book or playing with my kids—which is really interesting because the little kids are completely naïve, in a way, in so many things. They have a way to look at the world that is pure and without filters; they can be very surprising in many ways, whether it’s when they’re asking you something, or the way that they are playing with something. It's kind of a really interesting perspective that can influence my inspiration quite a lot.
It's true that in this profession, the more that you are in the field and the more projects that you do, the more experience you can gain. But the thing with experience, is that can also be a barrier sometimes. It narrows everything because you'll always proceed with a pattern that you've built over the years. That can be positive because in many ways you can be faster and have the know-how to navigate different aspects, but on the other hand, it's negative in that you're avoiding the opportunity to challenge yourself and to jump out of your comfort zone. When you move out of your comfort zone, it's where you are learning.
Speaking of new challenges, you’ve also recently launched a monthly podcast with various figures in the creative field. What is the process like? How are you enjoying it so far?
LN Well, the media—I'm not an expert on the Asian titles—but let's say in this part of the world (Europe), the design media, especially magazines, has become weaker as they're now very related to advertising. There is no one magazine that is doing proper critiques. Everything is just a collection of nice articles, and most of the time they're a copy and paste from the press release. Honestly, the level of journalism went down, compared to the beginning of my career.
Through the 20 years of my career, I've met so many people—not only in the design field, but also in other creative fields. I've had the luck and the opportunity to meet people from different industries, whether that's music, art, or those that are working in design but from another angle.
The podcast is called Opinionated, because there are opinions. (laughs) The idea is to share a design mindset where creativity is much bigger. This was also to be able to have a voice that is not filtered by the classic article where most of the time it's about a specific project or a specific thing.
Stacked elements, as seen in the Dhala lamp by Luca Nichetto, create a playful sense of function within the collection
The Hoba side table and lamp features a minimalist circular base that's carrying a Murano glass shade and supported by discreet legs
Nichetto and Stellar Works used colourful Murano glass beads for the collection, drawing a connection to the designer's Venetian heritage
What was the process like behind your newest collection with Stellar Works, and what should people expect from it?
LN I'm very good friends with (Stellar Works creative directors) Lyndon (Neri) and Rosanna (Hu) of Neri&Hu. I think it was three or four years ago when they came to Sweden as the guests-of-honour for a furniture fair. Lyndon loved the way that we used colour and the manner in which we designed some of the lamps for Svenskt Tenn back then, and a few months later he contacted me to get involved with a collection for Stellar Works.
He told me, “Listen Luca, I would love to involve you with a collection for Stellar Works, but rather than designing furniture, I would prefer for you to observe the current collections and see if you can design products that can be placed around them.”
Normally, when an architect or interior designer works on their projects, they might create little bespoke pieces to fit the idea of the environment that they wish to create. More or less, I applied the same method and tried to create a little companion that can be placed around a space on its own, or grouped together with other collections (to create) a little family. I hope that this brings the entire output from Stellar Works alive.
What is one design trend you’re currently obsessed with?
LN I think I'm very attracted, especially recently, to the craftsmanship and manufacturing processes with a strong heritage or legacy.
Learning old crafts allows you to take something that has a strong history and to try and move and create a trajectory towards something that is contemporary. I think is quite a nice way to also connect the past with the present and the future. And at the same time, I think it's a way to preserve a lot of the manufacturing processes that if you're not careful, will disappear. It would be a shame if there aren't any more craftspeople with the skill in the future. Plus, I find that if you're focused on the craftsmanship of a product, there are a lot of opportunities to work on the longevity of the object as the quality would be pretty high.
What has been the most memorable point in your career thus far?
LN There are a few moments. The first would be my first project with Murano-based glassmaker Salviati, specifically the moment that I needed to sign the contract. Until that moment, I didn't fully realise that this product will be on the market with my name. And that was, for many reasons, the moment that changed my life.
The second moment would be when Cassina called me to design a product for them. I still remember the moment: I was in Paris, close to the Luxembourg Gardens, when they called me. When someone from a large company contacts you, it's often to promote what they are doing, or perhaps they're hoping that you are doing an interior project where you'll be able to place their products. I remember I was thinking about that when Cassina called me, and then only later I realised that the call was to ask for me to design a sofa for them. For sure, as an Italian designer, working for a brand like Cassina was one of my dreams come true.
The third moment was when I had the opportunity to design my first building in China. That was also a funny moment. There was a Chinese couple who were the distributors of Foscarini in China, and they came and approached me during a press day in Milan. I thought that they were journalists at first! They asked me if I wanted to design a solo exhibition in Beijing, but then I discovered that they didn't have a showroom for the exhibition. They then asked me to not only do the exhibition but also offered me the chance to design the building itself. I was like wow, that is cool!
What are some furniture and art pieces that have caught your eye recently?
Hermès Sillage D’Hermès armchair, by Studio Mumbai
LN I really like the Sillage D’Hermès armchair chair that Hermès presented during Milan Design Week (2021) designed by (Indian architectural practice) Studio Mumbai. It's really a hybrid piece, as it can be both furniture and art. It's also quite unexpected coming from Hermès.
State of the World installation by Mathieu Lehanneur
LN I didn't see this in person, but instead, I saw it on Instagram; it's the installation that (French designer) Mathieu Lehanneur is doing for Art Basel. He created these aluminum spinning objects that simulate the demography of each country, and placed all these pieces together in a display. You have more or less the entire world expressed visually through these pieces, and I found the installation super nice.
Jamie Hayon's paintings
LN I really like the crazy paintings that (Spanish designer and artist) Jaime Hayon, a very good friend of mine, is doing. He is moving quite a lot into the visual arts, and I think it's very interesting the kind of craziness that he's applying to the paintings.