Step by step design

Ellen Bernhardt and Paola Vella have been a professional partnership since 2008, brought together by their ideas and reciprocal ability to mediate cultural and formal differences between two different people

Where did you meet and how did this “couple” first get together?

Everything began at Carlo Colombo’s studio, where we were both working. It wasn’t love at first sight, but whenever we worked together on the same products or interior projects, we would rapidly and effortlessly find points of convergence. We’re very different (Paola Vella speaking). She’s German, more refined and minimalist. I, on the other hand, tend to mix styles more, I like colour and decoration, I love materials and try to mix everything to create a “strong” end result. Ellen brings me back down to earth with her rationalism. Let’s just say it’s reciprocal contamination, we compensate each other, and that it works.

You both came from important experiences before your time at Carlo Colombo, what did you bring with you from that period?

Piero Lissoni taught us about attention to detail and proportions, extensive research before beginning a project. Patrizia Viel gave us a lot of freedom in work, brining our attention to colours, materials and elegance in general. Carlo Colombo transmitted a culture of “sign” unto us, that essence which confers personality upon products.

2008 – 2018, what have you done over these last ten years?

We have worked a lot on projects, we have also invested in prototypes, we have looked for, and found, clients which have inspired our faith. The many things we have done include an “unpublished” self-creation called La Cocorita, combinable outdoor armchairs which we made at weekends, freeing small windows of time to develop the product. We also found someone interested in their production, but in the end it came to nothing. La Cocorita are entirely made from iron, it is a complicated product in terms of engineering, there are a lot of welds. Perhaps with further development, La Cocorita could make its way onto the market.

Your clients come from worlds with very different styles, do you feel at ease in this habitat?

Without a doubt we feel Arflex represents us best of all, a company we have been collaborating with for a long time. Together with them we also created the stand which marked to company’s return to IMM Cologne. We’re currently working on the new catalogue and designing the stand for Salone del Mobile. With Arflex we have more freedom and can be more intuitive, they give us a lot of autonomy and we like that.

Let us now turn to a starkly contrasting style: Rugiano.

We adore Rugiano, working with Mr. Luigi is fun and thrilling, he has an infinite knowledge of metals and we try to steer this towards matches with nobler materials, such as leather and nabuk. Lately he has asked us for cleaner forms and a simpler style, of course without diverging from the company’s essence, while still orienting towards more contemporary concepts. The novelty consists of the fact that after years of tonalities linked to beige and grey, this year the Rugiano stand at the Salone will also feature colour. A new chandelier and a new round sofa are our latest innovations for Rugiano in 2018.

Any long-cherished dreams?

We have always dreamed about interior design, both residential and contract: we’re designing a home in Germany, interiors and the company showroom for Rugiano, and we’d like to design a restaurant, perhaps in Milan.

Le Cocorita, design by Ellen Bernhardt and Paola Vella
DUO, wll lamp for Rugiano
Moon, table for Rugiano
Alba bookshelf for Arflex
Liberty, lamps for Rugiano
Iride lamp for Arketipo
Grace, bed for Rugiano
Papillon lamp for Arflex
Eos lamp for Artemide