Palomba experience: authenticity is right at home

Words like change, experience and method form the language of the couple Ludovica+Roberto Palomba, who after a 2019 of successes and achievements on all design fronts are now entering a new decade with tireless energy and contagious enthusiasm

Roberto Palomba & Ludovica Serafini - Photo © Carlo William Rossi + Fabio Mureddu
Roberto Palomba & Ludovica Serafini - Photo © Carlo William Rossi + Fabio Mureddu

SINCE THE ADVENT OF THE NEW YEAR IS A MOMENT FOR ASSESSMENTS, RESOLUTIONS AND AMBITIOUS HOPES, FOR LUDOVICA+ROBERTO PALOMBA IT BECOMES A RESTART POINT IN 2020, ALREADY AT A HIGH LEVEL AFTER THE YEAR OF 2019 WHICH HAS BEEN FULL OF ACHIEVEMENTS AND SUCCESSES ON THE INTERNATIONAL DESIGN SCENE.
THE AHEAD EUROPE HOTEL OF THE YEAR FOR PALAZZO DANIELE, THE TITLE OF DESIGNER OF THE YEAR IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ELLE DECO INTERNATIONAL DESIGN AWARD CHINA, THE IPERTESTO EXHIBITION ON THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE STUDIO PALOMBA SERAFINI ASSOCIATI: THESE ARE BUT A FEW OF THE LATEST HONORS BESTOWED ON THE COUPLE, DRIVEN BY TIRELESS ENERGY AND CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM TO “A REPEAT PERFORMANCE, IF POSSIBLE, BUT ALWAYS WITH A FUN APPROACH,” KEEPING FAITH WITH A METHOD THAT MAKES DIALOGUE AND CHANGE ITS CENTRAL FACTORS, TO CREATE INCREASINGLY AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCES.
WE TALKED ABOUT ALL THIS WITH ROBERTO PALOMBA, RANGING FROM PRODUCTS TO PROJECTS, EXHIBITIONS TO HOMES AND HOTELS.

Roberto Palomba – Photo © Carlo William Rossi + Fabio Mureddu

Ipertesto

The studio has celebrated its 25th anniversary in an exhibition titled Ipertesto, in Milan: what is the message behind that?
The exhibition is a gathering of one-offs to celebrate 25 years of industrial production, and this basic contradiction has been very stimulating; specifically, however, it reveals the research that lies behind industrial products. The show has allowed us to explain our philosophy across all these years: we have always wagered on design that is as far away from style as possible, indulging our desire to conduct research, to change our approach and to amaze people with contents that are valid and also create opportunities for discussion. I should say that the success of the exhibition has been so great that the gallerist has decided to extend it until 15 January. It has also been an important opportunity for interaction with the companies with which we work, confirming the fact that good design is the result of a group effort and interplay between the creator of the idea and those who produce and market it, making it a concrete reality.

You have many clients, very different from each other in terms of sector and category. Is there any connection in the research, or is every story different? We tell different stories every time, but there is a coherent quality of our process, along with the desire not to be limited in terms of style. We have defined ourselves as ‘a-stylists’ precisely because our aim is to be recognized for a method, which for us is more important than the slavish repetition of a recognizable sign. The method is based on dialogue between us and the company that makes our products, or the users, and wherever possible it is based on a term that is crucial for us: change.
I believe any good product has to generate changes, in a more or less forceful way, which means evolving and improving.

 Frau armchair

For example?
One change that can be defined as epochal, almost Copernican, is the work done for Poltrona Frau, a leading company linked to classic styling with a very vividly stated heritage. We entered the company by asserting that heritage is not a matter of style, but of values; we wanted to transfer those values inside products in order to make them more legible for a more contemporary audience. For Poltrona Frau this was a revolution. The result is that today these products are the sales leaders of the company and have regenerated not only the catalogue, but also the generational relationship of the firm and its clientele.

Where is the studio placed inside this process of evolution?
We continue to study, to conduct research, to generate changes, at times making equal products for different reasons, at times making different products for companies that no longer want to be equal. It is not the form of things but the ‘reason why’ that lies behind them, which leads these products into the ranks of ‘good design’ in which they offer stimuli for reflection.

The work we have developed in the bath environment, for example, has completely changed our way of thinking about this space and of communicating bathroom furnishings; after this change, the sector has gotten out of the technical niche to which it had confined itself, and has begun to speak shared languages of interior design and emotion, all the way to the concept of experience which is very widespread today. In this context the collaboration with Ideal Standard will reveal the major challenge of the coming decade, with the objective of restoring the brand to its status as a market leader.

Ideal Standard

Get back by Poltrona Frau

Along with the bathroom, the living room in recent years has gone through continual transformations.
Yes, it is the sector most influenced by the digital revolution in progress, I think. Digitalization has led to a change in the domestic scenario and its dynamics, in a rather radical way. While we once had bookcases, cabinets of all kinds, systems inside the living area, today we need only a tablet to have access to all of human knowledge. And let’s consider the influence of fashion, increasingly oriented towards fast fashion. The world has become much quicker and more fluid, much less concerned with conserving and storage.

On the other hand, we are seeing a growing importance of upholstery, which has become central to life in the home; so this is an area where there is still the potential to do many things. While with Poltrona Frau we are working on luxury and extreme quality, we are also thinking with a new brand, Franco Ferri, about the idea of quality upholstered furniture at a democratic price and position: this is a project that is exciting me a lot at the moment, because it pertains to the true nature of design, which I believe is to be democratic.

The outdoor furniture sector is also making strides. At imm cologne there was a major focus on this category. Outdoor furniture has become an incredible training ground for creativity, and it is one of the strong themes, because it emerges forcefully in the contract market: today we are designing more hotels, thinking more about hospitality. It is interesting to notice that all the leading interior design companies are creating an outdoor collection, in order to give their contract projects a total look and a total experience that shifts from the outdoor items to culminate in the indoor furnishings.

Panama by Talenti

Another important factor is that today we have new materials that offer the possibility to design outdoor furniture in a different way; I am thinking about outdoor fabrics and how they have changed in recent years, now with an infinity of proposals, colors, patterns, structures, and a decidedly indoor feel: though the products are waterproof, they have an appeal that is equal to or better than that of indoor fabrics. On this front we have worked with Talenti, presenting a project in collaboration with Rubelli for the Salone del Mobile 2019.

Cliff by Talenti

Cruise by Talenti

Palazzo Daniele

The topic of hospitality has been trending for you recently, with your victory in the Awards for Hospitality, Experience and Design, for the Palazzo Daniele project.
The naming of Palazzo Daniele as Hotel of the Year came as a real surprise. The project is the result of the renovation of an old building in Gagliano del Capo, in the Salento region of Puglia, which in the wishes of the client has been designed as a residence for artists, though it was then transformed into a true hotel. The innovative idea lies in the fact that we did not set out to design only the furnishings, but also the life of the guests inside the structure: how they would move in the spaces, how they would interact with the personnel, creating a true experience, not a forced one. This was certainly the aspect that grabbed attention, but it simply reflects our method: to try to offer an authentic experience, to give users the possibility of engaging in the pleasures of functional quality through our work, to rediscover the wellbeing and happiness of living well.

Our method: to try to offer an authentic experience, to give users the possibility of engaging in the pleasures of functional quality through our work, to rediscover the wellbeing and happiness of living well.

Roberto Palomba

Your home in Puglia has also become a true ‘social’ phenomenon! What makes it so special?The fault lies with our best friends, show are true Instagrammers, leading to ‘oversharing’ on the social networks! We consider our home in Salento as a true hub of affections: a place where our friends arriving from around the world can meet and get to know each other. Here too, we are looking at a recovery project: we fell in love with the Puglia area, a magical region, and we have conserved its heritage by renovating an old olive oil mill. The safeguarding of Italian constructed heritage and the repair of both the social and the architectural fabric should be a priority for everyone! We have saved several buildings in recent years, old oil mills or warehouses, spaces that did not originate as villas or palaces, but have become part of a recovery of the urban fabric that has led to the rebirth of several small settlements, precisely like what happened when we created our house.

Roberto Palomba and Ludovica Serafini’s house in Sogliano Cavour, Apulia