PalermoUno. The visual language of Sophie Wannenes

In this interview Sophie Wannenes opens the doors of PalermoUno, a show apartment in Milan that offers the chance to discover niche brands from the world of design and to purchase the pieces used to furnish the space

Sophie Wannenes
Sophie Wannenes

LOCATED ON VIA SANTA MARIA ALLA PORTA, PALERMOUNO HAS BEEN FORMULATED TO CREATE A DESIGN COMMUNITY THROUGH AN ECLECTIC LOCATION, READY TO WELCOME SECTOR PROFESSIONALS, DESIGN LOVERS AND CURIOUS VISITORS. SOPHIE WANNENES, A LOVER OF MILAN, FOLLOWS HER OWN PERSONAL PATH OF AESTHETIC RESEARCH, WHICH FINDS MAXIMUM EXPRESSION PRECISELY IN THIS SPACE. HER CHOICES, MADE TOGETHER WITH HER TEAM, ALWAYS CORRESPOND TO AN IDEA OF REFINEMENT, ELEGANCE AND FUNCTIONAL QUALITY. POSITIVE AND RESILIENT, SHE APPROACHES THIS DIFFICULT TIME BY OFFERING A PALIMPSEST ON THE INSTAGRAM PROFILE OF PALERMOUNO, INVOLVING VARIOUS DESIGNERS AND COLLABORATORS, WHILE IMAGINING FUTURE SERVICES FOR DESIGNERS AND COMPANIES, SUCH AS THE IDEA OF OFFERING A POINT-OF-SALE IN MILAN.

How did the idea of PalermoUno come about?
The idea came from the apartment! I was living and working at Via Palermo 1, in Milan, in a beautiful architectural space, and I had the idea of organizing it in such a way that every single piece of the furnishings would be available for purchase: from the sideboard to the brass toilet paper dispenser and the liquid soap. The objective was to create a container where furnishings by different designers, from Italy and abroad, would be positioned in the right place, based on my personal tastes and aimed, in concrete terms, at transforming the space into a harmonious set with a forceful visual language.

Why did you choose Milan as the city for this project? Could you describe your location for us?
I was born and raised in Milan; then I went abroad, for eight years, and when I returned I found myself in a city that was still very provincial, but was gradually being transformed, above all after the Expo. From an awkward girl it had become a beautiful woman, interesting, aware. I lived for some years in London and for one year in Buenos Aires, and I couldn’t wait to come back and to live in a ‘comfortable’ city. The quality of life in Milan and that of London at the time could not be compared. Due to its size and its geographical position, I think Milan can now rival all other cities.

The new location of PalermoUno, on Via Santa Maria alla Porta, is a gem set into the 5Vie district. Were it not for the streetfront window, it might seem totally like a home, like the previous one, but precisely due to this distinctive feature we decided to define it as a show apartment. The space is very large, composed of a kitchen and dining room, a large living area, a studio, two bathrooms and a bedroom placed on the loft, with the old wooden beams exposed. With respect to the location at Via Palermo 1, there will also be a small shop to contain a very precise selection of pieces that will soon also be presented online.

How do you select young design talents and international brands?
I think, and to some extent expect, that every store or showroom should have a strong character. In my view this depends on the type of research they do. Specifically, for PalermoUno, together with my team, we select what instinctively enthuses us, relying totally on personal tastes. We are attracted by design that manages to combine elegance and functional quality.

What is the common denominator of the design pieces at PalermoUno?
Apart from our personal taste, the common denominator is undoubtedly refinement. We don’t want already well-known brands, it wouldn’t make sense to open yet another design store in Milan, showing the same products as many others. The idea is to present niche brands, Italian designers often known for their collaboration with big companies, but not for their own pieces. And we also focus on emerging talent.

The Salone del Mobile.Milano has been postponed to April 2021. What projects do you now have for the immediate future?
In these weeks we have reflected at length on how our ways of living are changing from one moment to the next, as the home becomes our little world. Hence the idea of creating a palimpsest on the Instagram profile of PalermoUno with live broadcasts featuring some of the designers with whom we work, and others we have been watching for some time. They narrate their typical day, the objects they use most during the lockdown, and what they think we will need when we get back to normal.

In the hope that everything turns out for the best, we are planning to continue our project starting from September. One of the objectives of PalermoUno is to offer services to designers and companies that want to enter the Italian design market, or to have a point-of-sale in Milan, and we are confident that we can give them support, also to get started again after this difficult period.

Photo © Andrea Pedretti