References to the history of architecture, a vocabulary that proceeds by juxtapositions and references, the ability to recreate the sensations of places through flowers, fruits and geometries: Cristina Celestino, Designer of the year at Maison Objet 2022, tells about herself

Cristina Celestino is a very serious professional. Precise and meticulous, she loves to have everything under control.

These are qualities that, together with his very particular language and approach to the project, are appreciated. But she doesn't get her head mounted.

When we call her, in fact, a few days before the opening of Maison et Objet, where she was named Designer of the Year, the voice betrays the concern of not knowing whether the project conceived on paper will actually be carried out faithfully, without betraying the initial intentions.

Moreover, in the past she had confessed to being almost manic in the execution phase of projects, to have the claim to verify, in an obsessive way, that all the elements are really consistent with each other.

Read also: Maison et Objet, September 2022: news and trends

Then, after a few days, we see her again in Paris, we see her move at her ease inside the café designed for the Fair. The project went well, Cristina is satisfied: the final effect materialized according to her expectations.

A dialogue between past and present

After transforming in 2019 the historic Milanese pastry shop Cucchi in Corso Genova into a café-concert that recalled the atmosphere of the Belle Époque, and having put his hand, last June, on the occasion of the last Salone, to the ancient Radaelli florist  - designed in 1945 by Guglielmo Ulrich - to rethink it in contemporary key, Celestino made a similar operation in Paris.

His Palais Exotique - as he called the café created for Maison et Objet - proposes an ongoing dialogue between past and present, in which furnishings become devices for traveling through time and in the space. The idea was to recreate a coffee, but set in an indefinite time and in a place not clearly identifiable on the map.

"We looked at Parisian cafes, tea rooms, but without a precise reference", explains the designer. "The Maison et Objet fair gave us a lot of freedom. We could have had a museum exhibition of my pieces or a space linked to co-working or, again, an environment dedicated to catering. We chose the third way and to create a coffee real because I liked the idea of ​​having a place inside the fair to stop and chat, where the pieces were also alive and could be used by people."

The idea of ​​exoticism

time is not the only moving variable of this project. space is also a fluid and not clearly identified concept. The Palais Exotique recalls an idea of ​​exoticism which, among other things, is found walking among the stands in the pavilions of the fair.

"Perhaps this idea of ​​opening up to other worlds and other cultures was encouraged by the period of the pandemic", reflects the Friulian designer. "I tried to achieve it through a superimposition of colors and patterns.

A combination of different tastes: from the hand-woven orchids of the Colombian brand Ames, to the entire textile part made by Dedar through a combination of monochromatic fabrics in the seats plus patterned fabrics and designs used for the backrests.

I tried to create a mix of fabrics that alternated velvets with more material and opaque fabrics. So in the end the project is expressed through a superimposition of elements that refer to each other ".

Who is Cristina Celestino and how she works

Retracing the biography of Cristina Celestino, perhaps allows us to understand a little better the origin of her expressive language, which plays with lightness with time and space. She was born in 1980 in Pordenone, she studied at the IUAV in Venice. When she then moved to Milan in 2009, she brought with her the bucolic idyll of the Friulian countryside and the aesthetics of the lagoon city, with her layering of materials.

These levels make up her vocabulary that proceeds by juxtapositions and internal calls of elements that reinforce or, vice versa, mutually dampen each other.

An architectural layout

As an architect, Celestino created a strongly architectural layout for her Palais Exotique. Despite being a temporary installation, the project seems more constructed than designed.

The architectural elements are marked with the blue color: the central architecture is the main part of the building which is completed with the two side wings, where there are benches and sofas.

"There is a reference to the pilasters of buildings", explains Cristina Celestino, "and, moreover, with the oblong pieces produced by Fornace Brioni, a Mantuan company that works terracotta by hand, the theme of the hoof has been underlined."

In addition, wooden grids were created - an allusion to winter gardens and verandas - to divide the rooms while leaving them permeable to view.

Furniture and decoration

The seats are by Billiani and there is the new Parterre sofa by Quinti which is inspired by the shapes of the Italian garden seen from above and, being designed for the contract, it has a high modularity.

As for the decorative elements, the vases by Florilegio produced by Attico Design, the brand founded by Celestino herself, were brought, while the vases in terracotta and monochrome are still from Fornace Brioni.

Finally, for the walls, with a clear allusion to the paintings of landscapes typical of Parisian cafes, the fabric wallpapers designed for Misha were framed, a brand whose name reflects the crasis between two city: Milan and Shanghai, where the collections are hand painted and embroidered.

The theme of landscape was therefore re-proposed, but instead of recreating a real view, in perfect Celestine style, the feeling of a place was rather recreated through a mix of flowers, fruits and geometries.

Cover photo: M&O September 2022, Cristina Celestino, © Aethion