On the occasion of the brand's 90th anniversary, the designer revisited Luigi Massoni's iconic kitchen

Elisa Ossino’s revisitation of Luigi Massoni’s Xila – one of the most innovative kitchens ever, being the first, in 1972, to offer handleless fronts – XO (Elisa Ossino) is just one of the novelties that Boffi is celebrating its first 90 years with during the FuoriSalone.

We caught up with the designer to hear about her interpretation of an icon and gather her reflections on the sector.

The work on Xila marks your debut in the world of Boffi kitchens. How did you manage to adapt your creative range – material and at the same time almost ancestral – to the brand’s?

Elisa Ossino: "As always, I tried to establish a match between my vision and the brand identity. In my opinion, a design is successful when you recognize both ‘hands’, those of the designer and those of the brand. In this case it was quite easy, because I had the Xila kitchen as a source of inspiration, with its iconic door with a groove and no handle.

Around this strong idea I built a story by working on the very strong volumes of the top and sides, which generate a sort of ‘C’ that houses the doors.

I ‘stretched’ the latter by taking them down to the floor, offering an unprecedented vision of an element that had always been presented with a plinth. I also worked on the contrast between volumes, such as that generated between the significant thickness of the top and a very thin edge, producing a lowered area into which I embedded two sinks.

A leitmotif of ‘my’ Xila is precisely the contrast between strong volumes and slender thicknesses. This is a dialectic that interests me greatly, because I always try to work both on monumental and sculptural projects and on the search for lightness.

I wanted to bring these two aptitudes together and I also conducted research into materials, which is another central component of my work. In this case we used marble for the top, a Breccia Imperiale stone, which has a very warm color and is deeply textured, while for the doors we opted for a clay with a very intimate hue.

Another decidedly distinctive element is the snack top: its shape is again sculptural, and it’s made up of a solid slab of wood treated with oil, further confirming some precise research into the tactility of surfaces. The shape of the snack top is a circle cut at the intersection with the plane, while its foot is a portion of a circle. Echoing the rounded line of the snack top are marble and wooden cutting boards, aesthetically (and materially) inspired by those of the past".

How did the phases of the design unfold? Did you work independently or through constant dialogue with the company?

Elisa Ossino: "Both. Of course, the company gave me the input, I turned up with the drawings and then there was constant discussion on the actual feasibility of some ideas. I would say that the collaboration was continuous, and this enabled us to put the aspects related to the design of the project and those related to its feasibility in the right place".

Massoni’s Xila introduced an innovative and disruptive charge in the sector, through the intuition of offering handleless fronts. After more than 50 years, do you think it is possible – and sensible – to develop something truly new in the kitchen?

Elisa Ossino: "In my opinion, not everything has ever been said because, even in this sector, there is a constant process of evolution. On the one hand, there is always inspiration that draws the past and the moments that have marked the most significant stages in lifestyle changes. At the same time, forms, tastes and materials, both old and new, evolve and are periodically presented again.

I believe that it is possible, not to radically change the world of the kitchen, but to transform it.

We have to continue to work on the forms, because the evolution of taste is unstoppable. In this historical moment, it seems to me that we feel the need for a recovery of tactility, an aspect that is fundamental once more, as I tried to represent by my work on Xila through the use of solid wood and real natural stone.

For me, this tactility has almost to become sensorial, capable of expressing a bond with the material. I am very interested in both the research into materials and the formal element.

On the one hand, I always work on a simplification that I would call ‘abstraction of the object’; However, I like this stripped object to be characterized by a strong sign.

The XO kitchen is a very pure volume, made up of a bridge, a portal to frame the door that reaches down to the floor. It is extremely simple, but then there are two counterpoints: the material component and the inclusion of the snack top, which is very distinctive and gives the product an identity, making it memorable. I try to make what I draw almost abstract, but then I give it a strong character with a counterpoint of design and by research into materials".

In your opinion, what makes Boffi unique?

Elisa Ossino: "Boffi is an extraordinary company, which has radically renewed the world of kitchens. It lavishes great care on the selection of all materials and it can count on a team of designers of the highest level. Its uniqueness can be found in many aspects.

This is a company that has been enormously innovative, while others have fallen farther behind the avant-garde that Boffi represented.

In my opinion, its uniqueness lies precisely in the scope for innovation it has attained in the past, opening up paths hitherto unexplored, and by its ability to constantly pursue this research, which ensures it is always at the forefront".