“Inhabited spaces should feel like a garment: which is to live rather than merely to wear”. Jaime Hayon, GamFratesi, Studio Wok, Atelier Lasvit and Dagmar Štěpánová of Studio Formafatal explain how they make people feel at home in the spaces they design

The house is our emanation, and it has a profound relationship with our inner world, intimacy, psyche, everyday experience. After all, the root of the word “inhabit” is tied up with habitat: environment and dwelling. The home is the area that identifies our private dimension with respect to the world, a membrane that connects what is inside us and outside of us. This is why we are attracted to public places like restaurants and hotels that are able to transmit a sense of inner, almost domestic wellbeing.

Studio Wok: «To inhabit means creating habits»

How can all this be designed? Nicola Brenna of Studio Wok, based in Milan, tries to explain: “There is a close bond between human beings, the nature of places and the way we inhabit them: inhabited space is like a garment, which instead of being worn is lived. Beyond physical characteristics, comfort is also generated by the ability of architecture to produce emotions: the light of a window at a certain time of day creates a pattern on the wall, the scent of good solid wood, the roughness or softness of surfaces. Today, also due to the period of tie in which we have been shut up in closed spaces, comfort takes on an importance that was often underestimated in the past. Our design research, on a residential or an urban scale, is constantly guided but the habitat concept, seen as quality of life: to think, to draw, to construct positive environmental conditions. To inhabit means creating habits. Our methodological approach is based on craftsmanship. To develop our works we carefully examine the physical characteristics of the site: landscape, materials of the local territory, light, atmosphere. We like ‘natural’ materials capable of evolving over time and ageing in step with the architectural host. The ability of a space to evolve and change over time, together with its inhabitants, is important.”

GamFratesi: «Comfort is security, intimacy, even personal inspiration»

The studio GamFratesi of  Copenhagen puts the accent on the comfort of products and spaces, which should transmit a pleasing sensation that is not only physical but also and above all mental. “The word comfort comes from the Latin confortare, ‘to strengthen much,’ and it refers to both physical state and mood. This is the intrinsic aspect that fascinates us. To create peace and calm. An inner comfort that helps us to improve experience, to reach a sensation of security, intimacy, even personal inspiration. As designers we are capable of making the difference in how people live, and we have to know how to communicate this in a responsible way. The product should not be passive, but an active tool to positively transform our mood and help us to act, improving our everyday life with trust. Often there are many elements that contribute to improve the interior and comfort in general: form, materials, colors. These factors help us to make a timeless – and therefore comfortable – environment. We work with a careful selection of materials, exploring natural solutions and unexpected combinations to bring nature into spaces.”

Jaime Hayon «You need to think like the person who will enter the space»

The volcanic Spanish designer Jaime Hayon defines design as a social exercise: “You have to put yourself in the shoes of the person who enters the space: all too often designers concentrate on aesthetics, so they become decorators. Regarding public places like restaurants or hotels, beyond the overall visual impact upon entering, to achieve true comfort you have to design the single square meter in which people will really spend time, trying to understand what they will perceive with their body and senses in that square meter. True comfort is a matter of details: it is found in the lamp that lights a book, in the finish of the armrest of a chair that turns out to be perfect as soon as a person sits down. The focus on the design of a specific zone makes the difference. You also have to understand the actions that will happen in that square meter: not just for those who will use it, but also for those who will work there. For me, it is a social exercise where the designer has to get closer to the people who will bring life to the space.”

Atelier Lavit: «Comfort means not having to think about it»

The vision of Paris-based Atelier Lavit, on the other hand, tries to dissolve architecture in favor of those who live inside it. “Comfort means not having to think about whether you are comfortable. Intuition and the creative gesture, together with design intelligence, represent the first step to create comfort with innovative force, not manifest but awaiting discovery, not quantifiable but gauged to the human scale. Not just ergonomic or material, comfort is first of all a question of light, acoustics, air quality; well-crafted architecture never forgets these things. The goal is achieved when the object or the architecture vanishes in a discreet way, bringing to life the enjoyment of the present moment, putting people at their ease in a quiet way, allowing them to feel good with themselves, with others and with the space itself, be it a landscape or a theater stage that enables the actor to perform at his best, without vying with him for attention.”

Dagmar Štěpánová/Formafatal studio: «Comfort is a personal value. To design it, we need to learn to listen»

Functional quality and practicality are combined in the vision of Czech designer Dagmar Štěpánová/Formafatal studio: “For me, the word comfort is mainly associated with a sensation of safety and wellbeing. It is a comfort perceived subjectively, connected with the environment in which we operate, where we live or where we have our home. We create different solutions, depending on individual needs, and that is where the comfort happens. Some people only need a roof over their heads, others need a nest, others still want an automated home. In our profession it is important to approach every project with a particular focus on the specific needs of the client, which is why we engage in intense dialogue. For me, comfort in architecture or in interior design has to find the right balance between form and function. I also attribute great importance to lighting and atmosphere, to trigger pleasant emotions in people, contributing to an overall sensation of comfort.”


Cover photo by Federica Sassopart of 100 Fotografi per Bergamo charity to support of the intensive care unit of the Papa Giovanni XXII Hospital in Bergamo during the Covid pandemic.