Choosing a finish or a decoration, a material or a color, has a specific value and creates a deep bond with what surrounds us. Because surfaces have more substance than you think

Surface: the outer layer of a body. But also appearance, exteriority. Stopping on the surface of things means not deepening, not understanding their meaning. Can we also say the same when talking about interior surfaces? We think so.

Why choose a finish or a decoration, a material or a color, has a specific value, a deep connection with what surrounds us. The choices we make for walls, ceilings or floors inside our homes are a reflection of what happens inside us.

Surely the invasive virus has increased and amplified the desire for connection with nature and outdoor life which translates into the insistent use of real materialities that bring us back to our origins. So tactile, simple, authentic surfaces, thanks to materials that arrive and reflect nature. Like wood and stone, raw, untreated or treated with traditional techniques and processes that accentuate the natural properties of the surfaces themselves.

It happens in Maria Milans del Bosch's home-studio, Camp O, in Claryville, not far from New York. A project with interventions attentive to the natural context where wood is the protagonist. A local cedar wood that has been charred – using the Japanese shou sugi ban technique – to create a natural barrier and protect it from damage caused by insects, water and fire.

Even the paints are chosen and applied using stucco, lime or techniques that emphasize the transience of the material, reflecting the harsh and rough aspect of the landscape in which we live. Just think of the language of one of the films recently landed at the Venice Film Festival, Assandira, where the hardness of the Sardinian soil is reflected in the colors and surfaces of the interiors. Or at the 28 Posti restaurant in Milan where Cristina Celestino, chose Matteo Brioni's clay plaster for the walls for the recent restyling, alternating with tactile Giulio Romano terracotta tiles from the Gonzaga collection by Fornace Brioni. The purpose? Transforming the surface into a tale: that of the simple and unexpected cuisine of chef Marco Ambrosino, reproducing the pleasure of primordial nature, bare and raw through the decoration.

It is also interesting to note how ancient materials, from our historical heritage, are reinvented today and return to shine with their own light. Like bricks and tiles that acquire new shapes, tactile expressions and finishes. Bricks are used not only as a building material but as a facing material on vertical, horizontal or curved surfaces.

In the project for the new headquarters in Washington H. Soul Pattinson signed by Endrim, Simon Trude explains how the aesthetics of architectural surfaces must be able to reflect the history of those who live there. And this is how the concept of this work was born. Which sees the use of original clay bricks skilfully applied to the contemporary architectural structure to recreate the historical heritage of the place that was previously inhabited. The same bricks are also handcrafted, painted and glazed by hand.

AustralBricks decides to involve Camilla Franks, one of the best known Australian fashion designers to create a collection of fashion bricks. Hand-applied psychedelic colors with super reflective natural enamels - in absolute contrast to the raw finish of the base material.

Brick is also used by Shaun Lockyer of the homonymous architects' studio, to create blurred passages that cancel the boundary between internal and external spaces. In fact, in Long House the in and out space unfolds fluidly thanks to a series of iconic brick walls painted strictly white. Walls which, while creating a sort of barrier, leave, thanks to large portholes, an uninterrupted view of the surrounding nature. Matter plus light plus shapes, which obviously, together with the surfaces, contribute to the design of the spaces. Even the tiles play new roles by becoming the only material for load-bearing walls or transforming themselves into material and three-dimensional boiseries. Always strictly marrying the theme of authenticity and genuineness.

The Crogiolo Zellige collection by Marazzi also underlines the appreciation for the imperfect and the natural world. Embracing the ancestral Zellige art of African heritage, the tiles in this series have a handmade effect, with imprecise and rough textures. The growing desire to connect with nature, to align more and more with the Planet focusing on one's well-being, but also on respect for the world around us, leads to the choice of Dulux and AkzoNobel to name the color of the surfaces for the year 2021: Brave Ground. A neutral, safe, elementary, down to earth color. A shade that reflects the strength, but also the calm and serenity that we can draw from nature, and which, if used indoors, can collaborate in recharging and recalibrating the energies.

And to match the benefits of a forest, Airlite designs a 100% natural paint elaborated by looking at the past and mother nature. A paint capable of transforming the walls of the house into real air purifiers, which absorb carbon dioxide, literally giving life to beneficial effects.


At the opening, Second Hand’ installation by Zhanna Kadyrova, exhibited as part of the Fantastic Utopias’ exhibition in the Scaligera wing of Rocca di Angera (VA), until November 1st 2020. Ph. Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua.