Gabriele Chiave opens the doors of his new home in Greenpoint to Brooklyn, New York. When the pleasure of objects (and not just the place) still has a primary value in a world that is moving towards dematerialisation

A new country, a new job, a new house-atelier. Gabriele Chiave, VP Creative Direction – Design&Innovation of the Estée Lauder group and co-founder of Controvento, the creative collective driven by the experience gained in the Dutch studio of Marcel Wanders, is a designer meeting many challenges.

We asked him how things were going?

Gabriele Chiave: "We’re getting settled, though this was certainly not the best moment to tackle moving. It all happened unexpectedly, for many reasons. I arrived in New York a year and a half ago, as vice-president of Estée Lauder at the helm of the global innovation design center of the group’s 25 brands, coordinating projects of innovation on the future of beauty, from the packaging to the user experience to the retail operations.

In the meantime, Controvento was growing and doing very well. The difference of time zones helps me to hold it all together.

Also in terms of time shared with Sanne Faber, my wife, and our three-year-old daughter Coco. Sanne is an artist, she too is very busy with exhibitions, including one at the upcoming Art Fair -Brooklyn edition".

Is this home in Brooklyn different from the residences you have had in various countries and cities?

Gabriele Chiave: "First of all it is a family home, the new family of today, not an inheritance. Houses are an evolution of life, and thinking back I would say that in all the homes I have had in France, Senegal, Caracas, Buenos Aires, with my diplomat parents (before landing in Milan and then in Amsterdam), objects were the only constant, things I took with me traveling from one place to another.

A bit like those crustaceans that move around with their shells. As I have grown up, I have realized that the home has increasing importance for me, not so much as an arrangement of walls, floors, ceilings, views, but precisely for the objects it contains, things that surround and reassure you, things that have a story, an identity, a substrate, also of impressions, where you can see yourself wherever you are.

This house is an extension of my character, because there are the things I have brought here from Europe, which remind me of who I am and how I live. Otherwise the house would be empty, lifeless. Then there is the location, the second component, that makes the difference. In this case it is Greenpoint".

What intrigues you most about this neighborhood?

Gabriele Chiave: "The fact that this part of Brooklyn, bordering on Long Island City, Williamsburg and the East River, lives by the water, and in spite of the industrial-waterfront imprinting of the zone it has grown with the Polish community that settled here in the past, remaining authentic, full of cultural and artistic ferment, old buildings, appealing restaurants and bars, vintage shops.

Being on this side of the river enables you to take in a postcard skyline of New York City. You get the best of it, but at the same time the place is peaceful, with a quality of life that is indispensable for a family".

So your home faces the water…

Gabriele Chiave: "Yes, and this condition is very important, because it gives me a sense of tranquility. The ferry stop is right downstairs. But we are also on the 34th story, so we are simultaneously part of the city and inside an oasis on the water.

Above all, we finally have a structured space, no longer a loft without divisions, but a sequence of rooms that are perceived in a fluid way. One of them has become the studio-atelier, then there is Coco’s room and our bedroom, and finally the living area with the kitchen and the terrace, in a continuous layout, with marvelous views from lower Manhattan to Harlem.

Moreover, there is the interesting possibility of using the shared and relational spaces this recent apartment tower provides, built into the architecture by Ismael Leyva on the first two levels, from the garden with the barbecue area to the fitness zone, spaces for work, encounters and events, available by reservation. The lobby is also a convivial space. The result is a close-knit community of residents".

What should never be lacking in a house, as in the case of this home in Greenpoint?

Gabriele Chiave: "In this apartment of 150 meters there is fantastic light, immediately conveying a sense of openness and lightness in the spaces, in the dialogue with the floors in dark solid wood that warm the atmosphere, the high ceilings and the majolica tiles in tones of white and black that clad the bathrooms, with wooden frames emphasized by lamps with an Art Deco look.

There are no reminders of the high-tech style of skyscrapers. It feels almost like being in a brick townhouse, but shifted into another context. We had to calculate the placement of every object to perfection. We arrived from Amsterdam with our freight containers of about 40 feet, like the crustacean I mentioned before. But we were lucky.

In the spaces I have managed to precisely reformulate the consistency of the interior vision I had constructed over the years.

It is an eclectic style, a mixture of material-chromatic contrasts that makes every presence a protagonist in the mutual relations and with the context: the colored carpets by Moooi, the dark fabrics, the sculptures of African objects from our travels, the Sixties bookcases inherited from my grandmother, which still follow me around today.

Books on photography, art and design, paintings by Daniele Innamorato, and obviously the works by Sanne, including surreal collages and photographs... a narrative patchwork enhanced by the choice of a neutral, pure backdrop".

What is the image that best represents the spirit of the residence, in your view?

Gabriele Chiave: "The object I have placed against the window: a display case in molded glass with built-in lighting. I designed it for Fiam, when I was the creative director with Wanders, and it triggers a pleasing effect of a shift of scale in relation to the glass towers of Manhattan and their lights".

Is there one spot in the house that most closely represents you?

Gabriele Chiave: "It is undoubtedly the kitchen, because I love cooking, also for groups of friends. It is relaxing. We have discovered that in New York inviting people over for dinner is not so common. But we enjoy it. The space, which is ample in size and very well equipped, has been furnished with a table by Moooi, three meters long: it is our place of sharing and gathering, par excellence. In connection with the greenery of the plants and the nature living on the terrace".

What is the piece you could never do without?

Gabriele Chiave: "That’s hard to say, I am attached to so many different objects. Perhaps there is one in particular, though: the sculpture of a guardian from Tanzania, carved in rosewood, the symbolic figure of an old tribal wise man, which is in one corner of my bedroom. It reminds me of a similar piece my mother found in Senegal, which has accompanied us in many homes".

Have you brought items Made in Italy into this interior?

Gabriele Chiave: "There are objects I have designed for Alessi, Fiam and Flos, but also lots of things by Moooi, produced in Italy. Without overlooking the Eighties bookcase in aluminium by Driade, the Olivetti Lettera 22 and other historic pieces of Italian design. I can say that here in New York I sense a much stronger attraction to Italian brands and creativity, as opposed to what I saw in Amsterdam".

If you were a filmmaker, what story would you portray in these rooms?

Gabriele Chiave: "The small, colorful fantastic world of Coco. Surreal, poetic but also pragmatic. I imagine that a sustainable future will necessarily imply having fewer physical objects, and we will increasingly have to come to terms with artificial intelligence in custom settings.

But a durable object, of high quality, with intrinsic values to pass down from one generation to the next, will continue to exist. It is not true that what is new is naturally better.

In spite of studies that calculate the life span of a product in advance, based on habits of consumption, it would be better to envision the possibility of repair and upcycling ahead of time, during the phases of ideation and production".