An object that inhabits the border between art and design with dignity, the screen has been rediscovered by companies for its versatility and by architects as a design element. We talked about it with the Marchetti Demaria studio
An element still linked to the fascination of an imagination that looks to the Far East, the screen is experiencing a moment as a protagonist even in the domestic sphere.
The Prada Foundation in Milan has even dedicated an exhibition to him, “Paraventi: Folding Screens from the 17th to 21st Centuries”, which can be visited until 22 February 2024.

The extensive exhibition, curated by Nicholas Cullinan, investigates the history and interprets the meanings of the screens, retracing the trajectories of mutual contamination between East and West, the hybridization processes between different art forms and functions, the collaborations between designers and artists and, finally, the creation of new works.

The different design uses

In contemporary interiors there are three different ways of designing and, therefore, using the screen:

1. there is the architectural screen, designed and used by the designers
2. the decorative screen, created by the hand of artists
3. the screen object of furniture, produced by companies

1. The advantages of customization

“We have realized how much the screen has 'introduced' itself into our residential projects in recent years, not only as an accessory, but as a real architectural element” says architect Mattia Demaria, founder of the Marchetti Demaria studio together with Michele Marchetti.

“Its versatile nature allows us to propose it both as furniture to protect or mask an area of a room and as a mobile panel, closer to the architectural dimension, to divide an environment in two”.

The screens that Marchetti Demaria propose in their projects are almost always custom-designed, therefore suitable each time to solve a specific need. Alternatively, they can be unique pieces found in antique dealers or vintage furniture retailers.

A custom-made screen is in most cases covered with wallpaper or fabric and this makes the object easy to modify if necessary, for example when moving. In fact, it is sufficient to replace the covering.

“Another important feature - continues Mattia Demaria - is the possibility of creating out-of-scale panels, useful for hiding a door or the tub in the bathroom, but also for creating real sliding walls, just like in a Japanese house” .

“There are situations, however, in which we need to highlight a wall so we use the screen as a backdrop. In this case we look for very decorative unique pieces to find the right accent: we, for example, used a 1930s French screen that echoed chinoiserie as a bed headboard."

2. Accent element

There are several artists who, in their research, have experimented with their own language on the screen, a furnishing object that more than any other touches the border between design and art.

Among these, Dino Gavina, historic founder of the Paradisoterrestre gallery. Gavina was fascinated by the dual nature of this object with oriental roots: a separating element, but also a decorator, a perfect synthesis between poetry and functionality.

His interest in screens became concrete in the Seventies and also directly involved another of the many experiences carried out by the Bolognese entrepreneur: that of the Duchamp Center, founded in San Lazzaro di Savena in 1967, a space for dialogue with and for the artists where the prototype of the Balla Screen was created in 1971, based on an original design by Giacomo Balla from 1916-18.

Inside the Historical Design Selection of Paradisoterrestre there is one of the first three Balla screens which were entirely hand painted, before moving on to their silk-screen decoration.

3. A solution for every environment

Moving from works of art to pieces produced in series by companies there is, again, an intermediate step which can be represented by Fornasetti's screens, made and painted by hand by the painters of the atelier, but with the functionality of true complements of 'furniture. The detail of the base on wheels makes them extremely convenient to move, fold, close and open, responding to the specific needs of the moment.

We then come to commercially available screens, furnishing objects that companies have rediscovered in recent years to respond to the changes that have occurred in the use of environments.

The screen is, more than any other, the accessory that satisfies the need for fluidity of spaces, at home or in the office. It allows you to create, for example, a protected and isolated area for reading, studying, working or small meetings, without having to permanently divide a room.

Numerous proposals, also different in type: companies that produce office furniture have concentrated their research on screens covered with sound-absorbing materials, for example (like the models by Arper and Caimi), while those who are more expert in woodworking play on possibility of creating real equipped furniture (with shelves and shelves) to be used in the center of the room. The important thing is that they always maintain their main characteristic, namely mobility.