A ferment of colors and graphic signs, complex geometries for surfaces, forms that suggest archetypes or make cultural references, from Pop to Italian Radical Design. In short: eclecticism and freedom of expression. And an image that is hard to forget. These are the factors shared by the Valencia-based duo Masquespacio (Ana Milena Hernández Palacios and Christophe Penasse), already ‘design celebrities’ in Spain, now also known in Italy after the collection of terracotta furnishings for Poggi Ugo, and the designer-artist Adam Nathaniel Furman, based in London, creator for Camp Design Gallery of Milan of a collection with Abet Laminati that develops references to Memphis, Michelangelo and queer culture.
Beyond the ‘Instagrammable’ look of the projects, the designers are not bent on making a social media splash, but on creating spaces that seduce and bring emotions. We asked Masquespacio, winners of the Interior Designer of the Year 2019 award of T Magazine of the New York Times, to illustrate their main guidelines for projects like the furnishings for Houtique or the Kento restaurants.
“For us it is important that every project tell a story and represent the client. Interior design can be inspired by any epoch or style, like the rooms of the Ministry of Culture in Paris by Andrée Putman for the Kento restaurants, the work of Alessandro Mendini for the Houtique collection, or the forms of Ettore Sottsass for the terracotta pieces of Poggi Ugo. The aim of the research is to create a new experience for users, thrilling them and making them disconnect from the everyday routine. We try to stick to some main concepts, on which we develop a deeper story that takes its cue from the lifestyle in a place, or from a material that sets the brand apart. Though our projects are varied and full of contrasts, we have a relatively minimalist approach. There are many elements, many decorative details and colors, but there is always a well-defined scheme that guides you through the space.”
Forceful geometry and strategic use of color are the foundations of their design. “We like places to have a series of decorative impulses, but in the end the image is clean. Our use of color is determined by analysis of the target audience and its lifestyles, by the basic design concept and its possible evolutions. Our clients, with whom we are in tune, without particular differences between small companies and multinational corporations, have trusted us and left us a certain amount of freedom during the creative phases.”
What is the role of the social networks in the work of Masquespacio? “They have helped us to make our work more visible and to convey the importance of design to clients. Though there is always the need to give the client time to understand your world, your vision of the project. More and more clients are interested in having ‘Instagrammable’ locations, but we do not propose that type of design. We are convinced that if a space is well-designed and involves breakthroughs, then the space itself will create a ‘boom’ on Instagram. And it is not a specific setting, but the overall place that seduces and thrills visitors, making them want to share a photo.”
Of Argentine, Japanese and Israeli origin, Adam Nathaniel Furman is also eclectic in practice, ranging from interior design to sculpture to writing. A winner of many prizes as an emerging talent, Furman explores the relationship between memory, imagination, history and communication. Always with a critical eye on the world and its preconceived notions, between new technologies and traditions of the past, between the idea of the ephemeral and that of the immutable. In the triptych of furnishings called The Royal Family he draws on a repertoire that ranges from the Doni Tondo of Michelangelo to Memphis and Ettore Sottsass.
“Due to my family background and because I grew up in multicultural, queer London, I believe in the fusion of different roots to assert distinctive, different identities. To reject the orthodox morals of the old, white world of male design, which dictates a universal and academic language, erasing all diversity. I also promote a language against ‘extreme localism’ that leads to references only to nearby motifs, cultures and materials, closing off aesthetic horizons.
I have many ongoing sources of inspiration: the hidden curiosity of classicism and modernism; the ability of queers to take traditional, antithetical dogmas and transform them into vehicles of joy, joyfully sensual. I am inspired by the radical queer scenes of New York in the 1970s and 1980s, and those of London in the 1990s, in which I grew up. From my family background I also gain aspects of Japanese aesthetics, Hebrew symbolism, and the mixture of cultures and traditions of materials of central-northern Argentina.”
What research lies behind your choice of colors? “Color is the most powerful way to create atmospheres and impressions. Though it also depends on the project… it takes me a long time to find the right chromatic balance in each room. My impulse is to create ‘banquets’ of color, like a feast for the senses. In temporary projects I tend to use more daring, primary colors, while for permanent interiors and decorations I like a warmer palette, of pastel hues. There is so much expressive freedom, for those who are ready to take it. I am happy that my approach of ‘joyful deviance’ resonates with some people, and I hope it can be more widely accepted as the pursuit of more joy in people’s lives!”