In conversation with
Interior designer Maurizio Pellizzoni moved to London, from Italy, almost two decades ago and his elegant work epitomises the fusion of traditional craft and contemporary living that is synonymous with the way Italian heritage has influenced approaches to residential interiors worldwide.
Following a fruitful 2017, which saw him work on a wide range of projects including a second bachelor pad for British GQ, we caught up with Maurizio to learn more about his journey, his motivation and finding a piece of home in Minotti.
Maurizio, 2017 was a stellar year for you and your work has been spotted everywhere. We’d love to know a little more about the path you’ve taken to get to where you are today…
I am originally from Cantù, Italy, which is a small city near the beautiful Lake Como. Both my Father and Grandfather worked in the furniture industry, so design is part of my DNA. I grew up surrounded by the biggest names in furniture design that employ many of the local people in Cantù. I moved to London nearly 20 years ago, in January 1998. I originally came here to learn English and the idea was always for me to return to Italy. However, after falling in love with the city, my career evolved from a fast food chain to Ralph Lauren. Starting at Polo Sport and surrounded by elegance, I began to experience more about the world of luxury. Something just clicked in me and that’s when I decided that I needed to resume my education. So about 15 years ago, I attended the London Metropolitan University to study Interior Architecture. I received my degree and obtained a first with honours, which personally was something I was so proud of, having not been able to speak English long before.
I returned to Ralph Lauren as part of the creative team and I was put in charge of the Home Collection departments across Europe. The combination of my experience at Ralph Lauren, Italian background in the heart of the furniture industry and my degree in design has made me the interior designer I am today. I let my surroundings and travel inspire me and use this to create unique interiors in beautiful properties across the globe. They each reflect the client’s lifestyle, whilst adding as much luxury as possible. I am lucky to make a living out of my passion and I am grateful to London for making it all possible.
The Minotti London team has enjoyed working in collaboration with you on a number of projects, when did you first discover Minotti design and how has it impacted you as a designer?
I love to use pieces from Minotti in my projects as they truly reflect the Italian style I grew up with. I have been familiar with the Minotti brand from a very young age as my hometown in Cantù is not very far form the factory. Salone del Mobile in Milan is always the best window for me to see all of the new Minotti products. I love to explore and see what new pieces are on display each year at the exhibition. When you’re a designer in London, there’s an abundance of brands trying to get your attention and there’s such a wealth of displays and products to see. The information can be overwhelming and to channel that process, the Minotti showroom is one of my go-to destinations. The simplicity of the lines, the elegance of the finishes, the richness of the craft reminds me of my origins, I gain clarity and everything falls into place again. It’s even better now with the new, bigger showroom – the perfect place for me to take my clients and start an educated discussion.
You have created four striking bachelor pads for British GQ in the past 18 months, what are the most important elements in any contemporary bachelor pad?
I was very honoured just over a year ago when British GQ asked me to design a bachelor pad. I translated my conception of ‘every day living in style’ into a small set, selecting some luxury pieces and enhancing the set with some special artworks – a pivotal element in interiors. The end result was faithful to my original idea, a connection between the existing architecture, modern furniture, elegant accessories and stunning pieces of art. The first design began as a one page project and resulted in two room sets splashed over four pages. It was very well received from the team at GQ to the readers. Recently, someone visited a design concept I had created and told me he had developed an interest in design after seeing the feature. I’m pleased it has been able to inspire others with an interest in design.
Earlier this year, the GQ team invited me again to design a new bachelor pad space, This time the brief included luxury summer living that would generate a page with wow factor, staging the ultimate pool party. It had to be fun, visually striking, colourful, inviting, hot and desirable. It was good timing too as a few months before we had completed a client’s swimming pool and pool house so I had the perfect location for the shoot. The location and my ideas allowed for enough content for two sets in one photo shoot. We were able to create an exterior set by the poolside and a partial exterior set by the pool house to feature in two of GQ’s summer issues. The July bachelor pad was inspired by a pool party and shows the latest and more masculine selection of furniture and accessories. The August bachelor pad is my personal favourite of the two and is shot underneath a beautiful pergola and includes plants and terracotta pots for the perimeter. It’s a cosier space to retreat to after the party!
The results of the designs connect to my childhood experiences during the summer in Lake Como – an eclectic mixture of furniture and accessories that creates the perfect backdrop to summer living. These great memories have now been printed in British GQ.
Your ‘Secret Garden’ lecture theatre installation at Masterpiece was beautiful, why did you choose Minotti London as one of your collaborators and who else did you enjoy working with?
When Masterpiece chose my studio to design the lecture theatre, I felt extremely honoured. To be part of something as special and prestigious is not something that happens every day. It is such a large space with a very specific use, so it wouldn’t have been right to design something that looked like a show home filled with pieces of furniture and not fit for purpose. I decided to draw on my Italian background to design a concept that would bring a sense of serenity away from the busy floors of Masterpiece. Inspired by some of the beautiful secret gardens in Milan and Lake Como, it was natural for me to choose Minotti to represent the Italian style. The stage was the perfect place to create a comfortable but luxurious seating area, creating the perfect balance with the functionality needed for a lecture theatre. The feedback was extremely positive, the panellists and speakers who gave lectures all noted the elegance and a truly comfortable environment. It was a real compliment – a cosy atmosphere is what I always aim to achieve and this can be challenging to obtain in a public space.
To create my secret garden I had a stunning living wall installed from Treebox, large terracotta pots and plants from Architectural Plants, Bang & Olufsen supplied the TV on stage and the new BeoVision speakers behind the sofa. These speakers are very architecturally designed so provided a link between art and design. The gold rabbit chair is from Italian Designer Stefano Giovannoni (provided by Qeeboo), I spotted it in Milan during Salone del Mobile and fell in love with it straight away, it’s a wow piece that captured a lot of attention, I also used it in one of the GQ features. The lighting design was very important because it was a concept design in the space and I wanted to add drama, while ensuring the artwork, pastel coloured walls and stage was lit correctly and TM Lighting fulfilled this brief beautifully. All of the artworks on display was on loan from three of the art galleries exhibiting at Masterpiece; Piano Nobile, Sundram Tagore Gallery and Cortesi Gallery.
What was your favourite talk in the lecture theatre? Any extra special highlights from Masterpiece?
My favourite lecture was ‘Art in Motion: The Making of the Van Cleef & Arpels Fée Ondine Automaton’. It was a very interesting conversation filled with inspiration. This Parisian house exudes the ultimate in luxury and takes craftsmanship and art to another level.
I was part of an informal panel talk on the role of interior design in art, but most importantly to understand what we can get from different trades and how they can complement each other in unexpected ways. Part of the discussion focussed on including nature as part of a design scheme, such as the lecture theatre setting. Using objects of nature such as plants and foliage as feature works or enhancements of both inside and outside of the home is an enlightening concept and expression. Expertise was delivered from Treebox and Architectural Plants that translated my concept for the theatre in this sense.
Masterpiece was a great experience on a personal level. Seeing so many people interested in art and design under reassures my affinity with these aspects and my journey has been the right one. There were of course challenges with the grand scheme of this temporary installation and I know that there is truly no limit to what one can achieve when your mind is set on a goal.
We are always excited to hear what you are up to next, can you give us any hints as to what you’re working on at the moment?
It’s been a very busy year between the daily running of the studio and working on residential and commercial jobs in addition to side projects such as the GQ shoot and Masterpiece. I have just returned from enjoying a quieter summer with a bit of leisure and travel.
I am currently working with my team on two large residential projects here in London and have a few other projects abroad in the pipeline. I am also finishing a small development – a one bedroom flat I purchased as an investment. I’m fully refurbishing it and I’ve had to pay meticulous attention to the details. It’s a basement flat so the space planning and layout is essential here to enable me to create something unique and light. It’s nearly finished and due on the market soon so I’m excited to see what happens.
The most enchanting thing about interior design is the endless potential for meeting new characters and creating spaces based on their lives. Who are your clients?
My clientele really spans from families to young professional businessmen but they all have one thing in common, they want to express their lifestyle in their interiors and create a personal interior that they can feel a sense of pride with when they invite friends and family into their homes. It’s the opposite of a show home and that’s exactly what I design. Every new project is full of excitement and that’s my drive!
One of the latest projects we finished is a small boutique apartment in North London designed for a young single girl. It is very much a modern day female style pad where she could express her independence, personality and femininity. It was fun to design something for a younger client and it keeps me up-to-date with more trendy and current ideas.
Collaboration thrived in 2017. How does working collaboratively bring added value to an interior design project?
It is all about inclusion and diversity, it’s a popular social topic, which shows how our society is striving for and evolving towards equality. The same concept transfers to designers and architects. Designers and brands recognise that opening up to other neighbouring fields will actually enrich their own work, or sometimes transcend it. Collaboration is a skill in its own form, it is to learn how to communicate and create something with another individual who has a very different background, another set of references and inspirations, a whole different conception of success and achievement. Yet when the collaboration works, they speak one language and the harmony delivers brilliant results. I started to collaborate with brands and crafts that I had never considered as being part of my core business before – and what a tremendous experience it is! Not only I have learnt a lot from them but my own thought processes are now very different and this has a strong impact on my own work. I question myself in another way now by being more critical and educated and it shows in my interiors.
Looking into the rich history of interior design, particularly in Italy and the UK, what movements or designers have influenced you most and which ones are having a revival right now?
More than a revival, I would like to see more inclusion of world influences. There is such a great opportunity to incorporate other cultures in western interiors by blending two worlds in a clever and elegant mix. My clients often ask me to include artefacts from their travels or from their family history into their interiors and it is the most stimulating experiences. The same applies to art and heirlooms, the more you understand your client’s past and personality, the more personal and unique their interior will be. It’s a potential trend or a movement I would like to see more of, building homeowners interiors with a human approach and make it a part of their legacy.
From a very young age and still today, my favourite architect of all time is Frank Lloyd Wright. I have always loved his architecture and during my university days, I learnt more about him, his attention to detail and how each one of his building and interior projects was unique. For me, he has always been an inspiration.
The use of greenery is my favourite trend at the moment. I love real flowers and plants, they are fundamental in bringing a home interior alive. We’re increasingly seeing the use of plants in interior projects and this has always been a natural concept in design for me, which is natural owed from the culture in Italy. In the UK it’s a fairly new concept but a good one!
We will increasingly see a move away from minimalist designs. We’ll also see the comeback of luxury materials such as polished brass or leather details. Clients are more often requesting custom made pieces that are individual and personal to them and also their interiors. This season will bring the use of more strong colours, textures and layers to our interiors.