Italy is a country synonymous with furniture design, both classic and contemporary, and has a glut of well-known names—Alessi, B&B Italia, Cassina, Flos, Kartell and Molteni&C, to name a few. The Italian market thrives on a clever mix of design heritage, design classics and novel design solutions. That said, there is some level of debate about the willingness of Italian designers and brands to take risks. Marco Velardi, the co-founder of interiors magazine Apartamento and former creative director of Italian furniture brand De Padova, has argued that when it comes to selling furniture, Italian brands need to ‘retool’. In an interview with Monocle magazine, he observed: ‘many companies are stuck in a traditional mindset and promote this standardised “Made in Italy” design. It’s a safety blanket. There needs to be more risk taking.’1
Up-and-coming designers—those fresh from design school or with a number of years under their belt—are challenging the Italian design status quo. One such individual is Federico Peri, a recent recipient of a ‘rising talent award’ at Maison&Objet’s January 2018 edition. Peri established his own interior design practice in 2011 and began working on product design in 2014. With a certain idiosyncratic approach to his work, Peri fuses contemporary interests with historic Italian artistic movements such as baroque. His work is designed to be practical and playful, and always with the end user in mind. Many of Peri’s furniture and lighting designs have a niche quality, making him something of a creative risk-taker with a wonderfully avant-garde perspective.
Gessato gets behind the design with Federico Peri.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m reflective, curious and honest. And I love to be surrounded by positive people.
What attracted you to design as a vocation?
In all likelihood, it’s related to my childhood. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ home—it was close to their metal shelving factory. I remember spending entire afternoons playing with metal production waste, as if it was Lego. Later, I began to study design and completely fell in love—that’s why it became a vocation. I’m inspired by the challenge of researching and designing a new project.
What, in your opinion, makes a good designer?
Quite simply, be honest with yourself—that’s the only way to define a proper path.
Your furniture pieces have a wonderfully curious aspect—they’re appealing, whimsical, engaging and fun. What is your creative process?
(Thank you!) My creative process starts from a need, but in the end I’m really interested in the interaction between an object and the final user. For example, ‘Biblioteca Itinerante’ came about because I wanted to create an area in my apartment where I could simply read or relax. I then identified a common place that could represent this idea and settled on a library. I designed a product with all of the functionality that you expect to find in a library: a comfortable armchair, a seat, removable shelves and dedicated lighting. The Biblioteca Itinerante can be used and adapted according to personal needs—you might change the position of the shelves and lamp, or move the unit to another area, thanks to its wheels. Someone did ask me if it was a reinterpretation of a psychiatrist’s bed and that was fun.
Works such as ‘Living in a Chair’ and ‘Shapes’ have an artistic edge and quality. What are your thoughts on the perceived divide between art and design?
I would like to be considered a designer. I love art in general; I love the intention to communicate a feeling, and that’s what art does. Design relates more to functionality and proportion; it has a different disposition. My intention is always to join together function and emotion.
Nowadays, design and art are becoming increasingly related (when compared with the past), and this is evidenced by the growing number of design galleries selling unique or limited edition works. So my ‘Living in a Chair’ and ‘Shapes’ designs are sold as limited edition pieces by Nilufar gallery in Milan. However, most importantly, these projects are functional: Living in a Chair, with its seat, shelves, cabinet and book holder, is characteristic of compact living; with Shapes, the primary function is to illuminate a space.
You were nominated by Italian designer Luca Nichetto as a rising talent in Maison&Objet’s ‘rising talent awards’ (January 2018). What does this mean to you/for you?
To be nominated by one of today’s most important contemporary designers was a real honor. And the fact that I didn’t know Luca Nichetto personally made it all the more amazing. The nomination meant a lot to me as a positive validation. I believe that positivity helps you to improve yourself, both in private and professionally.
Product design and interior design are quite distinct disciplines. Why choose to work in both fields?
Design is a part of interiors and vice versa. As with many interior designers, I started out working in a design studio. I’ve been particularly lucky, as my role was to take care of the conceptual phase up until the preliminary design—that’s always the most interesting phase of a project, the real beginning where you have to invent something new.
I used to be involved in commercial projects, especially with fashion brands. Given that each brand had its own identity, my task was to interpret this and design something that would fit across every area of the business in question. This became my core concern and allowed me to work at different levels, from an entire space to the smallest detail. At the same time, I wanted to design something that was truly mine. That being so, in 2014 I designed and exhibited my first furniture collection in Milan. Many things happened following this, and my collaborations with design galleries and design brands convinced me to focus on product design as well as interior design. Today, I really love both disciplines.
In many ways, Italy is synonymous with high-end, showy and traditional design. As a younger, fresh and independent Italian designer, how do you find your niche in the Italian market and beyond?
You are right when you talk about Italian design—tradition and craftsmanship are two fundamental keywords, but at the same time there is also innovation. During the last three to four years, something has changed. There is now more attention on younger designers—with the ‘rising talent award’ for example—and this helps so much of our work. Personally, I’m very grateful to Nina Yashar, the owner of Nilufar gallery, who believes in and invests in my work. Thanks to this, I realized there is a market for my work in the USA, UK and France in particular.
Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
I would say ‘good’! I’ll be 44 years old and this more or less represents the middle of my professional life. I see myself as being clear about my path, and extremely grateful to all of the people who trusted in me and my work.
Who are your design heroes—who inspires you creatively?
1 The Fixers. (March 2014). Monocle, (71), pp.39-43.