At last year’s Salone you may have heard about an old tram carriage that underwent a very Milanese makeover: Cristina Celestino was the designer behind that vision. This year she’s got another surprise up her sleeve: she’s turned her attention to a landmark pasticceria. This design week the famous Cafe Cucchi on the corner of Corso Genova has had a lavish makeover, with plush red velvet seats and embroidered wall paintings, thanks to Celestino’s innovative imaginings. Interiors come naturally to this designer; she first trained as an architect in Venice before moving to Milan in 2009 to found her own design brand ‘Attico Design’. The spirited shapes of Attico’s unique furniture and lamps feel indebted to Celestino’s architectural training, a training that saw her win the special jury prize at Salone del Mobile back in 2016. This year she’s got a lot on her plate. We managed to steal a moment of her time to find out which designers inspire her and where she likes to go to escape the noise of the city. If you’re in Milan why not read this while sipping a macchiato at the revamped cafe?
Can you tell us a little about what you’re up to this Salone in your own words?
For this year’s MDW I am presenting many projects. I continue my personal reinterpretation of the symbolic locations of Milan – reinventing in a contemporary way the interior of a historic Milanese pasticceria with the project “Caffè Concerto Cucchi”. With Besana Carpet Lab, I’ve completed an interior project dedicated to the strong come-back of the “moquette” material, inside the Brera Design Apartment, lightened up by lighting projects of the historic company Esperia, for which I designed two new lamps. Among the others, a collection of furniture for FENDI Roma and FENDI Casa under the artistic direction of Silvia Venturini Fendi, characterized by Pequin, a historical pattern of the Maison and inspired by the atmosphere of the 70s and the interiors of Willy Rizzo.
We know you’re involved with several projects this year, has the process on working on them simultaneously (if you did?) posed challenges or has it caused a kind of creative cross-fire with ideas from one fuelling or changing others?
Working at many projects at the same time, from the creative point of view, is very interesting and stimulating and often the research interweaves between one project and the other. I find the management part the most difficult, especially when the projects are presented in the same moment.
What originally drew you to design and how did you start out?
Before being a designer, I was an architect and a passionate collector of Italian design masterpieces. From this passion I started to imagine my own design pieces, and since I’ve had a strong interest in interior design from my university days the crossover to furniture design felt very natural to me.
Can you remember your first design week in Milan? What was that experience like / how has it changed over the years?
I still remember the first time I was at Milano design Week. It was just very inspiring and I felt it was the best place where I possibly could have been in that moment.
What’s been the most challenging and most rewarding parts of the experience of these projects so far? (If you like you can focus on just one!)
The hardest and most rewarding part of every project I think is to understand the client’s needs and heritage, and connecting it to my design vision and aesthetic with respect and mutual trust. For example, I am very happy with the work I am doing with Fornace Brioni, who have truly trusted me: it is in fact a very traditional company that started a completely new journey of the cottowith me and my new design, and now we are seeing the results of this great collaboration, and we are all enthusiastic about it.
What are you excited to see this design week?
Everything! There are so many fascinating projects and a very interesting international audience.
At the end of last year some pretty shocking research from the Design Museum revealed that just one in five designers in the UK are women. As a designer do you feel there remains a gender problem within the industry at large? Or are there just fewer women that achieve public recognition in design?
Maybe there are fewer, but the ones arriving at the edges are amazing. I’m thinking of women like Patricia Urquiola, Nanda Vigo, Cini Boeri. I think it’s a problem that’s not only alive in the design field. In many countries, the society does not help women for their personal achievements, and sometimes it’s more difficult for a woman to focus only on her own work.
Which designers inspire you (past and/or present)?
Since university, I was always attracted by the interiors of the great architects, such as custom-designed furnishings by Carlo Scarpa: I got passionate, and I still am, about the work of Ettore Sottsass, Gino Sarfatti, Caccia Dominioni, to name just a few of them.
What would be your tip to someone heading to Salone this year?
I would recommend to be very focused and plan your visits ahead!
Do you have any secret spots in the city you’d recommend?
Rotonda della Besana has always been one of my favourite spots in Milano, since I first arrived in the city. Its beauty and calm atmosphere is a peaceful place to recover from the frenzy of the Salone.