I just got back from Italy with some great new resources. I was invited by ITA-ICE, the marketing and promotion office of the Italian government, and CNA, the association for small and mid-sized businesses, to a series of business-to-business meetings to encourage "Made in Italy" design. The meetings took place in the manufacturing cradle of Italy, between Verona and Como. The trip targeted two strong design markets: the United States and Russia. Ten American designers from Florida to Arizona and 10 Russian designers from Moscow to Siberia descended with open minds to see what was appealing.
Due to the global financial crisis of recent years, as well as a movement of products designed in Italy but manufactured elsewhere, the promotion and export of genuine Italian design is at a near stalemate. The Italian government is determined to revamp and reintroduce master craftsmen and smaller manufacturing firms to designers who can specify products and storefronts that can carry this new merchandise.
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Over the weeklong trip, 50 vendors showing hundreds of items vied to capture the attention of often jaded interior designers. There was no shortage of products; however, some rose to the top as my favorites, for their innovations and excellence in design.
Bagnaresi, based in Faenza, was a showstopper with their new catalog and collection titled ('pri: vju:). This contemporary collection was au courant with beautiful sleek sofas upholstered in matte metallic leathers, embroidered velvet pillows encrusted with Swarovski, and Parson-like casegoods with exotic veneers.
Mambretti, a mattress and sofa-sleeper manufacturer from Seregno, did not disappoint. This company makes beds that rise, which aids in the process of making a bed by eliminating the need to crouch to fit sheets, with the added bonus of concealed storage space underneath. Other technology included body scans to properly and instantly design a mattress that would support a body as needed. Sofa-bed innovations included a sofa that converts to bunk beds for space-constrained rooms.
Base srl, from Erba, was in a category all its own. This company partners with artists and designers to produce and distribute everything from cardboard wine carriers to limited-edition furniture and even out-of-the-box lightweight bridges. No project is too small or too large. Their expertise lies in working out the kinks of any design, as well as the logistics. Their showroom was filled with prototypes from the notable designs of Mattia Bonetti, Philip Michael Wolfson and Karim Rashid, but also included the works of lesser-known designers, demonstrating the diversity of this company.
As an added surprise, we were treated to the opening of a small furniture show, the Mostramab (Mobili Arredamento Brianza), which could have been easily titled from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. It was filled with furniture ranging from monolithic wood dining tables and log benches to a showcase of vintage Italian furniture, as well as sculptural outdoor furniture fit for either yachts or villas. It's amazing that such a small country can produce so much great design -- and all of it proudly bearing the tag "Made in Italy."
• Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla.
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