Does the Milanese movement still exist? Or are designers more cautious?
Marc: There is a lack of courage. I’d say there is an Italian movement rather than a Milanese one. This Italian movement is characterised by the ability to invent solutions that later become design products. You won’t find this anywhere else. The French and Germans can indeed think of new solutions, but Italy is where the magic happens. And to think that there have been times when I’ve said to myself never to return to Italy again, because they always do the same things here. But I did return because if I want to do certain things I simply have to.”
Paola: The Milan system does exist and it’s successful too. I think that everybody wants to be part of it. Perhaps there are too many self-referential design magazines out there. In Italy, there is reverence towards certain people and companies, but very few ask themselves which is the right approach.
How does Milan respond when it comes to design education?
Marc: We like Mudec and we have appreciated some of the exhibitions of the Triennale because they tried to inform and educate – from the history of nuts and bolts to the original Mongolian weaving technique. There are plenty of spaces in Milan but we probably need a breath of fresh air when it comes to curators. When I go to Copenhagen I always see the same design objects, because the way of thinking permeates everything else. In France, they do design with nothing, and designers are really good at hinting at the past. On the other hand, in Germany, everything is so structured. All in all, I like Italy because there is a lot of respect for the companies’ know how.
Where do you start co-designing a house? (They hesitate, then Paola starts laughing)
Marc: Our home was not meant to be a copy of us. However, it ended up looking a lot like us, because it reflects who we are. That said, I like chaos, the unfinished, whereas Paola hates it. For her, everything has to be symmetrical.
Paola: Well now you’re making us seem like Mr and Mrs Jones…!
Marc: We didn’t want a mausoleum but a place for us, our children, and our cat. Our home is made of the things we use and like to have at hand every day. It’s a summary of life, where objects I have inherited from my mother and her family hold their place. In our country house outside Parma, we have an eight-metre wardrobe which is really difficult to open, but it’s beautiful.
Paola: Our home is a merger of other homes, previous lives, experiences, and stories.
Marc: Take this table in our studio, for example (the legendary black USM Haller). It’s almost 30 years old but I still like it. I would never throw it out.
Was your house a pure flash of inspiration?
Marc: Our home in via Savona 97 was, absolutely! It was love at first sight! When I returned to Venice, Paola yelled at me because I had made an offer for a house she hadn’t even seen.
Paola: Our home in Venice was our little corner of paradise, with our little boat and everything... Then, one day, he came home and showed me a photo of these ruins – because originally, everything was neglected and in awful conditions. But in the end, it turned out to be a great choice, even if the general atmosphere is not how it used to be.
Marc: Now there are these fashionable dudes with beards and tattoos.
Paola: In the beginning, we were a group of designers and we would often organize parties in our garden. Then, they started opening fashion showrooms and prices started to rise. From then on, the atmosphere has changed. We were the first ones to have children here. Our daughter, who is now 20, was practically the only child of her age. Now, during the weekends, you get the impression of being in a country village.