Leolux will be at two locations during Milan Design Week 2023: Alcova, and Salone del Mobile. The new Lunetta sofa, designed by Studiopepe, will be in the spotlight on both stands. We spoke to the founders of the Milan studio, designers Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto, to find out more about their firm and the collection it’s designing for Leolux.
Lelli Mami and Di Pinto are the face of Studiopepe, but they’re also part of an eleven-strong multidisciplinary team whose expertise extends well beyond product design. Part of the team focuses on this discipline, and the other members specialise in architectural, retail and residential interiors.
“It’s not a big team, but we like that, because it means we can keep an eye on all the projects we have on the go,” Di Pinto says. “Our work has changed since we set up the studio in 2006. We both studied industrial design, so the shift of focus to architecture and product design was a very natural one, and we try to add new disciplines each year.”
“The work we do is very personal to us,” Lelli Mami adds. “We love mutually supporting and reinforcing contrasts, and because we work as a duo, these come easily to us. We engage in a lot of dialogue with each other and the team, which gives us valuable insights. If you work together as designers, it’s important to be complementary, and not just clones of each other. That’s the case with us. Chiara is very good at developing spaces and ideas, and she never gives up: she’ll do everything she can to make sure a project succeeds.
“Arianna has an unerring sense of proportion in the relationship between an object and its surroundings,” says Di Pinto. “And she’s also the more diplomatic one, so she’s good at reconciling different people’s interests. We have a perfect rapport, partly because we’re following a shared path. We grew up in the same visual landscape, and we have the same frame of reference, not just in design, but also in everyday life, travel and things like that. We have a common cloud of inspiration that we can draw on at any time.”
“We feel it’s very important to design things that are sculptural and timeless,” Lelli Mami says. “That makes people want to keep them, which is the ultimate in sustainability. When we design something, we never start purely with the object itself: we begin with its story, and its relationship with its users and surroundings. Our products for Leolux are no exception.
“Right from the outset, the idea was to design a cluster of objects that work well with one another, and we submitted several proposals. If you look at all three products side by side, the Lunetta, Loggia, and Patio, you’ll see that we don’t like hard boundaries. Each product strikes a balance between graphic and organic, hard and soft. That’s the thread running through all three designs.”
“Of course, the sofa is the star,” Di Pinto points out. “The idea was to combine very soft, almost 70s-style upholstery with a strict geometrical shell that really hugs the cushions. We wanted to make a sofa that you could see straight away was very comfortable; you feel the comfort before you sit down. We also made sure the whole thing wasn’t too soft, hence the strong, rigid shell. We were careful to get the right balance between soft and hard, because otherwise a sofa like this very soon becomes stiff. But now you can see it’s comfortable as soon as you look at it, and we’re very happy with the result.
“The coffee table and rug follow the same idea as the sofa: a perfectly balanced contrast between soft and hard forms. The Loggia table has a strong, solid, almost architectural feel, but it’s not too heavy. That’s because of the soft, organic design of the legs, which also bring out the beauty of the wood.
“And the rug uses the same philosophy, though of course it’s a very different type of product. You can always feel the softness of a rug just by walking on it in bare feet. We didn’t want the Patio rug to limit that experience visually, so it has a flowing form rather than being rectangular. But the colours and pattern are very graphic, so the Patio has the same contrasts as the sofa and table, but it still feels like a rug should feel.”
Lelli Mami says Studiopepe’s first collaboration with Leolux went well. “We knew who they were, but we learned a lot about the brand while working with them. Their production facilities were impressive, and the company’s history was very interesting. It’s always nice to work for non-Italian brands, because you have a different vision of products and materials.
“It’s not that far from Milan to Venlo, but you’re still bringing different cultures together to an extent. We really liked Leolux’s openness and the way they embraced our ideas. They never said a flat-out no, and always tried them out to see if they worked. It was really good to experience the company’s passion.”