Italians have been renowned as the world leaders and trend setters of style and good taste for centuries. After all, Italians could be said to have invented the idea of ‘La Dolce Vita’ – the Good Life. Think of Italian cars like the Lamborghini and the Maserati which combine elegance and high performance. Italians lead the fashion world with some of the greatest designers; Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Valentino. The names of these coveted brands are known worldwide. And of course they have some of the most beautiful cities in the world with amazing architectural heritage – Venice, Naples, Florence and Milan. Since the Renaissance, Italy has produced dazzling giants in painting, sculpture, music, literature and, more recently, in film.
While Italy is famous for classical and traditional design, in the early 20th Century Italian designers began working with a more modern and streamlined aesthetic, and, of course, they soon became leading trend setters. First came the new style of “Rationalism” in the 1920s which saw furniture being made with cleaner, simpler lines and the use of tubular steel in furniture design and manufacturing. Then in the ‘80s came the Memphis Group – an Italian design and architecture group founded by Ettore Sottsass designing postmodern furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass, and metal objects.
The Memphis Group’s work often incorporated plastic laminate, wood and steel. ‘Italian Design’ continues today to dominate interior design, architecture and fashion. With typical modesty, Italian architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni claims that, “Quite simply, we are the best” and that “We have more imagination, more culture, and are better mediators between the past and the future”. Harare residents can see the best of Italian design at the new Only Italian showroom located in the Celestial Office Park, conveniently situated along the Borrowdale Road opposite the Celebration Centre. Only Italian specialises in high end, top quality office furniture from selected Italian designers and manufacturers.
Their suppliers include Linekit who offer a range of office furniture, including reception desks, office desks and work stations, cabinets and storage solutions.
Kastel is a relatively young Italian company situated near Venice. The company has quickly become a leader in the manufacturing and supplying of high-tech seating for offices, reception areas and waiting rooms, and boardrooms and meeting rooms.
Zefla also creates beautiful, simple and durable seating solutions including luxury executive chairs in mesh and fabric, and casual chairs and stools in steel and moulded plastic.
SCAB Designs supply clean lined canteen-style tables and polypropylene chairs, including the iconic, transparent ‘Ghost Chair’. The ‘Ghost Chair’ is made in a single mould so there are no screws or joins, no upholstery and no separate arms or legs. It’s lightweight and stackable and blends into almost any design scheme and its visual lightness makes it ideal for small spaces.
The IVM range includes office furniture of the highest standards with meticulous attention to detail in their finishes. Their furniture has clean, sleek lines and epitomises the ‘Italian Design’ look. Take a look at the amazing, free-standing, orange reception desk to get an idea of their style. Not only is the desk simple and elegant, the colour is playful and funky, the desk is ergonomically designed for the most efficient and comfortable use, and the front panels are designed to be sound proof. The height of the desk section behind the panels can be electronically adjusted so you can work either sitting down or standing up.
Mirella Bescotti, director of Only Italian, has created the most sophisticated and elegant showroom to display this amazing range. She worked with the renowned Italian firm Arredo Ufficio Online to come up with the plans and drawings for the new showroom. Mirella sent them plans and drawings of the empty space and they in turn sent her several design and layout options. The showroom has a series of glass partitioned mock office spaces in the centre of the showroom with free-flowing space around the sides. The result is a space that almost becomes a giant display cabinet so the furniture and accessories can be viewed in the most pleasing and complementary scenarios. Plain white floors and ceilings, together with the glass partitions, give the showroom an art gallery appeal where the furniture is the exhibition.
IVM sent out the glass partitions in a kit form and an Italian technician, together with a local company, assembled the partitions in a few days. An interesting feature of the partitions is that cabinets and library shelving can be slotted in structurally as part of the dividing walls. The showroom also incorporates a huge light box with a photograph of elephants by well known local artist Andy Lowe. Light boxes are quickly becoming very desirable as wall decor for exclusive upmarket offices, boardrooms and reception spaces. The showroom also includes a custom made bar counter in an asymmetric V-shape copied from IVM’s showroom in Italy. Here Mirella can entertain prospective clients and discuss their individual needs and requirements.
To ensure the best quality, most of the furniture is imported, although some is locally manufactured with Mirella carefully overseeing the standards. The equivalent of some imported items can be manufactured locally if clients request a specific colour or size, although Mirella prefers to supply the original Italian items.
Only Italian’s clients generally order large quantities of the furniture to ensure a sense of continuity and cohesiveness for their office spaces. Imported ranges usually take around six weeks for delivery, depending on the next container consignment, while the locally manufactured equivalents usually take around four weeks for delivery. Only Italian offers a service to deliver furniture and assemble it on site. They work closely with architects and interior designers like Office Design Company, Gallerio Celso, Studio Five Architects, and designers Lee Sanderson and Dido de Swart.
Seeing a gap in the market Mirella started Only Italian in 2010 in a small townhouse in the Avenues. They were quickly so successful that they relocated their showroom and offices to Williams Way in Msasa which still functions as their storeroom and main office. The showroom in Borrowdale is a new development that opened in November this year as a testament to their growing success. Visit the showroom to see how you can update and improve your company image. Their growing list of clients includes major corporates like Econet, CABS, Old Mutual, and NMB bank, as well as many smaller businesses looking for quality and good design.
Mirella predicts that more and more businesses will embrace good ergonomically designed workspaces to enhance their employees’ health, creativity, and productivity by creating spaces that work well, are less stressful and are generally better spaces to enjoy. And the furniture is not just for offices – many interior designers are starting to use industrial style furniture in the home as well as combing the old and the new in their design schemes. Imagine an antique dining table with ‘Ghost Chairs’ around it (a la Phillipe Starck) or an industrial style table with classical Sheraton chairs. The possibilities are endless.
Text by Michael Nott
Photos by Michele Fortmann