From Fashion Boutiques to Wallpaper, Storage Milano Advances the Design Conversation
Damon Johnstun, design journalist in Portland, will cover the 60th edition of Mobile fair, the prestigious furniture and design fair, from June 7 to 12 at Fiera Milano Rho in Milan, Italy. Trends and products that debuted at Milan Design Week last year are making their way into showrooms. Here’s a designer spotlight:
On the recommendation of a friend during Milan Design Week 2019, I attended an event of the Swiss manufacturer Geberit, which manufactures suspended sanitary ware. I was struck by the inventive display. The tubes created an enclosure that could easily have been a forgettable setup. Competing with the best design in the world, this humble use of materials not only heightened the experience, but was memorable years after seeing it.
The creators of the exhibition are the founders of the architecture, interior design and product company Storage Milano. Since 2002, the firm has earned an impressive reputation designing boutiques for major luxury fashion brands such as Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, Tod’s and Alberta Ferretti as well as corporate and residential spaces.
The founders of Storage Milano, Barbara Ghidoni, Marco Donati and Michele Pasini, use their knowledge and sophistication to mix colors and natural materials in unexpected ways. They draw inspiration from designers Gio Ponti, Jean Prouve and others, and feature modernized, eye-catching spaces.
Sometimes they leave the surrounding environment almost raw, while creating jewel box-like structures in the space, as seen in the Bally showroom in Milan and the Antonioli hangar in Ibiza. Other times, every inch of a project is lavished with fine materials, like at the Spazio Pritelli boutique in Vicenza, where hundreds of square feet of diamond-matched marble slabs create a kaleidoscopic wonderland.
The sophisticated use of curves with angles recalls the nautical themes at the entrance to Dsquared2 in Milan and the Giuseppe Zanotti boutique in Hong Kong. Ghidoni, Donati and Pasini demonstrate the mastery of an almost brutal minimalism in the boutiques of Neil Barrett, Aquasalata and Golran.
During Milan Design Week 2021, I stopped by the Storage Milano office near Piazza Venezia, where I entered via a quiet street and was buzzed into the building. I was greeted in the yard by Donati, one of the partners.
Donati described Storage Milano’s strategy to reinterpret a brand’s DNA. If customers ask for something whimsical based on the 1940s-1950s, they make it. “We do it our way, but we respect the customer,” he says. One project was inspired by the Novecento Italiano art movement of the 1920s.
On a new project, Donati sees her role in the theoretical and architectural arena as Ghidoni excels in detail and decoration – she has taken over the management of the Dolce & Gabbana boutique – while Pasini bridges the two realms.
Donati considers shape, form and architecture to select materials for each project. “If I see something that doesn’t have a nice shape, regardless of the material, I won’t like it,” he said.
Although the company is known for its extensive use of brass, Donati personally leans towards natural wood and stone. He currently favors colors in a natural or neutral palette such as light brown as well as blacks and grays. It uses bright colors only as accents.
He estimates that 50% of the company’s work is in retail, 30% in offices and restaurants and 20% in residential.
They are currently working on the design of several private homes, hotels, a restaurant in Mykonos and one in Milan, a flagship fashion store and energy efficient offices for Bally in Switzerland. They are also close to completing the design of the headquarters of Italian eyewear conglomerate Luxottica in Milan’s Tortona district.
Acting as “loan architects for interior design projects”, they will also renovate more than 20,000 square feet for the headquarters of online marketplace Archiproducts in Bari, Italy.
In addition to architecture and interior design, they have several industrial design projects for tiles, lamps, armchairs, faucets and wallpaper.
“Listening to the customer is one of the key secrets to our success. If we think something is wrong, we start a discussion and the discussion always improves the project,” Donati said. Good design “is a balance between function and form”.
More design stories from Damon Johnstun:
• The brand’s main upholstery trends: luxurious textures, chunky shapes, 70s gathers softening hard edges
• Archiproducts is an online design paradise
• Your home office deserves a striking modern chair designed by Eames, Saarinen, Citterio
• Formafantasma, rethinking the future
• Designer Antonio Citterio’s guide to contemporary Italian elegance
• Minimalist master Piero Lissoni is surprisingly funny: Milan Design Week
• Enter the evocative world of Dimore Studio: Milan Design Week (photos)
• Sleek and Understated Office Chairs Come Home: An Interview with Jeannette Altherr
• Hive Modern welcomes Italian luxury furniture boss Patrizia Moroso
• Sacha Walckhoff of Christian Lacroix designs rugs for Moooi
• The elegant work of the Paris-based designer documented in the new book “Joseph Dirand Interior”
• “Milan is the capital of design”, says Nina Yashar of Nilufar Galleries
• Furniture impresario Giulio Cappellini in Milan (photos)
• Papilio chair inspired by the swallowtail butterfly: Naoto Fukasawa in Milan
• Modern furniture inspired by the Mini Cooper: GamFratesi in Milan
• Gallery owner Rossana Orlandi: Starmaker of furniture designers
• Lighting by designer Bethan Laura Wood inspired by lollipops
• Architect, furniture designer Vincent Van Duysen: “Timeless Modernism”
• Lighting designer Michael Anastassiades: the simplicity of complexity
• A $100,000 pool table: “The price of the pursuit of perfection”
• Ferruccio Laviani: design obsessives know his name, others will soon
• Bisazza interprets iconic Pucci prints in mosaic: reflection on Milan’s design fairs
• An overview of the sumptuous book “Private” by Giancarlo Giammetti
• Barcelona’s first modernist masterpiece: Mies van der Rohe’s pavilion
• Baccarat revelers in Milan were treated to the iconic luxury of crystal
• Self-taught multicultural designer Philippe Nacson invests in a new future: Design City
• Design week launch party in Portland: non-stop visual sensations
• Magritte-inspired boudoir and nude pink bedroom with velvet loveseat: Snapshots of a furniture fair