After first crossing paths on a business trip, Leonardo and Marzia Dainelli not only found life partnership in one another, but they founded their world-renowned architecture and design firm, Dainelli Studio, a few years later. Based in Milan, the studio plays to Leonardo and Marzia’s strengths in product and interior design, respectively. Exploring themes of balance, proportionality and shape in their timeless products, Dainelli Studio’s research has led to prestigious collaborations with brands such as Gallotti&Radice, Mogg, and Fendi Casa. These same considerations are brought into their “design language”, which imagine public and private spaces as tasteful, utilitarian, and democratic.
FRONTRUNNER speaks to Leonardo and Marzia of Studio Dainelli about inspirations across Italy, working with your significant other, and visions for design.
Tell me the story behind how you founded your studio, back in 2007.
Our story is actually quite unconventional and original as we first met during a business trip to South America: we immediately felt there was a strong affinity which led to our personal and professional union. After that first encounter, things happened quickly and in 2007 we founded Dainelli Studio together, dealing respectively with product (Leonardo) and interior design (Marzia).
I saw that you formerly worked in Tuscany, and now you’re based in Milan. Could you tell me the difference in your design inspirations between these two cities?
Tuscany has been our home for years, it represented a constant source of inspiration for us, which continues to emerge in our projects: the use of the marble, for example, is a legacy of that time. In general, we would say Tuscany is a design inspiration for materials and colors, while Milan represents the perfect place to look for new trends in the way people live and inhabit spaces. The constant research for a balance between tradition and innovation is a daily inspiration for our projects.
Tell me about your creative process as designer and architect, but also as a family. How do you achieve work/life balance, working together?
The differences in our creative process also represent our strengths: Marzia has a more decorative touch while Leonardo has a more rigorous approach. This actually helps us in the design: the contribution that we give to each other while we work has very often led to new balances, breaking the convictions of both to find a more complete balance. The same happens in our family, we try to make the most out of the things that make us unique as individuals and as a couple, both in our personal and professional life.
In your experience, what are the different things you have to consider when designing private versus public spaces?
In both of them, the main aspect to keep in mind is that the space is going to be used by people: be they 2 or 200. The difference is that when you are designing a private space you have to meet a specific taste and requests of the client, while for public spaces you need to focus on a design language that can be as much “democratic” as possible. In a way, public spaces are more challenging, but give you more satisfaction as you can then see them in use.
If you had to describe your design style and envisioned audience, how would you?
We both love a rational but at the same time distinctive style, a bourgeois taste but without too many frills. We are also fascinated by the architecture and projects of the great masters of design, especially Italian ones. We would say, our projects speak a contemporary language yet they are characterized by a timeless elegance, which can be appreciated by anyone who pursues beauty in his/her daily life.
Tell me about collaborating with firms like Fendi Casa and Mogg. How does working with corporations most drastically differ from working just you two?
We are fortunate to work with companies that we feel close to our aesthetics, even if very different from each other. We find it very stimulating to translate our thinking through the stylistic features of different brands. Each company has its representative materials, its processes, its needs: this has allowed us to think out-of-the-box and explore new paths in different directions we might have never discovered if it wasn’t for these collaborations.
How has the pandemic affected your practice?
Our practice and creative process have remained basically the same. We had more time at first to focus on projects, however we soon realized how important it is for a job like ours to have the opportunity to meet people, to visit exhibitions and to travel. We still haven’t been able to go back to all of that, but the main focus remains people and their needs, which have substantially changed and so do our projects.
I read that you were working on the interior of a student housing building in Milan recently. Could you tell me a bit more about that project?
We are working on the interiors of a new student house in Milan, a residential project for short and mid period to be used by the university students. The concept of the project is to have some private spaces and common areas. We tried to keep some elements of the old building, when possible (flooring, front door, etc.). The overall style is colorful and young, with design furniture mixed with vintage pieces that we’ve been searching exclusively for this project. Despite all the difficulties and delays, it has been an exciting journey!
What can we expect in the future from you?
The past year situation has allowed us to have more time to spend studying, reflecting and working on new projects: thinking about the future has dared us to do something extraordinary. Stay tuned!