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Date published: April 04 2016

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Michael Amato says that when it comes to fine design, it’s what it’s made of that counts

The modern eye doesn’t have to go far for inspiration. With the touch of a finger, our smart phones can transport us to faraway worlds and back again in mere moments. While platforms like Instagram are effective tools for sharing inspiration, differentiation in design becomes more crucial in order to stand out in a sea of posts and hashtags. In this visually oversaturated market, using dynamic materials that tell a story in a unique way is crucial when it comes to creating an impactful product. Ultimately, interior designers and consumers look for quality, creativity and personality in furnishings. To stand out in all three categories, it’s necessary for product designers to explore unique materials that ultimately define how a fixture takes place.
I’ve seen a resurgence of high-quality, natural materials being used in design. Brass, once a thing of the 1970s, is on its way back in a big way. In home décor, it’s being used in its natural form, not just coated or plated. It can be hewn or polished, and I think that versatility, along with its durability, adds to its appeal. Marble, once reserved for floors and countertops, is now being used as an accent. More frequently I see fixtures where stone is used as an accent.
The design aesthetic of a product can be heightened by the mixing of different materials. For example, antique brass can be combined with mirrored glass and tell a completely different story than if it was paired with say, British leather. Thinking limitlessly about mixing materials is a way to ensure constant design innovation. Admirable design pioneers like Milo Baughman and Hans Wegner are premier examples of this approach. In today’s landscape, the reappearance of copper is notable, but what’s more significant is how it’s mixed with other materials like glass or marble.
There are a lot of designers I admire who are mixing materials and have helped shape the current design landscape. I’m a big fan of French-American industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who made incredible design innovation contributions across various industries. His “no-limits” approach to design exists in today’s environment still. In present day, Alessandro Michelle, creative director at Gucci, is a great example of an artist who is creating products with mixed materials. I just saw some amazing Gucci handbags he designed that were leather and needlepoint.
Another design trend becoming increasingly important is the ability for a product to tell a compelling design story, and the sourcing of materials comes into play here. I was introduced to a company in Tuscany where fourth and fifth generation glassmakers make glass the old fashioned way. When a client has their glass in their home, they are not only preserving a centuries-old art form, but they are able to feel personally connected to a special family tradition. The origin of that material adds an intimate storytelling component that goes beyond form or function. It’s personal. The impact materiality has on product is both practical and visual. To an educated, design-savvy eye, well-sourced materials look fundamentally better than those that are massproduced. Sometimes I have to educate my clients about the importance of well-sourced materials, but once they understand
that natural materials tend to have a better lifespan, they understand the value and want the best resources from the best source.
At the end of the day, people’s homes are personal, and the pieces they invest in to put in them should be too. I hope that manufacturers and customers alike will continue to place emphasis on origin and materiality. I travel frequently and when I do, I am constantly gathering inspiration for new lighting fixtures. I’m very pleased that there is no lack of creativity around the globe, past or present.

Author: Michael Amato

Company: Urban Electric Co

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