Get to know the timeless and timely style of Italian studio Debonademeo


Past Is Prologue

Dario De Meo and Luca De Bona launched Debonademeo Studio in Padua in 2013. In the few short year’s since, the duo’s work for artistically driven brands like JCP Universe, Medulum , Formae , Stilnovo, and Wall&decò has attracted the attention of an array major international tastemakers and helped to propel the current renaissance in Italian contemporary design.

We reached to this rising-star studio so you can get to know them better.

 

Pam: How did you meet and start working together?

DBDM: Although we both grew up in the Veneto region, we met in Milan during our Master’s studies and many “happy hour” aperitivos. We quickly saw that we think alike despite our different areas of research and experience. We realized that our diversities could be an enriching potential. After our first collaborations, we decided to establish a studio together in Padua, naming the business “De Bona De Meo” because of the funny assonance of our surnames.

Pam: How would you describe your design approach and aesthetic?

DBDM: Every project starts from a conceptual seed, which is prompted by a request, an intuition, an event, or a necessity. We like to define our design method as hic et nunc—Latin for “here and now.” We do not follow precise rules but rather are guided by a state of mind, the social conditions, and the modernity of the present. We embrace the tension between the promise of the future and a nostalgia for the past. Our works are like a frame that freezes a process in progress and tells a story that blends ancient inspirations with cutting-edge technologies.

Pam: Tell us about your projects and your design process.

Dario De Meo and Luca De Bona of Debonademeo Photo © Debonademeo
DBDM: We come from two different academic backgrounds: Dario studied Industrial Design at the Polytechnic of Milan; Luca completed his MA at IUAV, in Venice, where he graduated in Architecture. We both decided to became designers to be able to shape the ideas and thoughts that storm in our heads; we then put them into practice to serve and meet people’s needs and the laws of the market, following or going against current trends.

We believe that in order to be a designer you need to constantly conduct research, aiming to understand and overcome design limits by exploring new possibilities. To be a designer means always trying to innovate. We usually share and discuss the briefs we receive from our clients with the numerous journeymen between Padua and Milan—or all-around Italy. These experienced crafts masters are our best resource for knowledge that significantly enriches our designs.

Pam: Where do you find inspiration?

DBDM: Art, history, and current events are our main sources of inspiration. We think of this as our journey. We don’t have a favorite destination; we like traveling everywhere and in many different ways. Through our journey we get into contact with new people, languages, traditions, and needs. By traveling we reach places full of heritage and innovation—famous art works or hidden details. Venice and Milan are the cities that gave us a lot and still continue to inspire us.

We also are stirred by far away countries, where it is still possible to immerse ourselves in completely different sensory experiences. And we also like to go back to our roots: Sicily represents Dario’s “memories tank” and the Dolomites is Luca’s.

Pam: What kind of music do you like to listen to get inspired?

DBDM: It may seem anachronistic, but in our studio and in the car our voices merge with the radio playing in the background. The mix of informal conversation, news, pop songs, or sophisticated arias represents a cross-section of our society and a constant source of inspiration. We like to listen to people's voices in the most unthinkable places and understand what their needs are.

Pam: Which product design do you wish you had created?

DBDM: We admire the great masters of the past, architects and designers such as Luigi Moretti, Carlo Mollino, Carlo Scarpa, Franco Albini, and Luigi Caccia Dominioni to name a few. At the same time, we are also fascinated by a more spontaneous design that over time has given life to small iconic masterpieces that we use every day: a perfect synthesis of form and function combined with a universal aesthetic value.

Il Sistema Periodico by Primo Levy Photo © Einaudi
Pam:
Which design books would you suggest to read and why?

DBDM: Il Sistema Periodico is a collection of stories written by Primo Levi in 1975. It’s not about design, but it defines human relationships and emotions through an unusual interpretation. Levi uses the characteristics of and reactions between chemical elements to describe human, political, and social relations.

Il Design Spiegato ai Bambini by Mario Bellini describes the world of design by teaching children to look around, to identify objects, to understand the beauty that often comes from stylistic and functional choices.

Il Design Spiegato a Mia Madre is a text in which Fabio Novembre tries to explain his work through precise descriptions, interviews, anecdotes, and metaphors. Starting from his own vision he is able to convey a general view on contemporary design.

Flatland is a science fiction novel written by Edwin Abbott in 1884. It’s the story of a hypothetical two-dimensional universe that meets an inhabitant of a three-dimensional universe. It’s quite a popular story among mathematics students that offers a multi-dimensional view of the world; a simple story that teaches us to look beyond our reality.

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar is a story set in ancient Rome that describes the conditions and problems of people of all times—in search of a balance between happiness and productivity, between intelligence and will.

In The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, the world is described as a play between opposites with a special aesthetic value, generating a pyrotechnic game between the possible and impossible, the grotesque and sublime.

In Viaggi in Grecia, Giancarlo De Carlo reflects on the values ​​of the past and develops strategies to live the present. He writes, “The glory of cities depends on the imagination of their citizens and this, in turn, depends on their experiences:  it ultimately depends on the energies of places.”

Pam: With such an interest in history, are you excited about any current design trends?

DBDM: Like art and fashion, design reflects the present. The moods of society are expressed as signs, colors, and textures. Towards the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, economic growth and a general state of social well-being shaped an aseptic minimal look. Nowadays, within a striking scenario of international crisis, we are witnessing a sort of neo-mannerism that revisits and transgresses by mixing styles into an exciting fusion.

The meaning of decoration—intended as a primordial need for care and comfort and also as an expression of technological innovation—is changing. Sadly, we think that aesthetic has more importance than content now, possibly because of the power of media. This has led to a lack of meaning. We feel that it would be beneficial to bring some sort of order to this state of general chaos. But this is the time we live in, and we must make the best of it.

Tenues Chairs by Debonademeo for Cizeta Photo © Debonademeo
Pam:
Which colors and materials attract you the most right now?

DBDM: Human perception of colors and materials changes according to the light and mood. It is felt and regarded in different ways by different cultures and ethnicities. We are attracted to what makes sense to us in a specific time and place; to what creates balance and a state of well-being.

Pam: How would you define the current state of design in Italy?

Pam: Italian design is undergoing a great change. Its innovation and quality have always distinguished it, both in mass markets and in niche ones, nationally and internationally.  Over time, mass markets have become too competitive due to their extremely reduced production costs and large production capacities. This has allowed small artisans, that characterize every Italian region, to emerge again. Various companies once forgotten or closed have relaunched and flourished over the last few years, bringing back to life their antique techniques and contributing to a new and strong image of Italian design—an imagine made of quality, innovation, and excellence. All these qualities have always been present but certainly gained more visibility over the past few years.

 

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