Interview with Elisa Ossino

A versatile architect and designer, she ranks today among the most authoritative names in the field of interior design.
She founded Elisa Ossino Studio and is a co-founder of the H+O brand.

“I like spaces that do not to represent reality too closely. Art is an inspiration in this sense: when I design a space I elevate it to a mere abstraction, I like it to be suspended and dreamlike. I try to arrange it so that the elements decorate the space as they would a painting. Space must be the translation of a moment, convey a feeling.”

Architect, stylist and interior designer, your name is very well known in today’s design scene: how did you start out?
My first job was several years ago at the Faculty of Architecture of the Polytechnic: after graduating, I worked in the multimedia laboratory, exploring new expressive avenues with the students. Then, by chance, I made the acquaintance with Collage Studio, who were editing the magazine D Casa and I started to work with them.

How did you come to meet Amini? From the showroom to the Teorema collection how has your collaboration evolved?
My collaboration with Amini started when I was offered to design their showroom. Ferid had recently seen a space in Milan’s San Babila and immediately fell in love with it. The showroom was originally very different from what we see today: it was characterized by square-based pillars that made it look like an underground garage but still boasted a very positive energy. The heavy-duty intervention that we did was precisely that of drawing dividing wings, separating elements with very sleek, rounded shapes. We worked a lot on researching the material, creating a sort of single colored container in which the wall surfaces gave off an effect of light vibration, rounding off the corners of the room to increase the perception of space. Some time later I showed Ferid a few sketches for geometric carpet designs that he really appreciated. After a very long research on color and materials, Teorema was born.

In this day and age, setting-up and dismantling are two very frequent words, everything moves very fast and changes are quite sudden. What does it mean for you to address the carpet as an object, as an element that is defined by its longevity and continuity, also in that it is handed down between generations?
When I am working on design projects I always think about durability, a fundamental quality that an object must have. In this case the carpet has a beautiful story to tell, also and above all in the tradition of other countries where it is loaded with meaning, also in terms of social history, that binds it greatly to people: rugs and carpets were bequeathed as family heirlooms, passing on symbols and traditions, they were gifted as dowries, they were and still are a place of spirituality… I never design with fashion or trends in mind: for me an object must withstand resist time, like art.

“Art is an inspiration. On the sets I style the elements that compose the space, like a painting. Carpets play an important role, they are able to set a mood and outline the identity of a room”.

Ossino, TEOREMA CIRCLES, detail

Shifting geometries and chromatic overlaps, metaphysical atmospheres and a special attention to light and its visual effect on materials. Your style of arranging interiors can be classed as akin to the world of art and stage design. How many and what kind of roles can a contemporary rug have in the layout of an interior designed by Elisa Ossino?
If I think about the interiors that I would design and the ones I have designed, then I would say the role of the carpet is very important. My choice interiors are visually very empty but characterized by stark signs. From this point of view the carpet is an object that creates a background and lends itself very much to designing a space and giving it an identity. I cannot rule out the possibility that a rug could also become a somewhat more three-dimensional element, which could somehow take on new functions; for example, it could be used to divide up spaces in a game of overlapping geometric surfaces that move on different three-dimensional planes.

By construing spaces as live-in places, a space for sharing, it is very important to grasp what they express culturally. Culture conveys and makes us understand the “Zeitgeist”. In your works you dedicate much attention to the choice of objects that decorate a landscape of authentic and individual experiences: What messages does this “lifelike” and “beautiful” landscape send?
One of the fundamental things for me is to always work on a content, on a message. The first step, whether you are designing interiors or an object, is to study the territory, the materials associated with it and the personal history of the client. The material bears the message and becomes a constructive element of the project and of the space. But my work is always highly personal. I like spaces that do not to represent reality too closely. Art is an inspiration in this sense: when I design a space I elevate it to a mere abstraction, I like it to be suspended and dreamlike. I try to arrange it so that the elements decorate the space as they would a painting. Space must be the translation of a moment, convey a feeling.

How do you apply this approach to designing the interiors of a private home?
I would say, by somehow seeking to conceal as much as possible all those functional elements, so for example making storage furnishings (such as wardrobes) disappear, and working on signs and with the textures of the materials instead. Although it is not really a home, the Amini showroom is an example of this way of “dissembling”. The wall element here becomes continuous so as to convey a feeling of circularity and spirituality, interspersed with vertical signs, black iron grooves, used to open the hidden doors. In this spiritual and continuous space the rugs become paintings and the showroom morphs into an art gallery. The real challenge is to manage to introduce messages and content into a design project. I always try to do this in every job I am working on.

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