January 11, 2021

10 Questions With… Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto

“Our shared experience contributes to create this synchronicity that is expressed through the dialectics,” say Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto, who are at the helm of their Milan-based studio Studiopepe since 2006. “Being in discordance is also a creative process, which means exchanging different point of views, […] perceptions and ideas.”

From an early age, Lelli Mami and Di Pinto (shown at left; portrait photography by Andrea Ferrari) have both been fascinated by colors and shapes. The duo met while studying at Politecnico di Milano—the largest technical university in Italy—and soon realized they shared the same vision, which led to a partnership “based on creativity and curiosity,” according to Di Pinto. “We know each other since many years and we have a kind of shared ‘alphabet’ of inspirations that is very useful,” she adds. 

Merging poetic approach and rigorous design, Lelli Mami and Di Pinto create unexpected interiors and products while also working as creative directors. De-siderio represents all the projects they designed in 2020, reflecting Lelli Mami and Di Pinto’s prolific work including the Pink Moon table and chair in American maple based on the idea of cycles of renewal and new beginnings, and a mid-century modern furniture collection for Essential Home, among others.

Interior Design: Could you tell us the story behind De-siderio? 

Chiara Di Pinto: This year, we wanted our Manifesto Project to be a virtual constellation (made up by all our projects designed in 2020) that we called De-siderio. The Latin prefix “de-“ means “lack of” and the word “sidus” means “star”. To desire something literally means “to lack stars,” “to feel a lack of stars,” or in other words to feel that something is wanting and therefore foster a feeling of passionate seeking. “De-siderio,” or desire, is what moves our soul, keeps us curious, and makes us human in our most profound inner beauty.

ID: What convinced you to design the Essential Home collection?

Arianna Lelli Mami: The high quality of materials and craftsmanship used and the possibility to create a whole collection, in which to reflect a storytelling and a vocabulary of materials and shapes convinced us.

The Essential Home collection. Photography courtesy of Studiopepe.

ID: Can you describe your project Pink Moon? 

ALM: COVID-19 has significantly changed the way people live, interact and work. [Launched by the American Hardwood Export Council, Benchmark Furniture, and the Design Museum in London], CONNECTED is an experiment to explore how creative minds and makers adapt their processes using new technologies to work together remotely and often operating from new, improvised home offices. Our project PINK MOON plays with the idea of cycles of renewal and new beginnings. The word “pink” refers to the flowers in the United States that blossom in spring—this project represents the new and exciting things that could bloom during this season.

ID: Do you think your Italian backgrounds have an impact of your design approach and style?

CDP: Yes it does. We were raised while being surrounded by beauty: the proportions of Italian piazzas, the colonnades, churches, etc. Beauty [was and] is everywhere. Then we studied fine arts and architecture, which became sources of inspiration.

The Pink Moon collection. Photography courtesy of Studiopepe.

ID: How do you complement each other?

CDP: We believe in a dialectic approach. We discuss—sometimes we argue—we share ideas and suggestions. Then we put everything on the table and we carve out one idea that always starts with storytelling. 

ID: What is your first memory of design?

ALM: As a child I remember the Grillo telephone in my grandmother’s house. In Italy we had a large array of ‘democratic’ design pieces (the true design after all) in our homes, such as the umbrella holder by [Achille] Castiglioni or the Plia Chair by Giancarlo Piretti. Compared to now, where democratic design is only Ikea, it was a paradise for modern collectors.

The Essential Home collection. Photography courtesy of Studiopepe.

ID: Can you name some people in the industry who inspire you and tell us why?

CDP: We love people who have the strength to change and think differently. For example, Adriano Olivetti (1901-1960) was a man with a real vision. We also like people who dialogue with many different creative areas. For example, we admire the Aesop brand and his founder Dennis Paphitis—we would love to design a shop for them.

ID: In what kind of home do you live?  

ALM: My home is an apartment from the 30s, located in a beautiful building where almost everything has been preserved. The interiors, however, have a layered, eclectic approach—no visual mess, but a very well-balanced composition of elements and colors. For me it’s very important to live in a harmonious space. There are iconic design pieces that stand next to family looms and a lot of art. My daughter also adds her personal and crazy touch, and I love it.

The Bonfire light for Gallotti&RadicePhotography courtesy of Studiopepe.

ID: What are your upcoming projects?

CDP: A hotel, a private house, and several art direction projects—we love doing this because for us it is important to have a whole vision of design.

ID: What is your dream project? 

ALM: A hotel that is not only a hotel, but something more—a little world. We are working on it, but it takes time.

Recent DesignWire