June 1, 2003
From Brianza, with Love
A new store woos American furniture buyers with Italian design for every room of the house.
“One-stop shopping” and “high-end Italian design” are not phrases most of us would ever link together. But Robert Ilas doesn’t think like most of us. “There are a lot of different retail showrooms that carry different lines, but the manufacturers often don’t work together,” he says. For clients designing an entire apartment or office, the legwork can be tremendous. So Ilas came up with the idea for Arredo, a store he recently opened in New York to bring together products and services from seven Italian manufacturers.
Looking more like a well-designed New York loft than a conventional retail space, the Soho storefront carries furnishings for every room of a high-end office or residential space: leather furniture from Matteograssi; bathroom furniture and fixtures from Rifra; kitchen cabinets from Schiffini; office furniture by Concept; home furniture by Lema; lighting by Album; and doors from Lualdi. While other retail stores laid out like apartments feel gimmicky, Arredo uses the space as a platform to offer complete design services. Nine in-house architects and designers are on hand to guide customers through the process of planning their space. They can also draw upon the expertise of the seven manufacturers, all of whom are based in the Brianza region of northern Italy, where modern Italian design originated. Here Matteograssi has made leather club chairs since the 1880s, and yacht-builder Schiffini devised the first modern modular kitchen, based on ships’ galleys. (“In Brianza, furniture was born,” Ilas deadpans, with typical Italian modesty.) The manufacturers have all known each other for generations but have never worked together until now, Ilas explains. Since he suggested Arredo, they have formed a consortium called Vivendum, which plans to open other stores in the United States, Russia, China, Japan, France, and England.