Italian by design: Roberto Palomba

id sat down with the guest of honour at Poltrona Frau’s new Dubai showroom.

Palomba’s name instantly evokes the ‘Made in Italy’ pride that has made him and his wife Ludovica coveted collaborators with the world’s top brands. His Milan-based firm, PalombaSerafini, boasts not only many awards – Compasso d’Oro, Red Dot Award, Design Plus Award, Product Innovation Award, German Design Award, Elle Decoration International Design Award – but a collection of architectural projects that will stand the test of time.

Roberto Palomba
Roberto Palomba

Located on Jumeirah Road, the new Poltrona Frau showroom was curated by Giulio Cappellini. Its stunning two-storey form features precious materials such as stone and metal which reflect the shades of the local landscape, and it brings together Cappellini’s avant-garde products, Poltrona Frau’s excellent craftsmanship and Cassina’s contemporary and quality design.

Amidst the sleek, iconic furnishings, Palomba joined Cassina’s Art Director Patricia Urquiola and Roberto Palomba for Poltrona Frau.

Guests found themselves admiring and inquiring about Palomba’s Let It Be sofa, named after the classic Beatles tune. Like the showroom, it’s free of formal constraints and casually ignores the demands of convention to favour freedom of movement – a concept as ancient as it is contemporary.

The collaboration with Poltrona Frau highlights the designer’s commitment to Italian design history by embracing the time-honoured Italian concept of the Roman triclinium, which allowed for all of life’s moments to unfold as users reclined, dined, debated, discussed and daydreamed.

Palomba’s modern iteration takes the concept even further: shelves and storage units can be added according to the needs and whims of its users to create an even more encompassing refuge. The structure and the soft down cushions appear to be suspended on saddle leather straps. The foot, unexpectedly set back from the corner, enhances the sensation that the seats are floating in space.

Despite the demand for his attention Palomba graciously and generously spent some time with id, answering our questions about what it takes to be a global design leader.

What is your personal design philosophy?

Our design philosophy has evolved over the years. Creating well-being is the base of our creative philosophy, because by creating wellness everyone feels better. Respect for others and for ourselves has shaped us since childhood. If people learn to respect others maybe the world would be better. Respect is the father of peace.

How can we see this in your new sofa for Poltrona Frau?

All the products we’ve created for Poltrona Frau have arisen from a common matrix: the idea of sharing; products made to be shared with other people. Being with others means not to be alone, to exchange views and ideas, to exclude the sadness of loneliness.

What drew you to this project?

Our curious and sociable nature – and then the boredom of being alone.

What were the challenges? 

It was not a challenge, it was a true revolution. It’s a way of living with the sofa in an informal, friendly, shared and contemporary young way.

How has working with them allowed your creativity to evolve? 

Our collaboration was absolutely magical, something like a big exchange: you bring your creativity and they give back an idea of quality.

Why is the new boutique in Dubai so important? 

Dubai is a dreamland where everything is possible and Poltrona Frau is a piece of the history of design; together they make music.

What has been your most important project? 

Our most important projects are our houses because we have a really tough customer to satisfy: Ourselves.

How do your objects improve the experience of daily life?

You buy design products on impulse, but if you want to know the true value of our products you have to live with them, because they are projects born from contemporary life.

What does luxury mean to you?

Luxury for us is something that you cannot buy. Maybe we should talk about quality – and quality is not limited to the price. It will always be so!

How do you balance economic viability and aesthetic ingenuity? 

In our experience, the economic viability helps design ingenuity to have more quality. The economic viability can create a high standard of quality.

Paradoxically, the economic system increases, improves and facilitates the aesthetic.

What does the future hold for Italian design? 

Absolutely [it will involve] the passage from the world of [the] mechanical to a digital world. The future of Italian design is in the hands of Italian creativity.

What’s the relationship between design and technology? 

Design is a humanistic discipline, technology is only a tool.

What three words best describe you? 

We just need one: positivity.

What’s next for you?

In our Salone del Mobile jungle, the Poltrona Frau project will be our Lion King.

We can’t wait to hear him roar.