From Fashion Boutiques to Wallpaper, Storage Milano Advances the Design Conversation

Damon Johnstun, design journalist in Portland, will cover the 60th edition of Mobile fair, the prestigious furniture and design fair, from June 7 to 12 at Fiera Milano Rho in Milan, Italy. Trends and products that debuted at Milan Design Week last year are making their way into showrooms. Here’s a designer spotlight:

On the recommendation of a friend during Milan Design Week 2019, I attended an event of the Swiss manufacturer Geberit, which manufactures suspended sanitary ware. I was struck by the inventive display. The tubes created an enclosure that could easily have been a forgettable setup. Competing with the best design in the world, this humble use of materials not only heightened the experience, but was memorable years after seeing it.

The creators of the exhibition are the founders of the architecture, interior design and product company Storage Milano. Since 2002, the firm has earned an impressive reputation designing boutiques for major luxury fashion brands such as Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, Tod’s and Alberta Ferretti as well as corporate and residential spaces.

The founders of Storage Milano, Barbara Ghidoni, Marco Donati and Michele Pasini, use their knowledge and sophistication to mix colors and natural materials in unexpected ways. They draw inspiration from designers Gio Ponti, Jean Prouve and others, and feature modernized, eye-catching spaces.

Storage Milano designed the Antonioli shed in Ibiza.Milan Storage

Sometimes they leave the surrounding environment almost raw, while creating jewel box-like structures in the space, as seen in the Bally showroom in Milan and the Antonioli hangar in Ibiza. Other times, every inch of a project is lavished with fine materials, like at the Spazio Pritelli boutique in Vicenza, where hundreds of square feet of diamond-matched marble slabs create a kaleidoscopic wonderland.

The sophisticated use of curves with angles recalls the nautical themes at the entrance to Dsquared2 in Milan and the Giuseppe Zanotti boutique in Hong Kong. Ghidoni, Donati and Pasini demonstrate the mastery of an almost brutal minimalism in the boutiques of Neil Barrett, Aquasalata and Golran.

During Milan Design Week 2021, I stopped by the Storage Milano office near Piazza Venezia, where I entered via a quiet street and was buzzed into the building. I was greeted in the yard by Donati, one of the partners.

Donati described Storage Milano’s strategy to reinterpret a brand’s DNA. If customers ask for something whimsical based on the 1940s-1950s, they make it. “We do it our way, but we respect the customer,” he says. One project was inspired by the Novecento Italiano art movement of the 1920s.

Storage Milano designed the Dolce & Gabbana boutique.

Storage Milano designed the Dolce & Gabbana boutique.Milan Storage

On a new project, Donati sees her role in the theoretical and architectural arena as Ghidoni excels in detail and decoration – she has taken over the management of the Dolce & Gabbana boutique – while Pasini bridges the two realms.

Donati considers shape, form and architecture to select materials for each project. “If I see something that doesn’t have a nice shape, regardless of the material, I won’t like it,” he said.

Although the company is known for its extensive use of brass, Donati personally leans towards natural wood and stone. He currently favors colors in a natural or neutral palette such as light brown as well as blacks and grays. It uses bright colors only as accents.

He estimates that 50% of the company’s work is in retail, 30% in offices and restaurants and 20% in residential.

Storage Milano designed the Bulgari store.

Storage Milano designed the Bulgari store.Milan Storage

They are currently working on the design of several private homes, hotels, a restaurant in Mykonos and one in Milan, a flagship fashion store and energy efficient offices for Bally in Switzerland. They are also close to completing the design of the headquarters of Italian eyewear conglomerate Luxottica in Milan’s Tortona district.

Acting as “loan architects for interior design projects”, they will also renovate more than 20,000 square feet for the headquarters of online marketplace Archiproducts in Bari, Italy.

In addition to architecture and interior design, they have several industrial design projects for tiles, lamps, armchairs, faucets and wallpaper.

“Listening to the customer is one of the key secrets to our success. If we think something is wrong, we start a discussion and the discussion always improves the project,” Donati said. Good design “is a balance between function and form”.

—Damon Johnstun


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• Sleek and Understated Office Chairs Come Home: An Interview with Jeannette Altherr

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