Cristina Celestino was touched by the charm of Milan as she walked down the tree-lined streets of the Città Studi on the lookout for a new home. The area surrounding the historical campus of the famous Polytecnico di Milano has many buildings dating from the 1930s, an era in which historicism and modernism were mixed to great effect, as she remembered well from her high school days. Distinctively ‘milanesità’, the Città Studi (city of studies) is now a buzzing and popular district for design and architecture studios. After graduating as an architect from the University of Venice (IUAV), Celestino worked for various architecture firms in Rome, Florence and Milan before dedicating her professional career to interior architecture and design. In 2009, when she decided to move to Milan, she started her hunt for a house. ‘Finding the right place to live and work became something of a research project,’ admits Cristina, ‘going back to my high school days when my art history teacher told me to study the interiors of the 930s. It was love at first sight with architecture.’
‘Walking down Città Studi looking for a new place, Cristina was touched by the charm of Milan: monumental houses from the 1930’s standing along wide, treelined streets.’
Samples and a photocatalogue of Plumage Ceramic from Celestino for Botteganove (2016). In the hallway the original flooring in Palladiana marble. Cristina Celestino Sipario Cabinet (2016) for Durame. On top: Cristina Celestino Piccolo Principe lamp for Doppia Firma, Miuccia vase series, a tribute to fashion capital Milan.
After weighing the pros and cons for quite a long while, she finally chose this house based on affection for the craftsmanship and the effort put into the design of the interior. ‘The building has a story that I admire and handle with respect. The typical Milanese apartment of the 1930s consisted of a number of smaller rooms. Of course I didn’t want to touch the structure, but I opened up the plan by removing doors. To enhance the light and quality in these rooms I applied larger and smaller mirrors in different shapes.’ The apartment presents a perfect setting for a collection of remarkable Italian vintage furniture, mixed with the products of her own design brand Attico that she founded in 2010, which is dedicated to small series production of lamps and furnishings. It doubles as her home and office, conveniently offering two separate entrance doors. Celestino prefers to have meetings and briefings around her dining table. ‘I try to achieve a comfortable balance between my private and professional lifestyle and also believe that the intimacy of it being my place actually enhances the experience of the things I make and present here.’
The brightness of the ‘sala da pranzo’ is doubled by a large floor-toceiling mirror wall. Surrounding the oval black table are vintage Medea chairs (1950) by Vittorio Nobili for Fratelli Tagliabue. On top: Cristina Celestino’s Deriva (2013) vase series for Attico. On the right the floor lamp Chiara (1974) by Mario Bellini for Flos and the Plumage Ceramic Panel designed by Cristina Celestino for Botteganove that was awarded the Elle Déco 2017 prize.
The ‘Sala da Pranzo’ or dining room is connected to a smaller sitting room. Next to that is a larger, more private sitting room. ‘Even though the large tiled chimney no longer functions, I still think its presence somehow emits a feeling of warmth when you sit there. As a prominent feature of the original interior, it’s a perfect centrepiece to arrange the Borsani sofa and easy chairs around, creating a more private lounge to relax with friends and family.’ Striving for harmony between the old and the new runs like a signature through Celestino’s design philosophy and products. Her apartment illustrates a great affection for Italian design classics from the 1960s and 1970s, most notably the furniture of Vittorio Nobili, Osvaldo Borsani and Joe Colombo. Icons like Borsani’s D70 Sofa and Nobili’s three-dimensional bent plywood Medea dining chairs mirror the heartfelt passion for detail and engineering excellence Celestino invests in her own Attico pieces, made in close collaboration with expert Italian craftsmen. They are characterized by a deep research of shapes and materials as well as a subtle play of fusing traditional shapes into contemporary design. To her great surprise, Celestino discovered an original Atelier Borsani wall wardrobe in the flat. It’s now part of her private bedroom and acts as a backdrop around her dressing table Ecstasy (2013). The products originate from different worlds and yet are in complete harmony. The juxtaposition invites new meanings.
When Attico pieces, including the remarkable table perfumers called Atomizers – were included in the Salone Satellite in Milan in 2012, her career was jumpstarted. As a platform for young designers, the Salone Satellite helped introduce Celestino’s work to a global audience. She was lucky to be invited to exhibit in A Spatial Surprise by Lina Kanafani, the mind and soul behind Mint in London, combining handcrafted products with innovative pieces by emerging new talents. ince then Attico designs have since been included in a number of exhibitions around the world. Celestino’s Atomizers (produced by Seletti) are part of the permanent collection of the Triennale Museum of Milan. An architect by training, Celestino followed her passion for crafts, materials and detailing, absorbing the knowledge and heritage acquired by the craftsmen she worked with to produce her objects. ‘My design always contains some poetry, that can be translated to different levels in a project.’ Her poetic metaphors are always elegant as if they belong to a fairy-tale. The Atomizer clearly derives its basic shape from a perfume bottle. The archetype reminds us of a delicate and graceful atmosphere, now successfully adapted to a new role as a table piece. cristinacelestino.com