She lives in Milan where she runs Studio Urquiola, a firm focused on exhibitions, art direction, and architecture, but especially for its collaborations with well-known design companies like Alessi, Coalesse, Cassina (where she is the company’s art director), Georg Jensen, and Agape.
And beyond design brands, Urquiola has partnered with Louis Vuitton, and most recently, designed some of the key features of a new venue on the Celebrity Cruises’ luxury ship Celebrity Edge, which debuts next year. Her signature furniture is also used throughout the space, called Eden.
She’s also won a few small awards, too, like A&W Designer of the Year in 2012, the Gold Medal of fine arts by the Spanish government, and “Designer of the Decade” for the German magazines Home and Häuser, and “Designer of the Year” for Wallpaper and Elle Decor International, NBD.
We jumped at the chance to talk with Urquiola about her inspiration, collabs, and design aesthetics.
Your color choices on projects and designs are so incredible and special. Where does your inspiration come from for colors and design? (We’re huge fans especially of CC-Tapis and Glas Italia (above) collections.)
I don’t believe in trends, I care more about a combination of sensations…the combination of different colors, shapes, and materials unique for each project. The use of color and pattern in my projects is unconventional. For me, color is a great tool, but I think its use depends on the typology of the project. If in its soul, there is color, then the project will be pure color at the end. If the key is the design or the material, then the project can also become colorless.
Describe your design aesthetic in five words (if possible!).
Curious, emphatic, sustainable, timeless (I hope), and innovative.
Your collaborations are so immersive of each companies style with yours—do you seek them out, or do they seek you out?
The concept of empathy is very important to me. For each client, I like to interpret the DNA and their needs. My handwriting is respecting each brand’s identity, and to make it evolve. The clients know that and appreciate a lot. The work of every creative professional begins with seeking the logic that underlies the project at hand. I try to create an empathy with the brand, the products, and who will be using them. The dialogue with my client is fundamental for me.
You have some of the most interesting and beloved design projects—can you single out a few that really mean a lot to you?
I can’t even choose, they are all my babies, and I love them all the same way, even the less lucky.
Tell us about your work with Celebrity Cruises. The space you worked on measures 11,800 square feet. What inspired your design for this ambitious project?
Eden represents the end of a journey, and it’s a journey itself through an earthy experience. It’s is unique because this experience changes along the paths the guests can find within the venue and according to the time: morning, afternoon, and evening.
The most exciting thing was the challenge to reproduce a land project in a ship. It is the first time for me approaching this kind of project, and like every new project, I discovered a new dimension, and I learned a lot! The truth is that I’m attracted to every possible attainment because experimenting also means making mistakes and trying again.