The Prolific, Genre-Defying Output of Luca Nichetto
Growing up on the Italian island of Murano, Luca Nichetto was constantly around people who made things. The grandson of a master glassblower who exposed him to the handmade craft at a young age, and the son of a mother who embellished glassworks as they came out of the kilns, he became fascinated with the act of turning conceptual drawings into three-dimensional forms. After studying industrial design at the Università Iuav di Venezia and interning for the Venetian lighting company Foscarini—which hired him as a freelancer to research new materials and products in the early aughts—Nichetto founded Nichetto Studio, in 2006, to focus on industrial design and consulting. Today, it has offices in Venice and Stockholm. His firm has worked with numerous international brands including Hermès, Cassina, Hem, and the furniture start-up ZaoZuo.
The forthcoming book Nichetto Studio: Projects, Collaborations, and Conversations in Design (Phaidon), out next month, charts the evolution of Nichetto’s practice. Co-authors Max Fraser and Francesca Picchi present more than 100 examples of the firm’s work in chronological order, beginning with Nichetto’s first project, the best-selling Millebolle vase (2000) for the Italian glassware brand Salviati, and spotlight 10 of them that mark pivotal moments in his career to date. The authors contextualize these works, which range from a limited-edition piano for Steinway & Sons to a series of home-fragrance holders for the porcelain brand Ginori 1735, with first-person narratives by Nichetto as well as interviews they conduct with each project’s key collaborator, who describes the experience of working with Nichetto without him in the room. Comparing the statements—two takes on the same project—reveals much about Nichetto’s intuition-led process.
One of the most striking qualities of the studio’s oeuvre is its multidisciplinary and global nature: It spans architecture, art direction, and interior design, as well as concepts for furniture, glassware, lighting, textiles, tabletop accessories, and more, for clients around the world. The book suggests that, in addition to Nichetto’s natural curiosity and happy-go-lucky demeanor, his firm’s wide-ranging work stems from other factors, too. In one of four in-depth interviews with Fraser, Nichetto explains that he’s part of a generation of designers who came up behind a long lineage of heavy hitters in Italian design—“The old masters such as [Achille] Castiglioni, [Vico] Magistretti, and [Ettore] Sottsass; the ‘new masters’ such as [Antonio] Citterio, [Piero] Lissoni, and [Rodolfo] Dordoni […] and the generation just below them, such as [Fabio] Novembre, [Carlo] Colombo and [Roberto] Palomba”—and felt that he needed to expand his reach into other fields, and beyond Italy. Japanese architect and designer Oki Sato, who founded the studio Nendo and worked with Nichetto on a small line of products in 2013, offers another reason in his interview with Fraser: the rise of online design publications highlighting young, emerging designers. “We also share the flexible nature of thinking lightly, actively adopting new technology, enjoying dialogue with clients and collaboration with other creators,” Sato says of Nichetto, “and embracing the flow of social change rather than resisting it.”
That sensibility has led Nichetto to multiple innovations. Take the watermelon-shaped Plass pendant lamp (2011) for Foscarini, the first in the field of domestic lighting to experiment with polycarbonate roto-molding; or the Next Stop sofa (2018) for the Spanish brand Sancal, for which Nichetto joined forces with textile designer Marie-Louise Rosholm to create an upholstery that is formed fully on the loom, eliminating the need for additional stitching, cutting, or finishing. Other projects also keep waste reduction top of mind, such as the Nuance chair and ottoman (2009) for the Italian furniture line Casamania, made with fabric offcuts that would normally be tossed in the trash, and the recyclable Phoenix chair (2016) for the Swedish brand Offecct, which consist of modular parts that, if damaged, can be replaced, ensuring a longer life cycle.
Taken together, the studio’s work, Nichetto suggests, is a better reflection of his goals than any single feat. “The word designer I find too prescriptive,” he says. “In Italian we have the word progettista, but there isn’t an equivalent in English. It describes a person who is working on many projects for people; that could be dresses, objects, food, environments, whatever. […] If I was too much part of a defined community, I would need to play by some rules, but I don’t like rules,” he continues. “Of course, I need to respect some of them, but I don’t like it when people put a stamp on me.”