As a child, Daniele Mingardo whiled away hours at his father Ilario’s metal workshop in Monselice, near Padua. ‘I used to spend more time observing my father working metals than I did at school,’ he recalls. ‘I was fascinated by this world, the sounds of the workshop and seeing the finished pieces at the end of the day.’

Founded in 1970, Ilario’s factory became respected for its craftsmanship, collaborating with the likes of Carlo and Tobia Scarpa and contributing to projects such as the Museo del Novecento in Milan and Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari. Mingardo joined his father full time in the workshop as soon as he turned 18, developing his craft while also nurturing a growing interest in design, which he explored through specialised periodicals.

In 2013, when he was just 25, he combined both passions by launching his own company, Mingardo. He hired an art director, architect Aldo Parisotto, and began collaborating with designers to produce limited-edition furnishings and accessories that celebrate metal craft while establishing a sophisticated new aesthetic. He called the collection 'Designer/Faber', giving equal emphasis to design and fabrication. ‘It seemed to be a natural progression from the work I’ve always seen my father do,’ explains Mingardo.

His company caught our attention a little over a year ago, winning a Wallpaper* Design Award for an illuminated brass bike stand by designer Masanori Mori (W*203). The firm’s pure lines and exquisite craftsmanship made it the perfect partner for a Handmade project.

While brainstorming hotel staples ripe for a rethink – in line with this year’s hospitality theme – our team landed on the luggage trolley: every lobby has one, generally unnoticed and underdesigned. For the challenge of instilling it with new life, we teamed Mingardo with Treviso-based design duo Zanellato/Bortotto.

‘The design of the hotel trolley hasn’t changed in decades,’ notes Giorgia Zanellato (one half of the duo, alongside Daniele Bortotto), ‘which is part of what makes it an iconic item.’ She explains that she and Bortotto concentrated on reinterpreting the trolley’s classic elements to make it more contemporary and more appropriate for today’s luxury hotels.

The resulting ‘4Rooms’ luggage trolley (named after the movie Four Rooms, in honour of its Quentin Tarantino-directed hotel segment) is at once refined and functional, Zanellato and Bortotto’s clever design enhanced by Mingardo’s expert craftsmanship. It features brushed brass and laser-cut aluminium, with an asymmetric construction. There’s a brass base for luggage, enclosed by side guards fashioned from tubular brass. Each guard frames a central aluminium mesh, laser-cut with an intricate pattern, while a tubular rail allows for the elegant hanging of clothes and accessories.

Zanellato and Bortotto are known for referencing local iconography in their work. Recurring themes include the waterscapes of Venice (which they recreated for Moroso, in their 'La Serenissima' collection of seating and tables, and in a series of rugs for Rubelli) and several Italian buildings (featuring in their ongoing collaboration with mosaicist Andrea Besana). They also tapped into the visual vernacular for their Handmade project, looking at traditional Venetian shutters, the patterns of which Mingardo recreated in the guard panels.

Most of the work was carried out in Mingardo’s workshop, which the designers visited frequently to learn about the craftsman’s techniques. ‘We were instantly impressed by his workspace,’ says Bortotto. ‘Techniques and tools are traditional; his added bonus is to put them in conversation with the world of contemporary design, ennobling materials such as iron through unusual shapes and interpretations.’

Mingardo, meanwhile, was impressed by the designers’ ‘curious and respectful’ attitude. Both parties found common ground in their creative processes. ‘Mingardo’s approach is very similar to ours,’ says Zanellato. ‘His work looks at traditional and often lost methods and techniques and adapts them for a wider public.’

The collaboration’s outcome offered a smart and sophisticated solution for our Hotel Wallpaper* lobby – part of our Handmade exhibition in Milan earlier this year – and a fruitful meeting of creative minds. The ‘4Rooms’ luggage trolley’s subtle but impactful revolution is aptly summed up by Zanellato: ‘It’s slightly pompous, as it’s linked to the old idea of luxurious hotels. It’s a bit exotic, with its textures and rounded shapes. And it’s unpredictable, thanks to its unusual symmetry that’s twisted and refashioned into an intentional disequilibrium.’

As originally featured in the August 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*209)

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