Objects of Common Interest on a new chapter of their practice, and kindness in design

We profile designers and Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023 judges, Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis of Objects of Common Interest

Works by Objects of Common Interest
'Chronos' by Objects of Common Interest at Design Miami 2022, curated by Mr Lawrence
(Image credit: Courtesy Objects of Common Interest)

A lot has happened in the year since we last caught up with Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis of Objects of Common Interest, our Designers of the Year 2022. In 2022, the pair opened an 800 sq m manufacturing studio in their native Greece, the result of Romanian-born craftsman Ovidiu Colea donating the content of his Long Island City manufacturing facility to the pair, as he retired from the business.

Objects of Common Interest

Leonidas Trampoukis and Eleni Petaloti, of Objects of Common Interest, photographed at the Long Island City workshop of craftsman Ovidiu Colea

(Image credit: Tim Schutsky)

Petaloti, Trampoukis and Colea had been collaborating for a few years; in 2017, the three of them created a collection of tableware titled ‘Relativity of Color’. Having worked between New York and Athens since launching Objects of Common Interest in 2015, Petaloti and Trampoukis had been flirting with the idea of opening something in Athens for a while. ‘From the start, we had wanted to activate a relationship with Greek makers, to bring something back to our country,’ says Petaloti. ‘So we took Colea’s workshop and transported it to the Piraeus, an area of Athens that historically hosted a lot of factories. Finally, for the first time, we will be able to control our own production, which will give us all the freedom in the world for experimentation: it’s like a child with a full Play-Doh set. Now we can do anything.’

The first project produced by the Athens studio was ‘Chronos’, an exhibition curated by Milanese design consultancy Mr Lawrence at Design Miami 2022. Inspired by the concept of time, it featured a landscape that included three new lighting designs in resin, their ‘Polymorph Cast Aluminum’ lounge chair, and two ‘Metamorphic Rocks’, a ‘resting element’ on wheels resembling the organic forms of a rock. Completing the scene were two ‘Tube’ lights, a 2019 design that has since been incorporated into several of their projects. The calm ambience of the set was a response to what Petaloti calls ‘art fair madness’, as the duo created a ‘pocket where visitors could catch their breath and feel they were transported somewhere else’.

2023 is shaping up to be a busy, exciting year for the practice: from 21 January 2023, they are taking over Bergamo’s Piazza della Libertà, as the winners of an international competition for the flagship installation of the Italian Capital of Culture 2023, curated by Federica Sala. ‘It’s the most significant project we have worked on so far because of its scale and public presence,’ says Petaloti. The project is close to the pair’s beginnings as architects, and will feature an intervention on the imposing fascist-era Casa della Libertà, using a serpentine light installation to connect the public to the building, while the square will feature public seating made using marble offcuts. ‘The light activates the façade, it’s like a parasitic sculpture that engages every part of it with its surroundings,’ adds Petaloti. ‘Light is a celebration, a medium that brings people together in a very fundamental way.’

Light is a recurring theme in the work of Objects of Common Interest: in particular, the ‘Tube’ lights have lent themselves to several interpretations of scale and function. Created in three shapes, the lamps are, as Petaloti describes them, ‘like Lego, a set of modules that gives you infinite possibilities’. Different interpretations of the lamps featured in the designers’ takeover of the Noguchi Museum in 2021. ‘And now, with these three components, we create this enormous public installation: they give us maximum ability to make new projects starting from the same work.’

Another signature element of their oeuvre is the use of iridescent surfaces. An opal resin will be the focus of an exhibition of new work, made in the Piraeus workshop and presented at Nilufar Gallery during Milan Design Week 2023. ‘We like working with iridescent surfaces because they change depending on the light conditions, the weather, how fast the viewer moves in front of it: you have an ongoing dialogue with the pieces,’ she says. ‘They’re almost living creatures.’

Objects of Common Interest on judging the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023

Tasked with judging this year’s shortlists, they immediately singled out the Tigín Tiny Homes by Common Knowledge, from the Life-Enhancer of the Year contenders: ‘We appreciate the connection with the outdoors and high quality of the interior for such a mobile house,’ they say. 

They also feel strongly about passing the Designer of the Year baton to India Mahdavi: ‘We highly respect that she can go from super elaborate, super colourful, super intense environments to completely white,’ says Petaloti. ‘To jump from a multicolour world to monochrome and still be able to transmit your work and keep your identity through these completely different expressions is an example of her genius. But she is also a very generous and very kind person, and supportive of young designers. And that is very significant to us: it’s important to highlight this in the design world. Kindness is a plus.’

objectsofcommoninterest.com (opens in new tab)

The winners of the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2023 are revealed in the February 2023 issue, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today (opens in new tab)

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.