British designer Bethan Laura Wood and Milanese gallery Nilufar present Ornate, a collection of furniture (opens in new tab) inspired by the design of the boudoir. Featuring a bedhead, lighting (opens in new tab), cabinets, a desk and mirrors, the collection draws from diverse inspirations and features a variety of materials and techniques. The Ornate collection also marks Wood’s ten years of collaboration with Nilufar and its founder, Nina Yashar. Shown in the Via della Spiga gallery during September’s Salone del Mobile (opens in new tab), the collection was presented next to pieces from Wood’s previous collections.
Bethan Laura Wood and Nilufar present Ornate
The new collection exemplifies the richness of Wood’s eclectic, colourful visual universe. Pieces in glass, wood veneer and CNC-milled aluminium are evidence of her passion for craft techniques old and new, and her ability to distil cultural references and inspirations from past aesthetic movements as well as from her travels.
‘Ornate represents the perfect dialogue and the best possible interpretation of the various cultures that inspired Bethan,’ obverves Yashar, ‘and a very contemporary point of view that manages to push risky boundaries to extremes, while maintaining total harmony.’
At the centre of the collection is the boudoir, a traditional, feminine space that Wood reinterprets with a contemporary lens. The designer drew from her most recent travels to Japan (right before international travel shut down in early 2020), but also from her interest in art nouveau, developed through a collaboration with Perrier-Jouët; the British Aesthetic Movement; and jewellery.
‘I've always been interested in taking jewellery and the smaller-scale objects that have normally been associated with women, and reimagining them off the body, taking over larger architectural spaces,’ she says. ‘For a long time, these ephemeral items were incredibly important to women, as one of the few things that they could have ownership over, a way to express themselves when they weren't allowed to own property.’
The Ornate collection is a visual feast. The wiggly curves of the ‘Ornate’ bedhead and sconces, partly inspired by Alexander Calder’s bedhead design for Peggy Guggenheim, are created in collaboration with Neal Feay in CNC-milled and anodised aluminium. The ‘Meisen’ cabinets and desk, inspired by Japanese kimonos and colourful bugs, explore the process of wood veneer with specialist Alpi.
A continuation of Wood’s ongoing collaboration with Pyrex glass specialist Pietro Viero (with whom she made her Nilufar debut in 2011, with the ‘Totem’ lights), the ‘Bon Bon’ lighting series includes a chandelier and sconces that push the boundaries of Pyrex manufacturing, mixing milky and transparent glass in candy palettes. And finally, the ‘Aperitivo’ mirrors build on the designer’s ‘Tutti-Frutti – Melon’ mirror, created with specialist Barbini, and explore Wood’s interest in connecting contemporary aesthetics with traditional craftsmanship.
Nilufar’s ten years of collaboration with Bethan Laura Wood
The exhibition also showcases older pieces from Wood’s decade-long collaboration with Nilufar, offering an overview of her creative evolution. ‘The first time I met [Bethan], she was presenting her graduation project in Lambrate during Milan Design Week,’ recalls Yashar. ‘What surprised me most was the technique she used: it was basically laminated marquetry, and the decorative motif had so many details, obsessive details, it really struck me. I just thought it was so interesting that she applied such a complex and innovative technique to a matter that is not considered very noble.’
Wood’s work has since expanded into furniture and objects made from a variety of materials and techniques. ‘Bethan has been able to respond amazingly to one of the hardest challenges for a creative: she renewed her techniques, the processes, the matters she used and the narrative she applied to each project,’ continues the gallerist.
For Wood, working with Nilufar has been an opportunity to take her work into new directions, and has formed an important part of her design education. ‘Nina has such an amazing eye and knowledge, in particular of Italian design,’ says Wood. ‘Through her I have learned a lot about designers like Gio Ponti, and that interaction has really informed my practice and taught me a lot about form and scale, and pushed me to grow bigger in my work.’
‘Ornate’ by Bethan Laura Wood at Nilufar, until 27 November 2021
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Via della Spiga 32
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.
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