Hoping for a healthier lifestyle, artist Laura Baldassari brought home a step machine, which was immediately hidden in the laundry room and used as a clothes rack instead. Fast-forward a few months, and the (ugly and unloved) step has inspired a collection that cleverly elevates humble gym equipment to design star.
Designed by Atelier Biagetti - comprising Baldassari and her life/work partner, designer Alberto Biagetti - the Body Building collection is a playful take on familiar gym shapes; part aesthetic entertainment, part formal exercise. Biagetti and Baldassari's collaboration is an ongoing dialogue: the pair throw challenges at each other throughout the creative process, resulting in an eclectic mix of colours and materials.
The collection is a typical Atelier Biagetti provocation: elevating the apparently mundane through the use of precious materials and exquisite craftsmanship and ironic execution. The studio's 2013 'Vincent' chairs, designed to mimic a traditional wicker chair partly destroyed by a cat's claws, are a perfect example of how the pair recast design's supporting players in a starring role. 'Our domestic objects are designed to become protagonists on a stage,' Baldassari says.
With the Body Building collection, the concept is turned over and taken to the next level, creating a humourous, luxurious interpretation of an archetypal gym. The inspiration is more traditional apparatus such as wall bars, vaulting horses, weights and hanging rings. Their vintage look is enriched with precious and unexpected materials - silver calfskin is mixed with bright blue horse hair, navy fur sits next to neoprene, pink crystal is set beside steel.
Atelier Biagetti's work is partly defined by its collaborations with curators and local artisans. The artisans ensure the highest levels of craftsmanship, although they are mostly used to much more traditional Italian design.
The curators Biagetti and Baldassari work with (usually borrowed from the art world), on the other hand, give them new stimuli and allow them to be innovative with each collection. For Body Building, design guru Maria Cristina Didero took the helm and worked with the couple to develop the initial concept. 'Biagetti and Baldassari managed to adapt [the fitness universe] to the domestic realm, developing an anti-gym idea with sophistication and elegance,' says Didero.
The Body Building collection is a witty nod to society's obsession with the body beautiful. 'I think it's interesting to talk about sport right now, in a time when the body seems to be increasingly important,' says Biagetti.
For the full, unabridged version of this article, turn to our May 2015 issue, W* 194 - out now