Maximalism is design future after decades of Minimalism

Francesco Tarentini is a founding partner and creative director of Area-17 Architecture & Interiors. 
Courtesy of Francesco Tarentini / Ti Gong

Francesco Tarentini

Who is he?

Francesco Tarentini is a founding partner and creative director of Area-17 Architecture & Interiors. Originally from Forli, a small town close to Bologna in Italy, he studied and graduated at the University of Architecture of Florence. Together with some of his closest university friends they have been working in China since 2005 and have offices in Florence, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and in Ecuador .

Please share some of your works.

My main focus has been on interior design. We work a lot in retail field with mainly fashion brands but also in residential, workspaces, showrooms, food and beverage and hotel projects. I’ve worked with Daphne, Mark Fairwhale, Novo, Ellassay, Cocoon, Citic as well as international ones like Tiffany & Co, Panerai, Shanghai Tang, Prada and Peuterey.One recent project I am proud of is a showroom. It has been designed for a Monopy, a Chinese bathroom-ware brand. It’s contemporary Chinese style, and it perfectly express the client identity. The project won several prizes and has been published worldwide.

Are you currently involved with any project?

As a creative director, I am continuously involved in several projects. Now I am taking care of a villa project for a long time client of ours, a new luxury jewelry brand store, sportsware brand store and several more we need to keep confidential. We are working with Hema, Alibaba group, for a while, to define a new and innovative retail scenario . 

What’s your design style?

At the beginning of every creative process there’s a need which is generally expressed by our client. We do not do design for our own personal gratification. Being a professional designer means being able to successfully solve our client needs in terms of functions and mood.For sure, there is my personal touch in each project and I want to have fun and enjoy my work. I believe that design needs to carry meanings, feelings and the people experiencing it should be able to feel it too. I believe in contrast of materials, shapes, colors. I love to work with local cultural heritage and mix it with contemporary trends, I always love to have a small surprise hidden in my projects. I believe that luxury is in small details, quality of materials and proper solutions, rather than in exaggerations. All of these beliefs lead to an attitude towards design, not really a style.

Where are you most creative?

I am lucky enough to be in love with my work, therefore my creativity is not really affected by this or that kind of project. I love the retail design field, because retail always needs to renew itself, to experiment, to surprise, but also to serve precise functions and business scopes. I noticed that this retail experience its extremely helpful to approach any other kind of project, like residentials, workspaces, hospitality, food and beverage. It drives me to take great consideration of the person who will live those spaces. 

What does your home mean to you?

My home is the place where I can be close to my true self, where I can relax and spend time with the person I love and my friends.

What do you collect?

I buy and look for small or big decorations for my home, here in Shanghai or back in Italy. I love to purchase things when I travel, that reminds me of this or that experience, person or situation. And I love to be surrounded in my home by things that carry a story. In this way I can feel that I am really home.

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?

The huge river park in Pudong is an impressive addition to the city, and really puts Shanghai on the same level of most advanced international cities in terms of green areas. For sure the tree-lined downtown it’s always one of the favorite areas, as it carries that sense of history, and also because its roads with trees are extremely pleasant to pass by. Hongkou District is also an interesting area, still somehow original. It is a pleasure and a continuous surprise to walk around.

What will be the next big design trend?

Maximalism is definitely the new trend, after several decades of Minimalism, in its various and different ways. It is good to see people want to be a bit less severe with themselves, enjoy more colors, patterns, shapes, unexpected materials combinations and bolder contrasts. It seems “fun” is back and I am enjoying it. It’s also great to see how people are aware of the importance of design, not only in Shanghai, but all around in China. Everyone is willing to improve their way of life with some good design. I am sure Shanghai and all of China will just become more interesting and sophisticated under this point of view.

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