Designs that don't shout but go straight to the point

Yang Di
Gabriele Salvatori is chief executive officer and creative director of Salvatori, an award-winning Italian design company specializing in natural stone.
Yang Di

Who is he?

Gabriele Salvatori is chief executive officer and creative director of Salvatori, an award-winning Italian design company specializing in natural stone. Salvatori is a family-run business, founded in 1946 by his grandfather, Guido Salvatori. As a small boy, he was immersed in the business and for many years he witnessed the process of developing designer products in natural stone. Salvatori used to talk to everyone involved in the process, from architects to the men working in the yard and on the machines, and he learned how different skills and viewpoints came together to create a wealth of incredible ideas. He enjoys exploring all the different ways his company can address market needs. That might be to satisfy an existing demand or to be ahead of the curve and develop innovative products that wow people and tap into needs they perhaps didn't even know they had. Salvatori simply loves surprising and delighting clients and collaborators by coming up with innovative and ingenious solutions. That's why he says he is truly fortunate. What he does is not just a job or work but a hobby that makes him happy every single day.

Designs that don't shout but go straight to the point
Veronica Gaido / Ti Gong

Gabriele Salvatori

Please share with us some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of.

Over the years, I've been involved in numerous design projects in the residential, hospitality, corporate and educational sectors. ETH Zürich is a polytechnic institute that has shaped generations of Nobel Prize winners, including Albert Einstein. In 2007, I had the great pleasure of working with the head of ETH's architecture faculty and Dietmar Eberle of Baumschlager Eberle Architects on one of the most important buildings on the institute's campus. The result is an incredible structure in travertine that by day creates extraordinary interplays of light and shadow. Enormous vertical slabs soar up story after story and appear to all be the same height. But here, we played with a principle of perspective, because in reality the slabs on the lowest floor are around 4.6 meters long while those on the highest floor are 5 meters. It's really something of an engineering and architectural masterpiece and testament to meticulous attention to detail. Even though every slab weighs around 1 ton, the visual effect is incredibly light.

Designs that don't shout but go straight to the point
Courtesy of Salvatori / Ti Gong

ETH Zürich

Are you currently involved with any project?

In central London, we have an extremely interesting project with 50 luxury apartments in the last parcel of land in the Marylebone area. I feel a particular affection for it, as I've been personally involved since the beginning and watched it take shape. Other projects include a villa in Berlin with David Chipperfield Architects, a project in Pompano Beach, Florida, with Piero Lissoni and the Four Seasons Hotel in New York with Yabu Pushelberg. Let's just say there's never a dull moment.

What's your design style?

If I had to describe my style in three words, I would say understated, elegant and timeless. I love pared-back designs – designs that don't shout but go straight to the point. As nature demonstrates, there is an intrinsic beauty in things, almost in a mathematical way. We see it in the way so many things come back to the Fibonacci sequence, which we find in the perfect geometry of a snail shell and in snowflakes. Everything has its own harmony and I look for this harmony, paying particular attention to proportions and the synergy between elements. In music, you need to respect chords and timings to create a pleasurable effect, and it's the same in design where the design "music" happens with the right connections and pauses. It's kind of fundamental in aesthetics.

Where are you most creative?

I'm most creative when I can combine elegance and simplicity, as this is in keeping with my own aesthetic sensibility and style. A successful design or project must, of course, be beautiful to look at and transmit a sense of aesthetic pleasure to anyone who sees it. But that's not quite enough. It also needs to evoke affection or genuine pleasure. It requires a spark of genius or brilliance or something out of the ordinary that resonates with whomever sees it.

What does your home mean to you?

Home is the place you share with your loved ones. It's a kind of cocoon where you spend time with friends and your nearest and dearest, but it's also where you are at one with yourself. For me, home is also closely tied to music. I play a number of instruments, including the piano, guitar and drums, and one of my great pleasures is taking time out to enjoy my hobby – sometimes alone and sometimes with others. This small ritual is an important element of my home life. I could also joke that my car is an extension of my home, as I spend so much time in it going from one place to another that it also represents a kind of constant in my life.

What do you collect?

Dreams. I've got entire collection of them.

What will be the next big design trend?

In my opinion, the market is moving toward more honest, authentic design. A kind of no-frills approach where the focus is on what is really important. We're coming into an age of useful objects, of items that we really feel we need. That need may be objective, pragmatic or soothing to the soul, but we are searching for items that comfort and inspire us.

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