Filippo Gabbiani and Andrea Destefanis founded Kokaistudios, an award-winning architecture and interior design firm, in Venice in 2000. Since 2002, they have been headquartered in Shanghai and have evolved into a multi-cultural organization of 60 people working on projects throughout Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Best Interior Designers had the opportunity to interview Andrea Destefanis to talk about his firm and his career in the interior design industry.
How did you get involved in the interior design Industry?
.Kokaistudios has a very broad range of expertise, from urban renewal to industrial design, “from spoon to the city”. Filippo and I are architects by training, but he comes from a family of designers of artistic glass in Venice and my father was a set designer, so we have in our background a sense for interior’s spatiality and materiality.
Our first important project in China was the renovation of a heritage building in Shanghai, Bund18, and we have been hired to take care both of exteriors and interiors. We have started with the public space and we ended up designing also three of the f&b venues. Thanks to the success of those projects we decide to continue.
How would you describe your work style? Do you have any kind of signatures that help to identify your projects?
We don’t really have a style, but more a way to approach the design. We always start from strong storytelling to develop the journey through the project as an experience; we often use traditional materials in a contemporary way assembling them with carefully studied details.
Being in love with our work is always the key to achieving better results. Are you in love with this job? What do you love most about being an interior designer?
What I love most is to visit the projects when they are open. Looking at people interacting with the spaces, when they enter a building, walk in a shop, climb a stair, or seat on a chair that I have designed makes me aware of the great responsibility that we have and, luckily very often, proud of my job.
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Keeping up to date on all the trends is essential for anyone who wants to conquer this market. In what ways do you keep current with new trends?
Magazines, both online and printed, can help to keep up, but traveling is essential; spending a night in a beautiful hotel, dining in the best new restaurant or just on a stall in the street, shopping in local markets and trendiest commercial spaces is still the best way to really understand new trends. The last two years have been very challenging for designers all over the world also for this reason.
Which major international events do you attend/follow to get the latest novelties?
The Salone del Mobile in Milan is the best event to get the latest trend. It’s not only about the new product’s collections exhibited in the main fair, but almost every corner of the city becomes for a week a display for design ideas and installations. You can also easily meet the best designers of the world, probably drinking a negroni at Bar Basso.
All artists need some inspiration to work, and interior designers are artists too. So, what or who really inspires you?
Inspiration can come from everywhere, particularly if you are trying to design an innovative project. Many times you’d find the brightest ideas hidden in very strange spaces. For example, I got the inspiration for the changing rooms of Assemble by Reel bringing my daughter to a skate park.
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Inspiration is something that pushes everyone to create unique things. What makes you see the world in a different way?
“Normal” people enjoy their journeys, shopping time, or dining experiences without doing their self too many questions. Designers instead always try to understand what trig certain behaviors or create relationship.
How important is a perfect chemistry between you and your clients to achieve the best results?
We always say that our projects are bespoke; the design has to fit the clients properly because they are going to use or manage it. So we always spend a good amount of time, even before drawing any line, to understand better the needs and to build together a common vision for the project.
Choosing the best pieces to compose a project can be the secret to getting the best overall result. Although it seems easy, this is a delicate task and needs full attention on time to execute. Do you have some tips for those who do not know well how to start a challenge like this?
As explained before we usually start from the bigger picture, from the main concept and storytelling. Having it very clear will help you to compose all the pieces in the right way.
Do you think working with teams in interior design is better or worse than working alone? Why?
We work better in a team because we believe that it’s important to exchange ideas to get the best result. For this reason, our studio is set up with a horizontal organizational structure to tap into the creativity and the imagination of every designer.
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Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
We have many exciting projects on our desktop in this period, from the f&B outlets of a new resort in Japan, a department store in Korea, to our first kindergarten in China. We can’t also wait to visit our latest rooftop project just open in Dubai. It’s called Aura, it’s a sky lounge surrounded by the world’s highest 360-degree infinity pool with incredible views of the city and of the Arabian Gulf.
What has been your greatest accomplishment as a designer? What goals do you have for the future?
Our greatest accomplishment as architects and designers is that through our projects we have helped Shanghai, the city where almost 20 years ago we have opened our studio, to become one of the most exciting and vibrating cities in the world.
What did you think about this exclusive interview with Kokaistudios?
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