From residential spiral staircases to large-scale installations, Fontanot is the Italian staircase designer and manufacturer that is making a name for itself in the contract sector with a newly launched Contract Division that provides unique, highly innovative stair solutions for architecture firms and general contractors.
Aiming to be the go-to company for custom made staircases, communications director, LAURA FONTANOT, gives a behind the scenes look at what it means to collaborate on a contract level.
Tell me about the launch of Fontanot’s contract division. How did you go from designing and manufacturing staircases for the home to collaborating with big name architects?
Our mission at Fontanot has always been, “You ask, we create,” meaning we take the design idea off the page and make it a reality. Choosing a staircase is not always so cut and dry, you’ve got different dimensions, tastes and requirements. Our spiral staircases for the home can be customized, but we’ve now taken that same mission and applied it to bigger scale projects, proposing solutions for office buildings, residential buildings and hotels, to name a few.
What makes Fontanot unique?
We are a family-run business that began over forty years ago making handcrafted staircases in Italy and that has evolved over time, going from an artisan business to an industrial one in the 80s with the standardization of stairs as a product. In the 90s, we explored made-to-measure and DIY products, but throughout all of this, we have always focused on a mix of functionality and aesthetics, maybe one of the only staircase companies to do so. With Fontanot Contract, we also realize that every client is unique and we cater to that uniqueness, proposing ideas and solutions that fit each individual project.
Which projects are you most proud of so far?
We are proud to say that Fontanot’s stairs can be found in several important up and coming buildings here in Milan. We were chosen to provide the staircase for the lobby of Bosco Verticale, which if you remember was awarded the most beautiful skyscraper in the world in 2014. In Bosco Verticale you’ll find a Fascia Special model, with lateral structures in stainless steel and a polished finish.
The railing is composed of extra clear glass panels, with a stainless steel handrail on the internal side of the panels and stone treads, supplied by the client. Bosco Verticale is part of many new structures appearing around the city that are being hailed for their aesthetics and sustainable features and we’re thrilled to be a part of it. We also recently furnished the staircase for Isozaki Tower, set to be the tallest building in Italy, in collaboration with Japanese Architect, Arata Isozaki. Even more recently in 2015, we also collaborated with architect Michele De Lucchi to add the whole staircase of the main building complex for the UniCredit Pavilion in Porta Nuova, a new up and coming area of Milan.
What can we expect from Fontanot on an International level?
Global expansion is our vision. We’ve just entered a collaborative partnership with Whitebox Studios, an architectural firm located in NY. We will combine our expertise in staircase design with their ample background in architecture to expand ourselves as the go-to for contract stairs in the States. We’re looking forward to bringing an Italian brand, which stands for innovative design and high quality, to America.
What are some of the challenges you’ll face as an Italian stair designer and manufacturer in the US?
Working in the contract sector, we’re going to have to adapt to an American market, which presents a whole new set of issues. We’ll be faced with different building regulations, installation techniques, safety regulations and classification of materials, not to mention cultural and language issues. It’s an exciting challenge, however, and is going to be a huge step and a way for us to leave our imprint on the foreign market.
Heather Di Maio is digital communication officer for Fontanot based in Milan, Italy
DISCOVER: Fontanot Contract
Potting Shed Creations is dedicated to celebrating the ‘art of gardening and the art of design.’ Based in Troy, Idaho, Potting Shed Creations offers a fresh approach to gardening in the modern world with products that use eco-friendly ingredients, minimal packaging and contain as much natural materials as possible.
Here’s a few or our favorites…
← bamboo grow pot – Beautiful and simple to use. Sustainable bamboo hand-crafted by skilled artisans. You can select herb, flower or tree grow pots. The lacquered lid inverts to become a saucer.
DISCOVER: Potting Shed Creations
The annual fair is a commercial and educational platform featuring expertly selected works from galleries around the world. Avid patrons as well as those new to design were presented with the best in 20th-century and contemporary collectable design.
Dedicated to exploring the significance of design across creative disciplines and everyday life, Collective Design highlights both the design process and the diversity of today’s material culture, originating a robust series of education programs and conversations to foster dialogue, encourage the exchange of ideas and build a growing audience for collectible design.
L. Skylight Clarkson Sq exterior signage R. VIP opening reception / Photos: Harold Abrams
Architect and interior designer, STEVEN LEARNER is the Founder and Creative Director of Collective Design…
brandnewdaydesigns: What’s your goal for Collective Design?
Steven Learner: We started out in 2013 with twenty-three exhibitors. We’ve grown and now have over thirty exhibitors from around the world. We have Oslo, Paris, Mexico City, Cologne, New York, Madrid, Milan and its all vintage and contemporary design geared primarily to the architecture and design community. I’ve worked hard to make this event accessible. It’s good for someone who is a collector or curator, but it’s also geared for anyone who has an interest in design or may be new to design.
L. ADN Galeria / Photo: Clemens Kois R. Canada chair, 1965. Designed by Osvaldo Borsani for Tecno, Italy. Rosewood panels, vintage Italian upholstery fabric. / Courtesy: Donzella
bndd: Tell me about that ‘spark’ when people realize, “Wait a minute, design has a big impact on my life”…
SL: If you think about New York, we’re surrounded by great design and we take it for granted. One example is the New York City subway map was designed by Massimo Vignelli. People don’t recognize that this tool — used everyday — was designed by one of the greatest graphic designers in the world. So [at Collective Design] we’re trying to open your eyes and show you all the things that are available in our homes such as a rug, chair, a table — which goes back to the Bauhaus Movement — all of those objects can be beautifully designed. We have emerging designers as well has established galleries at higher price points. There really is something for everyone in every style. From art deco to the latest in pop design to Scandinavian design from the turn of the century.
L. Mini Beasts in furs with bronze feet and carved ebony horns. Designed and made by the Haas Brothers, Los Angeles, CA, 2014. / Photo: Joe Kramm / Courtesy: R & Company. R. kinder MODERN / Photo: Scott Rudd
bndd: What do emerging designers bring to the scene?
SL: I think there’s a very interesting overlap with emerging design right now because the young designers are in a place where they can choose to work with conventional methods and techniques [plus] they can work with new technology. There are designers designing things within computer software then making a prototype by hand. It’s not a linear process as you would imagine. It’s not someone making everything by hand or someone doing everything by computer. Artists are doing things in a different way. Designer Wendell Castle has designs at Friedman Benda Gallery. He started out working with a chainsaw. Now he’s working with 3D printing to actually model the spaces within a piece of wood to make a piece of furniture. It really is an evolution. Wendell is 84 years old and he’s still working with the latest in technology.
L. Nicholas Kilner / Photo: Clemens Kois R. Sculptural forms in bronze. Designed and made by Rogan Gregory, USA, 2014. / Courtesy: R & Company.
bndd: So new technology is embraced within the design world?
SL: Design is about being current. Even if there’s something vintage here, there’s always a sense of modernity. There’s always a sense of what’s happening now because that’s how people live.
DISCOVER: Collective Design