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Art Design Architect Paola Navone Discuses Como Dempsey And Her Playful Sofa Designs for Baxter

Architect Paola Navone Discuses Como Dempsey And Her Playful Sofa Designs for Baxter

Paola Navone, pictured on the Baxter Chester Moon sofa
Paola Navone, pictured on the Baxter Chester Moon sofa
By Luo Jingmei
June 11, 2021
Paola Navone brings her offbeat designs and artisanal craftsmanship to her role as creative director of Italian furniture manufacturer Baxter

Memphis designer Alessandro Mendini must have sensed something quite unique in Paola Navone to call her up in Milan after reading her thesis. This was how the Italian architect, interior decorator and designer joined the eighties avant-garde group Alchimia, whose irreverent design style is defined by bold geometric forms and colours.

Some of that idiosyncrasy is still present in Navone’s aesthetic, combined with her love of natural materials and craft techniques gleaned from her travels, especially in Asia. In Singapore, this is evident in the interior she designed for Como Dempsey, a multifunctional retail, lifestyle and dining venue.

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Italian architect Paola Navone lounges on the Milano sofa, one of the sofa collections she designed for Baxter
Italian architect Paola Navone lounges on the Milano sofa, one of the sofa collections she designed for Baxter

Navone is also the creative director of Italian furniture manufacturer Baxter, founded in 1990 by Luigi Bestetti and his nephew Paolo Bestetti. It’s now available in Singapore exclusively at Space Furniture. When the Bestettis chanced upon a tannery using traditional techniques, they created the Alfred sofa using a unique Brianza-made leather considered too thick for making furniture.  

Related: 7 Beautiful Dining Tables We Love

Navone designed the eye-catching and unique Matera table for Baxter
Navone designed the eye-catching and unique Matera table for Baxter

Thus began the brand’s story of pushing the boundaries of leather craftsmanship, guided by Navone’s perceptive eye. Her Budapest sofa is a bestseller, and her recent Milano sofa sports a relaxed silhouette hinging upon the notion of imperfect beauty. “I love the imperfect beauty of natural materials and crafts production. They make everything unique,” says Navone.

A  close-up of the Selene table by Hagit Pincovici in glossy ocean storm marble
A close-up of the Selene table by Hagit Pincovici in glossy ocean storm marble
The contemporary Budapest sofa is the first sofa designed by Navone for Baxter
The contemporary Budapest sofa is the first sofa designed by Navone for Baxter

What is so special about Baxter?

Baxter’s craftsmanship in working with leather, making it as soft as a fabric, is something very special. Taking advantage of this incredible skill, I enjoy giving the products a new and informal appeal by mixing the extra-soft leather with my free and unconventional way of thinking about design.

I have tried to create imperfection in industrial production with very unexpected results; sometimes these results lead to ideas for marvellous techniques we have not experienced before.

Como Point Yamu, a Phuket resort crafted by Paola Navone
Como Point Yamu, a Phuket resort crafted by Paola Navone

Were there any challenges when you became Baxter’s creative director?

One of the hardest challenges was convincing Baxter’s master craftsmen to subvert their rules. They were used to stretching the leather, and the idea of a slightly soft and oversized upholstery (for my designs) was unexpected. In the end when they saw the prototypes, they changed their minds. Actually, they were absolutely enthusiastic.

Related: 5 Good Reasons To Visit Culina At Como Dempsey
 

Pieces designed by Navone for Baxter include the Milano sofa
Pieces designed by Navone for Baxter include the Milano sofa

You live by a philosophy you call “tham ma da”, which means “everyday” in Thai. How does that apply to a chair or a sofa?

It has to do with the idea of simple and imperfect beauty, and the joy of giving new life to everyday things by imagining them used somewhere else or by customising the product to make it unique, (such as) painting a chair, embroidering a pillow or choosing a special colour.

I have a special attraction to “cold” colours—the shades of air and water. Having said that, I am curious and I like to experiment with the combinations of materials and colours. Each of my projects is tied to an alchemy with a person, a place and a special artisan tradition. That is why my projects are always very different from one another.

However, there are some tools I use in all my work. They are: simplicity, which for me is a word full of inspiration; respect for the traditions of the world; and the imperfection that makes everything friendly and unique.

The interior of the Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar, a dining venue at Como Dempsey
The interior of the Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar, a dining venue at Como Dempsey

Tell us more about how this came to life in your design for Como Dempsey in Singapore.

Como Dempsey is a joyful dive into creativity involving fashion, food, design and new concepts. We designed an imaginative and eclectic space that surprises you every time you look around, like an extra-colourful kaleidoscope. Everything is simple, friendly and eye-catching, and gives the feeling of a very special and yet familiar place.

Related: Tatler 10: The Most Stylish Restaurants in Singapore

This story was adapted from the June-July 2021 issue of Tatler Homes Singapore. Read it on Magzter with our compliments here.

  • Images Baxter
  • Images Como Dempsey

Tags

Art & Design Tatler Homes Paola Navone Baxter Space Furniture interior design interior designer furnishings

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