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“Das Haus” 2013 by Luca Nichetto: a stage for visionary living concepts

Stand: Das Haus, Halle 3.1It was a design event of the quieter, more subtle kind. There was no proclamation of a new design philosophy to the accompaniment of spectacular gestures. Nor was a new collection presented in a typical trade fair scenography designed to show the product off to full advantage in a perfectly styled setting, as is the custom in the Pure segments of the international furniture and interior design show imm cologne. Instead “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage” was a half realistic, half visionary depiction of a dream of what living space could be like – in this particular case, of Luca Nichetto’s dream. The imm cologne’s new design format, which was introduced just last year, is not so much about individual products as about the interplay between all the various factors that constitute interior design. The individual pieces of furniture are important soloists within this ensemble but not, in this case, the superstars.

With the concept for “Das Haus” and its choice of designers so far – Doshi Levien in 2012, Luca Nichetto in 2013 – the imm cologne has underscored just how seriously it takes its goal of an “interior design” fair that depicts a wide range of different product lines. And Luca Nichetto’s interpretation of “Das Haus” was impressive proof that this is a format for the interior design discipline to take seriously – perhaps the first of its kind at such a major furnishing fair.

What the designers of our times dream about
“Das Haus” is an exhibition format which gives a different creative each year the space to turn an independent, very personal interior design into reality. Up until now interior designers have needed a commission to do that, a house and a client who is open to their tastes and new ideas. On top of that, the work has to satisfy requirements of a very practical and technical nature as well. “Das Haus” liberates the creative from these prerequisites and is therefore a recurring experiment that permits maximum freedom. “Das Haus” thus finally provides an answer to the question as to how the great designers of our times would like to live.

An authentic example of contemporary interior culture
Despite the forward-looking concept, which focused on Luca Nichetto’s ideas about green living, the 2013 edition of “Das Haus” was again very much anchored in the here and now and provided concrete suggestions for contemporary interior design. The Venetian designer mastered the challenge in exemplary fashion – with an abundance of details, elegance and great sensitivity for the harmony between the various spaces and colours. Nothing in “Das Haus” looked stiff or artificial: most visitors could have envisaged moving in on the spot. At the same time, the designer succeeded in generating new conceptual impetus with his idea of a “Slow House” (Slow Food + House = Slow House). With the help of product designer Luca Nichetto, the discipline of interior design went a long way towards emancipating itself from the dominance of furniture design in Cologne this January.

An (almost) real house in the midst of Pure Village
In Pure Village, interested visitors and design enthusiasts who happened to be passing stumbled across a little gem on a platform measuring 180 m², slightly hidden between the cubes that created a diversified neighbourhood around “Das Haus”: the architecture of a home that carried its gardens in its walls – in the form of approx. 350 planted pots integrated into an outer facade that was interrupted by light-filled gaps. Big windows drew visitors’ gaze into the open, inviting interior of a fully furnished house scenography, rather like an authentic bungalow that had been set down in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the trade fair. It almost came as a surprise that “Das Haus” wasn’t actually inhabited by real-life occupants.

But was it really uninhabited? Not quite. Throughout the first four days of the fair, at least, visitors could encounter the designer in his “own four walls”. If it had been possible, he said, he would have liked to cook and entertain guests in his “house” as well. Luca Nichetto had given careful consideration to every single detail of the interior design, from the colours and materials all the way to the furnishings, the plants used for the loggia, room dividers and living areas, the carefully selected works of art and even the pots and pans, ashtrays and paperweights.

1,200 products, 650 accessories, 400 plants, 95 designers, 85 manufacturers
A total of 1,200 products were used, including around 400 flower pots and 650 accessories. Koelnmesse went to great lengths to organise the everyday things and design objects from 85 manufacturers. Some of the items were borrowed, others purchased, and they ranged in value from one to as much as 25,000 euros. What the Venetian designer had in mind was a synthesis of the arts in which new design meets old, in which different design cultures come together and contemporary living is combined with a sustainable approach to nature. Although most of the furniture on show originated from Luca Nichetto’s studio, a great many other designers were represented too: “Das Haus” featured objects by no fewer than 95 designers and was thus anything but a one-man show.

Luca Nichetto: “The plan worked out”
“I’m very happy with the result of ‘Das Haus’,” says Luca Nichetto, taking stock of the weeks of hard work that he, his team and his partners from the imm cologne put into the project. “Everything I’d planned materialised – in the form of a house that I would like to live in.” The imm cologne has good reason to be pleased with the result as well. “Das Haus” met with a very good reception across the board, and at times – especially during the Public Days – the stream of visitors even had to be limited due to the big crowds and the richly detailed features of the architecture the trade fair builders had constructed. And yet surprisingly little was lost or broken – little short of a miracle in view of all the glass items and little treasures that were on show, including a number of Nymphenburg porcelain figurines. The only explanation would seem to be that visitors to “Das Haus” spontaneously felt at home and treated the work of the designer who was “hosting” them with respect.

Realistic, innovative and trend-conscious
As Creative Director of the imm cologne, Dick Spierenburg has been closely involved with the project right from the start – and is more than satisfied with the second instalment of the still-young design format: “When I saw the finished and furnished ‘Haus’ for the first time on the Sunday, the first impression was overwhelming! The house was so lifelike, so inviting and yet so innovative that I was totally surprised. Even the design of the facade was fascinating: parts of it were totally open, whereas other parts had subtle slits, not to mention all the greenery. The interior was divided into nine areas and managed to be functional and pleasant at the same time, without the usual walls but with clear distinctions all the same,” says the Netherlands-born designer, summing up the main features of “Das Haus 2013”.

“Das Haus” gives interior designers a great deal of food for thought. Even the colour concept is inspiring: it combines Scandinavian-like shades of wood with oak, light greys and an atmospheric greyish blue, coupled with terracotta, rose pink and a soft rich yellow – all of them nuances that allude to Canaletto’s views of Venice, made tangible by means of a colour palette defined by NCS codes. And last but not least, there is the space concept and the suggestions for living surrounded by greenery.

Inspiring mix of Scandinavian simplicity and Italian elegance
In terms of style, it was also striking that Nichetto – like Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien the year before – did not choose to adopt a puristic direction. Whereas Doshi Levien’s design was deliberately dominated by multicultural influences, Luca Nichetto arranged his mix of stringently shaped furniture, opulent luminaires, playful elements and elegant soloists on an equal footing with design classics from various eras, all of it set in a harmonious, cosy ambience that sometimes came across as elegantly reserved, sometimes fresh. The fusion of Scandinavian simplicity and Italian elegance works surprising well and no doubt stems from Nichetto’s roots in the two great design traditions of Europe. Besides his studio in Venice, the designer has been running a second office in Stockholm since 2011 – a base for his collaboration with various Scandinavian brands.

For the imm cologne, the most gratifying quality of “Das Haus 2013” is no doubt that it is based on a different concept than the previous year’s edition without abandoning the format per se. “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage” has thus successfully proven its worth as an independent platform for creative living designs.

And so, according to Dick Spierenburg, the true quality of Luca Nichetto’s scenography is only apparent at second glance: “The atmosphere was fantastic, partly because of all the little details and plants. There was so much to discover. You were constantly spotting new ideas, solutions and product designs, from popular classics all the way to the prototypes by Luca himself. For me – just like last year – ‘Das Haus’ was the highlight of the fair. But in a totally new and different way!”