“I bring the outside inside, in the houses I design” – Interview with architect Emanuela Miani.
On her website she says: “A house needs to have something to say for itself, it shouldn’t be ‘anonymous’ and it needs to reflect the character of whoever lives there”. Do explain this concept a bit more as it seems like a real mission.
“A house designer is a professional who needs to be good at interpreting the true needs of their client, listening to their requests, and understanding the functionality of the house they are going to design and furnish. It’s about starting from the client’s ideas and then actually making them a reality in line with their objectives: the secret is to approach the relationship as a psychologist would.”
But how to do you marry functionality with beauty?
“The useful and the beautiful come together in the design concept. Building a house doesn’t just mean building and furnishing it, but rather enabling a way of living that is able to mix the practical with the aesthetic. A good parallel for my work is perhaps the subtle difference between a musician and an artist: the first plays the notes; the second, as well as playing them, also interprets them according to his or her culture and personality.”
Your personal culture has been formed through study, experience and work. But how has Emanuela Miani’s personal culture actually come about?
“Two things have been, and continue to be, particularly important to me: travel and having a close relationship with the client. Travel to me is a springboard for a thousand moments of real life, looking outside the standard tourist dictats to find everything that really epitomises ‘culture’, everything that speaks of the origins and roots of a people. Listening to the world is actually a marvellous practice ground for listening to one’s clients, understanding their individual cultures and what the idea of a house really is to them. For this reason, the psychological approach interweaves with the forming of a true friendship: being available 24:7, working 1:1 over the weekends, really getting to know people well. My physical travels and those I make into my clients’ minds and worlds are the best training methods for helping me excel in my work as a designer which is much more than, and very different from, simply building a house.”
On your travels, Far-Eastern culture and Feng Shui philosophy have played an important role.
“Very true. It’s about well-being, always being in harmony with yourself and with the world around you, building your own home taking into account natural and primordial elements – fire, earth, metal, water and wood. These are concepts that feel very close to my way of interpreting spaces in a home. This is a culture, the Far-Eastern one, which merits knowing and tapping into to achieve the only objective that really counts: client satisfaction.”
It’s surprising that we haven’t yet spoken about architecture.
“It’s not really so surprising. My work is that of designer-artist, within which there’s also a healthy dose of techniques typical of the architect’s profession. But to use just the term ‘architect’ would be like imprisoning it within a concept that’s reductive and limiting: you see, the idea of a house is not predetermined or set from the start. But rather, the work as I understand it is highly eclectic. Which, banally, doesn’t mean ‘knowing how to do everything’, but instead starting by listening to the needs of the client, making them your own and interpreting them with your own personality so that you can come up with the perfect solution.”
Is the best client someone who has lots of ideas but confused ones, or someone who has none at all?
“It’s certainly easier to establish a relationship with a client who’s already got an idea of the house they want, while starting from scratch is much more complicated. But let me clarify one thing straight away: the client relationship is never a struggle, but rather it’s a continual dialogue based on trust and loyalty. I often enjoy watching the expressions on their faces when all the work’s finished – they’re often visibly moved by what’s been achieved. It’s clear to us then that we’ve accurately interpreted their ideas and made their dream home a reality.”
Do you see any difference between the clients you had early on and those you have today?
“Today people have clearer ideas, they’re better informed, they present you with photos of how they’d like their house to be. So then the work shifts to collaborating with them to select the best of their ideas; next reinterpreting them and adapting them to best fit the real needs, in terms of taste and functionality, and then creating a new concept that’s personal and unique to them. All this work depends on having a close relationship, on my willingness to listen and on continual dialogue.”
How has your work evolved over the years?
“In the early days the client was me in the sense that I handled the two phases that precede the sale of any property: its purchase and refurbishment. Now I work with several agencies so that I can concentrate wholly on the artistic side that I enjoy. I’ll just mention one agency ‘Great Estate’ managed by Stefano Petri. It’s an international organisation specialised in the buying and selling of country houses, villas and period homes. But I have to confess that sometimes I feel I’d like to get back to the roots, and get stuck in to an ambitious project of my own again.”
How do you see the market at the moment and what are the latest trends?
“I’ve worked abroad a lot, from Los Angeles to the Caribbean. So I’ve come back to Italy enriched by those experiences and now I am managing five projects spread across Umbria and Tuscany, through Lazio and a little north of Treviglio. I don’t see the market suffering particularly in fact there are some very interesting prospects out there. Contrary to what one might think, technology is not particularly prominent in new generation houses. While, as far as client groups are concerned, I can say that until now it’s been the northern-Europeans and the Americans at the top of the list, but now more Japanese clients are coming on stream, too.”
What do you mean exactly when you say ‘we guarantee a project right through to ‘keys in hand’
“I don’t much like the expression ‘keys in hand’ – makes me think of those old advertisements for cars (she laughs). It’s simply the translation of a clear way of working: I work to accompany the client in every aspect, from choosing the raw materials – the kind of paint, the fabric or the wood used – through to the tiniest detail of the interior design. Keeping honesty as a first priority because this is really ‘key’ in any designer’s work.
FIND OUT MORE:
Visit Emanuela Miani website at www.emanuelamianidesign.com