Design Debut brings the very latest new products to the Show. The 11 young companies invited to exhibit include successful entrepreneurs applying new technologies to new product categories and designers who experiment with traditional materials in fresh ways.
Concrete products can be beautiful, innovative and sustainable. “Concrete is chic in the modern design capitals of the world. We pair its timeless style with artisan craftsmanship and the latest technology,” explains Mario Guagnelli, CEO of Chicago-based IntoConcrete. Guagnelli, whose family migrated from Italy to Mexico, has had more than 20 years of experience in diversified manufacturing in North America, Latin America and Europe. He was an executive with a leading construction materials corporation when left to found IntoConcrete in 2013.
Mr. Guagnelli, tell us about your company’s approach to product development.
At its most basic, concrete is a simple and ancient medium, yet the designers at IntoConcrete shape it into innovative modern designs, one singular piece at a time. IntoConcrete designs, creates, curates and sells high-end contemporary works ranging from substantial lamps to delicate spice vessels. Brought to life by internationally renowned designers, each of the company’s pieces is a unique reflection of its designer’s creative vision. They push the boundaries of current concrete applications, artfully pairing proprietary material blends with the latest 3D printing and molding technologies to create lightweight, resilient and high-performance pieces whose simple functionality belies their striking appearances.
Can you describe some of your most successful items?
One of our signature pieces is the Corvi wine cooler. Created by Argentinian industrial designer Francisco Corvi, the wine cooler’s sharp, angular lines evoke the facets of a gem. The distinctive design uses the mass of its medium to help wine maintain its temperature and has won critical acclaim from international press. As an added bonus, the cooler was designed so that multiple pieces could be stacked together in an infinite array of configurations to create a personalized wine cellar.
Your designers bring international sensibilities to your product line.
Yes, Mikaela Dörfel, an award-winning German designer, is IntoConcrete’s vice president of product design. She studied industrial design in Hamburg and was design manager at Rosenthal AG for nearly ten years. In 1997 she founded her own studio, Dörfel-Design, near Hamburg. With her team she develops tableware products, such as the See Saw bowls, a unique collection of delicate concrete vessels. The playful bowls and vases combine smooth curves and crisp edges in ways that would be impossible to duplicate in materials such as porcelain, ceramics or glass.
IntoConcrete also collaborates with experts such as concrete designer Clément Terreng of the German firm Concrete Home Design to bring European pieces to the American market. IntoConcrete carries Terreng’s Idèeal ceiling and table lamps in the United States. Idèeal lamps have surprisingly thin walls, which were achieved by using a proprietary concrete and eliminating all but the most necessary mass of the material. Despite the technological ingenuity behind the lamp, its inspiration was unexpectedly organic. Terreng was captivated by the lines and distinctive shape of an onion and married that form with the retro 1960s glamour common in James Bond movie interiors. The lamps boast a classic silhouette reminiscent of old enamel factory lights. The graceful concrete body is paired with a crystal glass diffuser to provide a modern twist on a classic style.
Tell us about some lessons you’ve learned in creating home products in concrete.
We learned that concrete works very well for creating precise and extraordinary shapes. That it offers a wonderful tactile experience of smoothness – if it is formed well – and we realized that this really high quality standard is just that what we can offer with our experienced team. Now you can truly enjoy each shape, special function and the smoothness of this special surface! We all hope that we can “transport” this idea!
What are your hopes for appearing in the Design Debut?
We all are so fascinated by concrete as a material and the possibilities of designing unique products and objects with it and in combination with other materials, such as porcelain and wood. We came together to form a small, yet still worldwide, team based on that common interest, and now all of us are empathically working on growing our company. We are excited about the reactions and the interest we will receive at the Show!
Thank you, Mr. Guagnelli, for explaining how the qualities of concrete can inspire such versatile applications. A company focused on a traditional material used in modern ways is a most intriguing concept. We look forward to seeing your presentation at Design Debut and wish you a successful Show!
To learn more about Into Concrete, see:
The Discover Design Expo hosts established design brands such as Alessi and JosephJoseph and introduces rising newcomers in Design Debut, the Show’s incubator for budding companies. Housewares buyers seeking the very latest in creative directions will discover these selected 11 exhibitors from California, Texas, New York, Detroit, Chicago and Germany, at their mini-displays set in N8724.