Bottega Ghianda, the future of a legend

“I had known Pierluigi for 30 years. Every time I went to see him, it was like going to church. This friendship and the love of wood in his genes – his father was a restorer of antique furniture – prompted Romeo Sozzi, former boss of Promemoria, to take over the business of the great cabinetmaker Ghianda in 2015, honoring his memory in the name of the brand. revisited: Bottega Ghianda. “For a year, he remembers, I was afraid of not being up to it.” The challenge was daunting: to pursue a story that dates back more than a century (there are pieces in the catalog that date from 1890); confronting a woodworking genius, capable of making a table like Kyoto with its 1,705 joints, exhibited at the MoMA in New York; take on a second business with craftsmanship as a credo. So much so that it has become a benchmark for luxury giants like Hermès, for whom it produces the Rena Dumas collection.

First step: moving the workshop of Bovisio Masciago, in Brianza, to Valmadrera, just outside Lecco, dedicating a section of the Promemoria furniture factory to the production of items under the Bottega Ghianda brand, which kept the logo designed by Pino Tovaglia in 1975 “Now it is laser cut”, explains the carpenter Stefano, who together with his colleague Mauro ensures the continuity of the techniques used, after having worked with the cabinetmaker for many years , “while before, he was marked”. But the method has not changed. The CNC machines only facilitate the first part of the process, producing a semi-finished product which is then left for hours in the hands of the two carpenters. Scissors, scalpels and lots of love. “We start smoothing object components with medium-fine 150 grit sandpaper and work our way down to 1200 grit, which is normally used in a body shop. The final touch is made with a woolen cloth.

The polishing phase, carried out by hand for hours.

As soft as wood may seem like an oxymoron, and yet stroking the objects made by Bottega Ghianda gives you that feeling, as if they were cashmere sweaters. And appearance matters too, of course. Wood inspection is a ritual. The boards must be perfect to be used to make the pieces in the collection, designed by people like Gae Aulenti, Cini Boeri, Livio and Piero Castiglioni (1980s and 1990s), and Mario Bellini, Naoto Fukasawa, Michele De Lucchi and Philippe Starck since the takeover in 2015. And by Sozzi himself, for whom the Bottega is an irresistible attraction. “Knowledge of the material, he underlines, is the basis of everything. And it keeps growing: before the armrests of a chair were made from the same tree trunk to ensure uniform seasoning, now we pay attention to the crossing of the grains, in a constant search for quality, typical of the ‘Arts and crafts.

Some Bottega Ghianda classics: the pencil box by Carl Magnusson and Emanuela Frattini Magnusson (1989), a pillbox made in the mid-1930s for a well-known Milanese pharmaceutical company, the bookmark by Gae Aulenti (1988). The Oracolo fenicio box is a unique piece by Pierluigi Ghianda, out of collection. (Ph. Luca Rotondo by Abitare)

But nothing is thrown away, the “waste” always finds another use: craftsmanship is practiced in all areas. Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to recruit new forces for the art of carpentry, so Sozzi plans to open a training school in the planned extension of the workshop. Mauro and Stefano will have someone to pass on Ghianda’s know-how to.

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