Diversifying Design: A Q&A with Ambra Medda

Prior to joining Christie’s in London as global creative director for its recently expanded 20/21 Design department, Ambra Medda made her mark as co-founder of Design Miami and creator of the online collectible design platform L’ArcoBaleno. Anna Kats talked with her about the plans to increase the audience for the design category at Christie’s and the lessons she has learned from past ventures.

What are the biggest changes in the design market in recent years? 
There’s a lot more interest now than when I launched Design Miami a decade ago. At that time, exhibitors tended to bring as much merchandise as possible and hope for the best. Now, dealers are more likely to present a curated exhibition that tells a story or highlights the work of one designer. Design has been elevated and presented in a way that does it justice. 

When you created L’ArcoBaleno, was there a niche in the market you were seeking to fill? 
Like it or not, digital is a big part of the way people are consuming culture and exercising buying power. While there was a lot of information out there about design broadly, I saw there really wasn’t anything in the digital sphere that justified and explained why pieces are important — be it because of the way they’re made, the legacy that they represent, or because of their provenance. 

The Internet offers an opportunity to inform people and present some of the most exciting material to an international audience that may not have access to galleries and fairs.

Do you see the emergence of more cultural diversity in the design realm? 
Clearly there’s a lot more design coming from all over the world, and that’s incredibly exciting, especially since we’ve had a European orientation and aesthetic for so long. I saw wonderful shows of Japanese design at the Japanese embassy this past year; I’ve seen phenomenal Korean crafts being presented at Maison et Objet as well as at the London Design Festival. At the Royal College of Art, which has a very strong design program, a notably high percentage of the students are Asian. Whether you go to Maison et Objet or the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, or even to the Salone del Mobile, which is happening this month in Milan, you will see pieces by a number of emerging Asian designers.
Is there a balance that you will seek in the variety of historic decorative arts and contemporary design that Christie’s will be offering? 
The beauty of design is that it’s such an elastic field. Because it includes so many things, we are at liberty to mix things and create unexpected combinations of merchandise that may make you look at things very differently. So I think that’s my quest: to introduce people to something new through interesting juxtapositions.

What do you see as a good investment at the moment? 
Since the great recession, traditional pieces have done the best. I think people have felt more confident spending money on things that have a steady track record or are big names. I think now we’re sort of moving out of that safety phase. People are starting to open their eyes and be potentially more open to buying some things that are less secure. 

I also see a lot of opportunity in Italian design. People such as Ettore Sottsass, I feel, are kind of undervalued. You can buy a beautiful piece from the 1980s that is a complete masterpiece, utterly unique, and it actually costs less than an emerging talent. 

A successful piece of design, for me, is both functional and beautiful. You can love your tea strainer, because when it’s well designed and functional, there’s something really encouraging and refreshing and comforting in knowing that. As always, I’m a tremendous advocate of following your gut and being honest to your own instinct. At the end of the day it’s design—hopefully you’re using it, you’re living with it, and it’s enriching your everyday life.


Created in collaboration with the ceramicist Alice Goldsmith, the Link Porcelain pendant examines both the strength and vulnerability of the artist’s porcelain chain

Link Porcelain Pendants by Apparatus


Fractured links suspend oversized brass shades, their fragility anchored and protected by the oppositional metal.

Link Porcelain Quad-pendant

Link Porcelain Mono-pendant

Link Porcelain Tri-pendants

Julian Mayor's final 3D Rendering of the Plateau Table, edition 1 of 8. 

Fernando and Humberto Campana delight in the aesthetics of Roman Classicism, translating the techniques and details used during this period into a contemporary collection of furniture for London’s David Gill gallery. ‘Brazilian Baroque’ — a continued exploration of the brother’s series which first began in 2010 — sees the São Paulo duo employing luxurious materials such as marble and gilded bronze. the family of sculptural, but functional pieces express a certain imperfection, a kind of seduction, that relates back to the element of recycling that is signature of Estudio Campana’s work; thus, referring not only to the mediums used, but also the processes which they have revived and reconfigured, while working alongside Roman artisans. the realization of ‘Brazilian Barqoue’ sees the Campana’s articulating the traditional skills learned into their own style and artistic language. 'We have managed to put the classical and the modern into a situation of communication,’ says Fernando Campana. 'The modernity of our work also lies in demonstrating that with the scraps of the past you can construct not only the present but also the future. I believe the freshness of our work lies here, in constructing a new vision,’ adds Humberto campana. ‘Brazilian Barque’ is on display at David Gill gallery, shown in collaboration with Galleria O. Fernando & Humberto Campana Lina Armchair, 2014 Gilded bronze and mohair wool velvet H 85 / L 80 / W 78 cm edition 12 + 2 A.P.

Self-taught British designer Tom Dixon believes that rules are made to be broken. Dixon began his creative life as a professional musician, playing bass in a disco band in the 80s. Then, he learned oxy-acetylene welding in a car body repair shop in South London and—after a series of mutations originating from a doodle of a chicken—designed the iconic “S Chair,” introduced by Cappellini in 1989. “If there are rules to design, I don’t know what they are,” he says, “I just have ideas and I want to see what happens if I put them out there.”

This has clearly worked in Dixon’s favor. Since launching design brand Tom Dixon in 2002, its presence has grown to over 60 countries. With designs inspired by Britain’s heritage, his collection of contemporary pendants, floor and table lights, including the bestselling Copper Shade and Mirror Ball, have become iconic fixtures in homes all over the world.

LX: What’s next for you?

TD: We've spent the last ten years expanding wherever we could, toward whomever approached us. We are in 65 countries now, so this year is going to be focused on the places that like our products the most. We’ve laid the infrastructure in the United States and I think you get out of the U.S. what you put in. It's just like in rock and roll: If you don’t play the radio stations, if you don’t play the small towns, you’re never going to succeed.

There’s such a vibrant design community in the United States that's interested in what's going on globally. What’s interesting about the modern world [is that] you don’t need to attract large amounts of people globally to be a successful designer. You can be quite focused and do specific work and people will come to you if they’re attracted to it.

Moooi crosses the ocean and lands in New York to open its first Showroom and Brand Store in the US, introducing a 'brand' new world of design opportunities in Manhattan’s Nomad area! Moooi New York will open its doors to the public on the 14th of May, just in time to celebrate NY Design Week.

Moooi is the very first Dutch design brand opening a store in the upcoming Nomad area, which is known for its fine architecture and central location next to the iconic Chrysler and Empire State building. Having developed at a quick rate over the last years, Manhattan’s Nomad area has rapidly become an attractive commercial hub for stylish brands and Moooi is delighted to take up residence next to luxurious hotels, quality restaurants and cutting- edge mono and multi brand stores. 'New York is the capital of the US and Manhattan is the place to be for an upscale design brand. We need to have a clear first hand representation of who we are and what we stand for', reveals Moooi’s CEO and Founder Casper Vissers.

Five years ago Moooi began conquering the US market as a consequence of its rapid growth. 'The clients in the US needed a lot of service so we decided to ship out most of our products, commence warehouse activities and start invoicing in US dollars. It became the natural moment to found Moooi USA Inc., daughter of Moooi BV', explains Casper Vissers. Now the time has come to invest in the brand’s image and immense potential by showing the US public that Moooi is not only about ground-breaking lighting products but also about exceptional furniture, a brand new Moooi Carpets collection and a whole lifestyle experience based on the belief that design is a question of love. 'Moooi is an urban brand designing for a new world, delivering the coolest things together with a sense of surprise and expectation', clarifies Moooi’s Art Director Marcel Wanders and he adds: 'It fits perfectly with the city’s vibe and has achieved a great following, even before the opening of Moooi New York'.

The 3.875 Sq. Ft. interior is defined by a characteristic raw concrete structure and flooring, which englobes an eclectic mix of designs and acts as a creative platform to showcase products, designers and lifestyle ideas for inspirational homes. 'Its eclectic atmosphere, connected to the cultural world, and its interesting designs will certainly inspire all sorts of people and bring an addition to the design world of Manhattan', points out Casper Vissers and he elaborates: 'Behind every product exposed is a great story and that will be translated to the public by specifically trained personnel'.

A clear testimony of Moooi’s active role in the cultural world is the enduring collaboration that Moooi initiated with artist Rahi Rezvani. A selection of his photography will be exposed at Moooi’s collection presentation in Milan and then on the walls of the New York store, embracing its interior with a powerful stream of human depth, energy and emotion. Beauty rules in this marriage of creative minds.

Next to the entrance door, the shop window reveals an inspirational home environment that will certainly engage the onlookers with interesting interior ideas. Just inside, on the left side of the entrance wall, Moooi spells its name in the universal braille language with the use of Round Prop Lights by Bertjan Pot. While in the first part of the store poetic haikus reveal in an instant how Moooi’s different products can be combined to complement each other; in the central area several inspirational settings showcase different solutions to improve the interior design of homes, offices and public spaces. Right at the back of Moooi’s Showroom and Brand Store a skylight brings daylight to its deepest section, highlighting the skillful interiors by showing off their colors and beauty. A multifunctional room and an upstairs office space of approx. 538 Sq. Ft. complete the picture. 

A number of fascinating carpets of different shapes and sizes are on display, intensifying the product haikus and completing the settings with their innovative designs and vibrant colors. They belong to the new collection of Moooi Carpets, a brand new company that offers a wide range of carpet designs and countless customizing possibilities to always find the perfect match for any kind of interior.

Since Moooi is a forward thinking brand that always looks at the bigger picture, the Showroom and Brand Store is also going to be a focal point for architects, designers and design lovers, in order to gather ideas during their daily quest for beauty and inspiration. 'Together we can create pure magic', points out Marcel Wanders, who is looking forward to all the amazing projects to come: 'They will experience unexpected design and beauty with a European twist!' Everybody will be welcomed in Moooi’s learning and sharing platform where beauty, information, curiosity and fun will converge to connect to the contemporary culture and contemporary people.

The Manhattan Showroom and Brand Store is the pilot project for Moooi USA. 'I am pretty sure that soon enough there will be at least one more Moooi store on the West coast. California would be the next logical geographical choice', explains Casper Vissers with due anticipation.

For the moment the Moooi team is looking forward to establish its unexpected welcome in New York and share unique design products and its love for life, fun, culture, stories and new experiences!

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