How To Live La Dolce Vita

Every language has their version of it. In Italy, it’s called la dolce vita. In France, joie de vivre. We Anglophones know it simply as the good life. On the surface, it seems to ask very little of us. Merely that we live as magnificently as we’re able in the time we’re given. And yet living well and with reverence for the world around us can sometimes feel like an oxymoronic concept in today’s hyper-connected world. In search of answers and rituals for the coming year, we made time to catch up with a couple of longstanding bon vivants: our dear friends at Bonaldo.

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“La dolce vita is much more than simply enjoying life’s seductive pleasures: it’s a state-of-mind,” explains Paola Ciribelli, head of culture and marketing.

 

“Italians like to live life to the fullest and are constantly looking for ways to share this feeling with people all over the world. But la dolce vita also manifests in the way we work. Usually through a careful use of materials, strong collaboration with local suppliers and a special respect for every single moment that is needed to create something extraordinary.”

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This appreciation for slowness is an important pillar of la dolce vita. In the Italian pantheon of aesthetics, it is widely accepted that beautiful things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither is a beautiful bit of furniture. In fact, for many Italians, living well often means bypassing usual notions of time, especially if submission to such would mean cutting short an idea, a conversation or tradition.

 

It’s a concept that can seem alien for societies that have been hardwired for convenience or efficiency. And yet in this temporal elasticity, there is room for transcendence – something the masterful Fabrice Berrux discovered when he was asked to design a new seating solution for Alberto Bonaldo.

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“I was asked to think about an oversized armchair that was comfortable and, if possible, iconic. Strangely, from the very first drawings of the chair, it looked like a bird. I started to imagine the concept of levitating comfort, outside of gravity, a chair in which I could almost hold onto its plumage and fly away…”

 

After much trial and error, he arrived at the Colibri. A freedom-loving, rotational armchair that allows for both quiet and convivial moments. In doing so he goes right to the heart of the Italian home. A space of simple pleasures, furnished with clever objets d’art that allow us to connect with more complex ideas and legacies.

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“Usually, there are two types of products in any given home,” Berrux continues. “On the one hand, the ‘butler products’ which, once we have finished using them disappear, blending into the background — forgotten.”

 

“Then there are the ‘guest products’ that we enjoy exhibiting, with which we maintain a more or less emotional relationship.”

 

And yet, the best designs, if we can freeload on Berrux’s idea for a moment, seem to do a bit of both. Take Anenome. Is it a sculptural coat rack or a sculpture that serves as a coat rack? In it’s very organic-ness it can be both centrepiece and accessory, a clever bit of interior wizardry that speaks to the sometimes contradictory impulses of la dolce vita.

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Fellow Bonaldo collaborator, Alain Gilles, has a better word for it this double entendre: simplexity.

 

“I use it to define projects that are very readable. Designs like the Geometric Console that can be easily understood, but actually have more to them that meets the eye.” he explains.

 

Cultivating this quality seems key not just for a timeless interior but also for a more fulfilling experience of life at home. Whether that’s surrounding ourselves with fewer, better things — or seeking out styles and habits that bring joy and sustain curiosity in equal measure — simplexity is all about cultivating a certain inner richness, visible, but only just to the outside world.

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It’s under this aegis that a new definition of luxury is beginning to bubble up. One that has more to do with with leisure, mindfulness and skill rather than the usual hedonistic pursuits of wealth or status. And as we look around at the embers of 2021, it seems an appropriate takeaway — a year in which we relearnt the importance of time and how to be present in the place where it matters most. 

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