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The Architecture of Accessories

Italian design studio LATOxLATO launches a new collection that uses shadow play as decoration.

By Rachel Gallaher

white porcelain oval box with gold on matte blue box with matte blue objects and wall

The 22:15 box, designed by LATOxLATO was inspired by by the Rationalist architecture of the Villa Malaparte in Capri, Italy.

For most designers, light is one of the most important elements in a room. It sets the aesthetic, marks the passing of time, and accentuates color, pattern, and texture. For Virginia Valentini and Francesco Breganze de Capnist, the married architects behind Italian design studio LATOxLATO, light—and its opposite, shadow—inspired their latest collection, Meridiane, which pays homage to the traditional sundials that decorate numerous Italian palaces and villas.

“Our perception of time has changed radically in recent months, and so has our way of managing it,” the duo writes in an email. “Everything is going at a less frenetic pace that in some ways is actually more intense. We were stuck at home for a long time, so we had a chance to stop and observe the buildings outside our windows. We learned to understand the passage of time through the different kinds of light and shadows cast on their facades. That interplay of light and shadow is precisely what inspired the Meridiane collection. We are fascinated by the ancient method of telling time with sundials, so we drew indelible shadows on the surface of each piece.”

white porcelain tray with metallic center sphere on matte blue cylinder table, matte blue walls

The 06:45 tray by LATOxLATO.

The collection includes four objects (two trays, a bowl, and a box), each of which is made of glazed ceramic, with detailing in 24-karat gold, platinum, and copper. These precious metals are used specifically to accent the vertical elements—the gnomonsthat “cast” the illusory, decorative shadows (some of the pieces have shadows drawn on them), while the white ceramic recalls the classic Italian tradition of glazed majolica pottery.

The 06:45 tray features a series of arches that nod to the porticoes surrounding many Italian piazzas and brings to mind the city of Bologna, which is famous for its network of roofed arcades that covers nearly 25 miles. The 12:30 bowl has a central obelisk that casts a false shadow (the shape is drawn in a contrasting color) onto its curved inner surface, while the bowl’s striated exterior provides a textured contrast to the smooth interior. The ubiquitous Italian piazza makes an appearance in the form of the rectangular 19:00 tray, another piece featuring a false shadow that mirrors the central tower—a gold conical form with a horizonal crescent resting at its top. The most directly architectural piece in the collection is the 22:15 box, which was inspired by Villa Malaparte, the iconic home on a cliff overlooking the sea of Capri, designed in the 1930s by architect Adalberto Libera on commission from writer Curzio Malaparte.

“Our background allows us to observe the beautiful architecture we are surrounded by in a conscious way,” write Valentini and Breganze de Capnist, who are both trained and practicing architects. “It is natural to transpose the things that feed our spirit every day into our projects. In fact, all our works have a clear architectural inspiration.”

White ceramic tray with gold whale tale center on matte blue base with matte blue objects surrounding, matte blue walls

The 19:00 tray has a false shadow painted on one side.

As with LATOxLATO’s previous collection, Meridiane is handmade by Italian artisans in the Veneto region in northeastern Italy, an area known for its ceramic workshops. This dedication to expertise and skill was an important seed for the founding of the studio. “[We had a] desire to work with some of those great traditional Italian artisans, using the kind of craftsmanship that is passed down from generation to generation, usually within the same family.” The architecture-as-inspiration element is another holdover from previous products, but, the studio writes, with “this series of ceramic pieces, we have also tried to create a visual representation of the sense of the passage of time, and the impact that has on our perception of that architecture. So, while the Cinecittà collection celebrates the beauty of classic buildings, Meridiane uses an interplay of light and shadow to evoke imaginary and metaphysical urban landscapes.”


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