KBB Review | In Conversation with Paolo Pininfarina
What’s the story behind the OLA kitchen and your partnership with Snaidero?
Our partnership with Snaidero and the creation of the OLA kitchen collection is a very special story that began 25 years ago. My aim back then was to create something completely new. I spent a long time perfecting the design of the cabinets, which – 25 years ago – were fresh, new and very radical. Now, 25 years on, and the OLA kitchen still looks fresh and full of potential developments and ideas. It’s been a very interesting, unique partnership with the brand and we’re ready for 25 more.
What was your inspiration for the limited edition OLA 25 kitchen collection?
I wanted to honour what my father, Sergio Pininfarina, had achieved in the car industry by creating a kitchen that was as close as possible to his distinctive Ferrari design. The OLA kitchen draws on the spirit of his famous red car, but what’s most exciting about this project is that not only was I inspired by the design of Ferrari, but I was also able to explore and introduce revolutionary new materials and finishes to the kitchen industry. The result is an exclusive, luxurious style and finish that shows we are pushing the boundaries of design in this category.
What is good design in your opinion? And should you be able to get it at every budget level?
Good design is design that can stand the test of time. The difference between good and bad design is durability. When creating something new, the aim of every professional designer should be durability. Of course, what makes you a designer in the first place is a strong desire and focus to create shapes that are aesthetically pleasing, but they have to function and they have to last.
What would you say you enjoy about designing kitchens and what are the main challenges?
The kitchen is the most complicated and technical room in the house and it requires attention to functionality, ergonomics, safety, comfort and aesthetics – this makes it a very challenging experience for a designer. But, I like the challenge. The world of kitchen design is very close to the car industry. The size of a kitchen is on a similar scale to a car, so you can express emotion through shape in the kitchen just as you can in a car. We understood this in the early 90s and that’s why our designs have been so successful.
How do you rate the general level of design and creativity in the kitchen industry?
I see progress, not only from an aesthetics perspective, but also in the range of different materials, accessories, finishes, colours, lighting elements that are now available to the industry. What’s exciting is that kitchen design is becoming more and more involved. It’s no longer just about the cabinets on the wall, it’s about how those cabinets blend in with the architecture and design of the room and the wider environment. It’s viewed as a whole space now, so the flow of design is much better.
As a designer, how do you balance creativity with commercial needs, particularly when designing kitchens?
It’s something we’ve learnt to do over the years working with Snaidero because, while we understand design, they really understand the needs of kitchen users. So every time we discuss our design ideas with them, together we balance those with the functional requirements of a kitchen. As a kitchen designer, what I have learnt is that sometimes function actually drives the style and design.
OLA 25 is built on curves. Are we seeing a comeback?
Curves are the DNA of Pininfarina. So we put them where we think we can express our design identity without affecting the functionality of the kitchen. However, where they are not really needed, we don’t put them in. We are trying to make OLA more delicate, but where you can express the shape of the table and the leg, which is a very special piece of the OLA kitchen, you can follow the design journey of Pininfarina.
How important is design during a recession?
The role of design will always be fundamental. If you look, you’ll see that design has been the driving force behind the success of a number of companies and brands throughout history. Good design is essential to be able to compete in the market. Going forward I think we will see changes in production and logistics that aid product development when the market is more challenging
Do you think design has suffered because of the recession?
From our perspective, the recession actually drove us to revise design and innovation of the OLA kitchen. Twenty-five years ago, we launched the first OLA kitchen and it was aimed at the very high-end, luxury market. Over time, the design has evolved as we recognised the changing needs of our market. We have strived to make the original kitchen more affordable and sustainable, recognising the needs of our market had changed. We rationalised the production process, the finishes, the colours and the materials to make it more economically sustainable without compromising the spirit of the OLA story. And now, you can see that, as we start emerging from the recession, we are taking a step towards luxury once again with the OLA 25.
What design projects are you most proud of?
Aside from our achievements in the car industry, which of course I am very proud of, there are two projects that really stand out for me. The first is the OLA story. It’s like a brand within a brand – it’s very special to me and I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved with the range through our partnership with Snaidero. The second is my involvement with the Juventus stadium. I designed the interiors, which just look fantastic and were an outstanding achievement. Of course, the fact I am a Juventus fan myself makes it even more special.