Mick De Giulio: Kitchen Confidential
Though many people think that a beautifully designed kitchen is for people who don’t actually cook, I would say 90% of our clients do use their kitchens avidly. Quality has to be felt at every level, and artistry is essential — we’re always trying to figure out how to make the functional beautiful. — Mick De Giulio
The kitchen is no longer just a space for cooking meals. Everyone’s favorite room serves as a gathering spot, command center, family lounge, cocktail bar and late-night ice cream parlor. We live in our kitchens. Mick De Giulio has not only witnessed this shift, he has ushered it in with award-winning custom spaces that pair timeless design with modern conveniences. He uses materials like natural stone and wood, giving them an edge with custom metalwork or original accessories like chic pot racks and drawer hardware.
Since 1984, admirers and clients have visited his showrooms in Wilmette and the Merchandise Mart, as the best ways to see his creations (next to owning a De Giulio kitchen). Last month, retailer Abt Electronics unveiled Inspiration Studio, a De Giulio-designed concept in Glenview to celebrate their 80th anniversary. An immersive experience, the 100,000-square-foot showroom features 12 interconnected spaces, each devoted to a particular manufacturer. Throughout the vignettes, De Giulio created unexpected design moments — with furniture, accessories and art — and PAGODA RED provided a few choice elements, including vintage Chinese unglazed ceramic roof tiles to cover an entire wall, white glazed ceramic jars for interest and limestone DOON occasional tables. Here, the designer dishes on this latest project, and tells us why you really can have it all in the kitchen.
PR: You’re so well regarded for your kitchen designs and creativity in that space, what is it about that room that inspires you?
MDG: Clients inspire me the most — I’ve learned more from them and about them over the years, which has created the best foundation for ideas. I like to work with people directly. I don’t think I could only work in the back room just drawing and designing — that interaction is important.
PR: What do you feel is essential to a well-designed kitchen?
MDG: First, it’s function of course. Though many people think that a beautifully designed kitchen is for people who don’t actually cook, I would say 90% of our clients do use their kitchens avidly. Quality has to be felt at every level, and artistry is essential — we’re always trying to figure out how to make the functional beautiful.
PR: Tell us about your design for the new Abt Inspiration Studio space.
MDG: I’ve known and worked with the Abt family for over 25 years, and was honored when Bob Abt asked me to design the new Inspiration Studio.
He called me late one Sunday evening to discuss his idea for a project. His motivation, as in everything that Bob did, was to provide the best customer experience. The goal was to realize Bob’s vision and to showcase Abt’s premier kitchen appliance brands, which include Sub-Zero/Wolf, who I have worked closely with over the years, and others such as La Cornue, Gaggenau, Miele and Thermador.
Bob liked the idea of showing lifestyle and room settings that incorporated the company’s various lines of high-end kitchen appliances. I designed 12 interconnected spaces, each devoted to a particular manufacturer. The spaces were designed on a continuum, with each space flowing into one another. I didn’t want the design to declare the typical lines or boundaries of themes such as traditional or contemporary. Rather, my goal was for each space to have a style of its own. I wanted to challenge conventional design and inspire visitors to think differently about kitchens and appliances.
Each space includes live cooking, connected plumbing and sinks to allow demonstrations. Bob wanted quality to be felt at every level in the new space…in his words, “first class.”
PR: What are your favorite parts of the showroom?
MDG: I’m very happy with the flow and the way various elements and spaces connect with each other. The design incorporates some first-time concepts and paradigm changes, like looking at cabinetry more as consoles and walls more as screens. We were challenged by a lack of natural light, but I think the overall lightness of the space compensated for this.
PR: You featured a few PAGODA RED elements in the new space. Tell us why you selected them and how you incorporated them in the design?
MDG: A couple of us met with Betsy last winter to see some of the recent arrivals. We chose vintage Chinese unglazed ceramic roof tiles for a wall in the Samsung space. The antique stone elements we used for end tables are my favorites—they are beautifully honed with incredible detail on all of the edges. They’re extremely heavy, so they give a sense of permanence.
PR: Interior design is so personal today. How do you make a kitchen area individual to each of your clients?
MDG: Clients provide the cues that let me know what I need to translate. There’s no formula to it, and a lot of it is listening to what is said and unsaid.
PR: Interior designers are featuring a mix of antique and modern, old and new in the home. How do you translate that to the kitchen?
MDG: Combining old and new creates a texture that makes a kitchen unique.
PR: How do you like to blend antiques and vintage pieces in the home and/or kitchen?
MDG: I think of it as creating a dissonance — and sometimes a tension — in the space. When combining, I think about proportion as well as form, balance and composition. There is no right or wrong to an idea. If it feels right, it is right.
PR: Homeowners have such a variety of sources and retail options these days, what do you think makes a unique in-person design shopping experience?
MDG: Old pieces are nearly impossible to buy without seeing and sensing the piece. Plus it’s half the fun.
Images: Dave Burk, Dave Burk Photography
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