The Joys of Fornasetti

How the Search for a Perfect Object Led Me to Miracle Mile and the Work of Fornasetti

By Vincenzo Avanzato

March 2020

I can tell you that, as an interior designer, I take my work seriously – and even more so when designing a traditional house. So, when I started looking for some decorative plates to display in a family room bar, where the millwork was of natural smoked walnut and the counter a hammered antique brass, I started having one of those designer moments. This is when one starts to ask, “Where am I going to find these,” and reaches out for help to calm the nerves… well almost.

This is actually the fun part of my work, when I can give a space a personality, a language only translated by the individual that sees it. At both ends of the bar I designed two display cabinets to hold five decorative plates vertically, behind glass doors.

Looking for antiques would have been daunting, especially for a set of 10 plates all the same size. So, I went instead to see Violeta’s on Miracle Mile, which has a fabulous array of objets d’art, tableware and accessories – and of course Fornasetti plates.

Fornasetti plates? Yes. As in Piero Fornasetti, one of the most prolific Italian industrial designers and decorators, of the 20th century. The diverse range of his patterns and designs, mixing both art and craft, was a remarkable display of talent (continued by his son Barnaba, a skilled designer in his own right and the guardian of his dad’s legacy).

While Fornasetti was part of a design movement and known for iconic pieces of furniture, his series of decorative plates (more than 400) portrayed Lina Cavalieri, a renowned opera soprano at the turn of the 20th century. Although Fornasetti never met her, he had a fixation for her Mona Lisa gaze. Decorated with unfathomable expressions and whimsical fantasy, the plates make a wonderful display even without a display cabinet.

Of course, Fornasetti produced more than just face plates. He was a master of furniture design, much like other Italian architects and designers, such as Paulo Buffa and Gio Ponti (who founded the ground-breaking DOMUS design magazine.)

One of Fornasetti’s works is this wonderful curved set of drawers, what I call “functional art,” created in the 1950s. Fornasetti decorated the cabinet’s entire surface with Palladian architectural design, honoring 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio – and translating classicism in new ways. Made of wood, this furniture piece is decorated, painted and lacquered by hand and made in limited editions.

In another piece of furniture design, his metal silk-screened, painted and hand lacquered “Kiss” umbrella stand, Fornasetti again employed the lips of his soprano obsession. 

Vincenzo Avanzato is the creative force behind Avanzato Design (on Douglas Road), which works on luxury residential projects worldwide, including homes in Cocoplum and Gables Estates