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Behind the Design with Nicolas Terzani

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Rooted in Italian craftsmanship with a sculptural, artistic edge, Terzani Lighting has built a collection of luxury lighting that blends contemporary elegance with technology and tradition.

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A Q&A with Nicolas Terzani

Interview by Sarah Schaale

Terzani was founded in the 1970s as a creative laboratory that would meld wrought-iron, carving wood and hand-blown Murano glass with contemporary form and function. Now run by 3rd-generation Terzanis, the company continues to design sophisticated fixtures that are animated and identifiable, with advanced design technology that supports the artist's vision and not vice versa. The result is a collection of unique and luxurious fixtures that continue to withstand the test of time.

Your background isn't necessarily in design. How did you come to design lighting for Terzani?

I am not a designer. Three years ago, my brother, who has a background in design, left the company

and I found myself here at Terzani as CEO and pulling it together. I had a lot of interaction with designers and architectural firms by traveling in the U.S. I had a good feel of what was needed in the market, and started working with Dodo Arslan. We had a good relationship and I found the product development to be really cool. We ran into challenges on the engineering side of a product, and I put my mind to it and for two nights, drawing and found a solution for it. With that first step, I said, maybe I can put some energy into it. I always had the idea of doing some designs, but never really tried it. One day I really wanted to try. I really like organic shapes, like river stones. I wanted to do something super clear and pure and water. That's the Mizu.

What is important to you in design?

My approach to design-I don't know what that word

means. I am more sculptural and artistic than designer. The most important thing is elegance. It's our family taste. My father and me, we've been growing with this company and we have an approach that's in our DNA I guess. We try to be really elegant and sophisticated. We work with Tuscan craftsmanship, combined with technology. The aesthetics of the pieces that we produce is much more important than the technology that we're using. Like, everybody is using LED. That's not even 1 percent important in my products right now. We had a really successful show at Euroluce, and I think we were the only company there that didn't have one LED light. But we were one of the busiest booths at the show. I think when it's smart enough to be implemented, I'd do it, but right now it's important to us to develop shapes and materials and products, instead of losing our focus on the most important thing, the design and aesthetic of the product.

What makes Terzani different?

We are very attentive to the details. The real difference is the attention to detail and proportion. Until it's 100 percent perfect, I'm not going to bring it. We had four products being developed this year and only brought two to Frankfurt because I didn't feel they were perfect. For me, it's 100 percent perfect or nothing. And also with my father. We have to be 100 percent sure that it's going to be a hit. If we have any small doubts, we don't do it. Any time that we had a small doubt and said, let's try it, it never works. So we're like, let's go with our instincts and it proved right. Sometimes you just know it's not right but maybe you try because you don't want to say no to the designer. But I feel confident now to know what will work.

Terzani has long been a family business. What is your parents' involvement with the company now?

My father is involved from a design perspective. He helps a lot operationally. As far as design, he's really good because he gets a lot of inspirational material. He's really the one to say, I saw this in a

magazine, this theme, this material, grabbing ideas and inspirations and brings them to the table. He had an idea like six months ago, and I turned it down saying, I think we should just do this instead. We can't do everything. Well, he just showed me that someone else did it and it was awesome. My father always had that extra thing to understand what would be the next good thing. Every time he says it will sell, it sells.

What does your own home look like?

I don't really have any style in my home, but when I do a lamp or catalog, I myself, look for absolute perfection in every aspect. But my home…that's another story (laughs).

How do you keep Terzani designs new and relevant?

In the beginning we were working with one designer, J.F. Crochet, a family friend and architect from Paris who developed all of the memory line. That was extremely successful in the 1990s-the Antinea, Alaya, Phantom and Virgins. These made an important statement. Around 2004, my brother

made the important decision to start working with other designers-like Bruno Rainaldi, with the Magdelena, Bond, G.R.A. When he left and I stepped in, we weren't in the best economy, but we discovered that the luxury market was perfect for us. We weren't scared about price. What we presented four years ago in 2008 was a huge success. Atlantis was really one of the best pieces. After that, I didn't want to stop and we developed more luxury designs in 2011-the Sea Urchin (Maurizio Galante), Iceberg, I Lucci Argentati by Dodo, and Stream by Christian Lava and Soscik by myself. It's really the craftsmanship and the hard work that is in there and continues to be appealing.

Do you have a favorite Terzani fixture?

I really love the Hugo...Magdelena...the G.R.A. I have the G.R.A. at home. I have the Bond at home, as well. Not as much from the new things. I love the Orten'zia. I really like the frame...pretty much everything. (Laughs) I like pretty much everything. Otherwise it wouldn't be here. I love the Mizu. That's a really beautiful project. What it does to the wall...it's beautiful.

Are you on the list?