Welcome to the Menagerie
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 6/1/2010 12:00:00 AM
Conversations with Ora-Ïto can be abrupt, no-nonsense affairs. The industrial designer tells you straight up that he doesn't have much time, refuses to answer several questions, and is prone to slightly provocative declarations. "I'm egotistical when I design," is one. Of course, he means that he imagines only objects he would like to live with himself, and his Paris flat is full of them: angular silvery candelabras for Christofle, sleek aluminum bedside lamps for Artemide, a cocktail table with a smoked-glass top for Zeritalia, chunky sofas and armchairs for Frighetto, and the cleverly named Ora-Gami, a polyurethane chair for Steiner. "This place is something of a laboratory," he says. "As soon as I design a sofa, I replace the ones I have. Things are in perpetual movement."
One of the latest crop of whiz kids of French design, Ora-Ïto was born in Marseille. His real name is Ito Morabito, and he's the son of product designer Pascal Morabito and the nephew of Yves Bayard, who helped build the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain in Nice. After getting thrown out of design school, Ora-Ïto ended up on the Internet, creating virtual luxury objects in 3-D imagery. His Louis Vuitton bag concept and Mac laptop case garnered a cult following, and his first commission for an actual object, a Heineken bottle, came in 2002. Currently, he runs Studio Ora-Ïto and plans to open his very own hotel slap-bang in the center of Paris.
His 2,200-square-foot ground-level flat is in the trendy northern part of the Marais district. "It's very lively, and there are still authentic stores. A real cheese shop, a real butcher, lots of great little bars and art galleries all over the place," he says. There's also some extremely impressive architecture. His own building is a prime example, a 17th-century mansion boasting 20-foot ceilings with ornately painted beams. "I fell in love with them," he says. "The history of France is on that ceiling!"
He left most of what he found intact. He still hasn't got round to revamping the kitchen and bathroom, and he even kept the guest room's twee blue floral wallpaper, which he calls "a sort of monument to the past" and "something you'd find in the country." His only major intervention was to replace the guardrails on the spiral staircase and mezzanine with plasterboard balustrades partly painted black. "The staircase becomes an object in its own right, a kind of floating sculpture," he says.
The traditional setting may seem a counterintuitive choice for someone whose aesthetic is so very of-the-moment. That, however, suits him just fine. "Good taste is being able to mix different objects, different works of art, and different periods. Here, you even have the future-there are prototypes," he says. It's certainly a striking and savvy mix, embracing everything from an Italian antique cabinet to a mystifying wooden contraption that turns out to be a clock dating to 1753. Numerous Japanese antiques, all from the Edo period, also have their place. In the living room, a pair of screens line a wall facing full suits of armor. "This is a little like the child's room I always dreamed of," he says. He also integrated a few designs by later talents: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec's rug, Konstantin Grcic's side table, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni's floor lamp.
Art, equally present throughout, betrays a love of geometric forms. "My collection is beginning to be quite important," he proclaims. "Although I'm not yet François Pinault." Ora-Ïto's strongest acquisitions to date are a yellow mobile and a full-size giraffe's head and neck that stretch through a doorway, into the living room. "The giraffe provides a trompe l'oeil link between the living and dining rooms," he says. "It's only when you walk into the dining room that you realize the giraffe head doesn't have a body!" The scale and the form seem so perfectly suited to the flat that the piece looks like a custom commission, which apparently was not the case. So, how did Ora-Ïto find it? "That," he replies, "is the magic of life."
Photography by Birgitta Wolfgang Drejer/Sisters Agency.
ZERITALIA: COCKTAIL TABLES (LIVING, DINING ROOMS).
FRIGHETTO: SEATING (LIVING, DINING ROOMS), BED (BEDROOM).
ARTEMIDE: LAMPS (LIVING ROOM, BEDROOM).
ARTELANO: SHELVING (DINING ROOM).
FLOS: LAMP. DUNLOPILLO: SEATING (MEZZANINE).
GALERIE KREO: RUGS (DINING ROOM, BEDROOM).
ZANOTTA: CHAIRS (DINING ROOM).