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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Designer Profile: A-nrd Studio

Alessio Nardi and Lukas Persakovas, Directors at A-nrd Studio, bring an organic sense and sensibility to their award-winning designs.

Interior and furniture design studio A-nrd are renowned for their award-winning bar and restaurant projects, which include Kol, Darjeeling Express, MilkBeach Soho, Casa do Frango and Kudu.

A-nrd was founded by Alessio Nardi in 2015, and together with creative partner Lukas Persakovas, the talented duo take a hands-on approach to their work.

Whilst based in London, both designers come from other European backgrounds and bring a mixed cultural sensibility to their work, which results in distinctive concepts that demonstrate a refined understanding of materiality, design languages, and contemporary art and crafts.

Alessio Nardi and Lukas Persakovas of A-nrd Studio | Photography by Adam Lynk

Here, Alessio and Lukas share snippets of their individual creative journeys and how they continue to evolve as a studio, keeping their work fresh and relevant.

What is your earliest memory of design having an impact on you?

ALESSIO: I’m originally from the Northern part of Italy between Milan and Lake Como where lots of joinery and manufacturing companies are from. Growing up, large furniture retailers such as Ikea and so forth, weren’t very popular in Italy and most people were relying on local makers to furnish their house. When I was around 12 years old, we moved house and I remember really enjoying visiting various artisan studios with my parents to have our furniture made and being fascinated by the process, looking at material samples and then seeing the furniture being made especially for us is still a vivid memory. I also spent many summers in a rural village not far from the Apuane mountains, famous of course for its Carrara marble, and I think that also helped my foster my appreciation for materiality and craft.

Birch Selsdon by A-nrd Studio | Photography by Adam Lynk

LUKAS: I remember creating my first piece of jewellery with my dad and tailoring my first suit with my mom, they opened the doors to the creative world in the early days. My dad was an established jewellery designer and maker, and he would allow a me into his studio to work side by side, teaching me intricate skills and the value of attention to detail. My mom was an accomplished seamstress who worked with leather. She taught me to sew and definitely made me aware of fashion and decoration. Later I found my own path in interior design, but I learnt so much from my parents. Even today I still work with my father creating special jewellery pieces as well as make my own clothes and backpacks. 

Mr Ji by A-nrd Studio | Photography Charlie McKay

Where did you study design and what did you specialise in? 

ALESSIO: I studied at Politecnico di Milano and specialised in industrial design. Then I did one year in London at London Metropolitan University as part of the European exchange program. In London the course was very furniture oriented, and more workshop based which was very different from the more structured and technical approach of the Politecnico.

LUKAS: I studied Industrial design at Vilnius Academy of Arts [in Lithuania]. It included Interior Design and Graphic Design with the main focus on Product Design.

Kolae by A-nrd Studio | Photography Eleonora Boscarelli

What kind of designer did you aspire to be and who are your inspirations?

ALESSIO: While studying some of my professors in Milan were great source of aspiration. Ezio Manzini in particular was a great mentor and pioneer in design for social innovation and sustainability. So much so in fact that he made me consider an academic career until I realised that what I really enjoyed was the excitement of creating something new and seeing it come to life.  In terms of inspirations, they come more often than not from observing the real word, exploring different cultures and having a fascination for the art world. When starting to design a project, materials and textures are also a great source of inspiration.

Birch Selsdon by A-nrd Studio | Photography by Adam Lynk

LUKAS: The kind of designer I am to be honest. I am very content and proud of my design talent and excited for the studio and the path we are on. The studio has grown a lot in the last few years and there is still a lot to learn especially in how you can inspire those around you.  As my approach to design is rather improvised, my inspirations change daily. That said, I’m mainly driven by things outside of our direct connection to the industry. If you get too engrossed in the industry, you can inadvertently begin to copy styles and trends. I prefer to take my inspiration from travelling, which I love to do, and my everyday surroundings. I also get very energised when using my sewing machine, observing what’s new in the fashion industry, or sketching jewellery, which all foster my overall creativity.

Mr Ji by A-nrd Studio | Photography Charlie McKay

What was your first professional design commission?

ALESSIO: The first A-nrd Studio commission was a creperie and cider bar called Mamie’s in Covent Garden.

LUKAS: As a personal project it was a fashion boutique in Vilnius old town, even after so many years I think it was a good project. After I began working with Alessio, the first A-nrd Studio project I worked on would have been Haya and Kol which was back in 2018.

Kolae by A-nrd Studio | Photography Eleonora Boscarelli

What has been your biggest design commission to date?

ALESSIO: The Birch Selsdon hotel. This was our first hotel project, and it was expansive. Birch Selsdon is set within a huge 200-acre estate and before we could even begin to design it, we had to strip away the numerous modifications to modernise it which the building had seen over the years, and which weren’t very sympathetic to its history. Following this restorative approach, we began to craft the interior which included the lobby, the Orangery, the Meadow Bar, Vervain – the all-day restaurant, the Snug, The Hive Co-Working Space, the site’s meeting rooms and all 181 bedrooms and suites.

Birch Selsdon by A-nrd Studio | Photography by Adam Lynk

How would you describe A-nrd as a studio and a community of designers?

LUKAS: We try to keep the working environment quite informal, and everyone is involved on all of the different parts of the design process, it’s not hierarchical. We have both worked for larger agencies and we didn’t want to create an environment where young designers feel the pressure to present their work to the directors. We like to keep the concept process very organic; we share ideas as they come up so we can brainstorm them and the crystallise the concept.

Mr Ji by A-nrd Studio | Photography Charlie McKay

What are the key characteristics you look for when bringing new talent into your studio?

ALESSIO: As a boutique studio, we like to work with versatile designers that are happy to take on different tasks and work on multiple projects at a time. We are welcoming and very open to new skills and new ways of working which the practice could adopt. Of course, an understanding of the studio’s approach and aesthetics is very important too. A fundamental passion for design and creating is also very important, it’s key that our staff are as excited as we are to develop new concepts and see them come to life.

Kolae by A-nrd Studio | Photography Eleonora Boscarelli

What makes your work within Bar & Restaurant Design stand out from the rest?

LUKAS:  Each project is different and celebrates client individuality, but that said, all of our projects share a similar approach. We are always very mindful of sustainability and how we can work with a site’s existing architecture and features, staying away from overdesigning. Simplicity and a sense of effortlessness is a common thread with our projects, alongside a strong bespoke element.  Our work is also very transportive and immersive and our spaces are imaginative and feel intimate and familiar. As a studio we don’t follow trends and stay away from creating cliched interior concepts and that’s what makes our work stand out and feel authentic.

Birch Selsdon by A-nrd Studio | Photography by Adam Lynk

Where is the majority of your work based? And how has travel helped to shape and influence your ideas on design?

ALESSIO: The majority of our projects are in London which is where we are based. London is a melting pot of different cultures and cuisines and so are our projects.

Traveling is a very important part of our creative approach, to fully experience a different culture and observe a different part of the world in order to authentically extrapolate design cues which then shapes our work has been key to our success.

All our projects have a transportive feel although we avoid any direct references, cliche and themes. We weave together specific design details, materials, colours, and textures to create contemporary concepts which are fully unique to each project.

What do you think should be a key focus for designers moving forward into 2024?

LUKAS: We hope to see more attention to sustainability and less egotistic design.

W: a-nrd.com | IG: @a_nrdstudio

Rebekah Killigrew
Rebekah Killigrewhttp://www.rebekahkilligrew.com
Editor | www.architecturemagazine.co.uk | www.interiordesignermagazine.co.uk

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