We are pleased to welcome Architectural Interior Designer Carlo F. Fiammenghi to Biello Martin Studio as we expand our creative work to include the design of residential and commercial interiors as well as custom furniture design. A recent feature in the Philadelphia Inquirer describes Carlo’s background and his personal and design philosophy:
FROM ITALY, WITH A BIT OF WHIMSY (excerpts)
by Kathleen Nicholson Webber
Philadelphia Inquirer, Home & Design Section, February 25, 2011
Carlo F. Fiammenghi calls himself a kid – a kid who weaves long piles of wool yarn through the seat of an antique chair; who delights in his prized colorful chandelier adorned with Slinkys; who designs a fake fireplace with a crossword puzzle facade. He is also the kind of guy who leaves his clothes behind in San Miguel, Mexico, so he can fill his suitcases with artifacts. After all, you can always get new shoes.
This Italian transplant finds beauty everywhere. He creates interiors for a diverse clientele – law firms on Walnut Street, homeowners on Greene Street, Rittenhouse Square, and in the Murano. But his personal design style is not the stuff of rules or rhyme; rather it is a cacophony of cultures, color, and whimsy in a space where clients, friends, and artists come to experience its pleasures over dinner. Part contemporary art gallery, part playhouse, his apartment in the Art Museum area invites visitors to please touch. “If I see something I love, it is like a toy; I have to have it,” said Fiammenghi, 33. “I love when my dinner guests want to touch and play with my things. I love seeing that.”
His story began in southern Italy, where he grew up. He studied and practiced architecture in Rome, came to Philadelphia to visit, and found himself in 2006 studying for another master’s degree at Temple University, this one in urban planning. While working for the firm Wallace, Roberts & Todd, he had second thoughts about this new career path. “I worked on large projects, but over time I really began to miss the details – picking out furniture, materials, shapes, and colors.”
He met a mentor in designer Pat Crane, who had her own business here since 1959. Crane’s work has been featured in House Beautiful and HG, and she has called many of Philadelphia’s sports elite – including Mike Lieberthal and Doug Glanville of the Phillies and Charles Barkley of the 76ers – her clients. Crane introduced Carlo to the Art Museum neighborhood where she lived with her husband, Ed Guy, and to San Miguel, where she often shopped for art and pottery. One thing they had in common was knowing how to mix cultures and styles.
Take a look at Fiammenghi’s living room, and you’ll see a turquoise bench from Vietnam, a colorful abstract oil, a small antique desk from Japan, lanterns from Anthropologie, and a contemporary hanging sculpture of red, gray, and black clay by Philadelphia artist Michael Biello.
“Carlo walked into my studio and just got my work and that was a gift to me,” said Biello. “There is nothing trendy about him. He doesn’t choose colors that might be popular in design. That is style to me. He welcomes you into his world and makes you feel like family. He is very childlike in his wonder of beautiful things. We all have that in us and I think he likes to bring that out.”
Some objects he created on his own – like the red “hair” chair, which to him is evocative of an old queen with beautiful red locks. “When I was growing up in southern Italy, women would weave tablecloths out on the street, and so it inspired me to weave the hair on this chair,” he said.
Whether it’s an artist he’s working with or a client he’s working for, Fiammenghi does what Italians do when they want to know someone better: He has them to dinner. With artists, he likes them to see his apartment, “and then they can decide where the piece should go,” he explained. With clients, he cooks. Then over dinner and wine, he discovers their design style. “Part of this job is like being a psychologist,” he said. “You have to get inside their heads to see how they would like to live.”
Email Carlo at email@example.com.