While our home base of New York is a hotbed of artisanal products and ingenious creators, we’re always scouring the globe for talent in farther-flung locales. Today we’re thrilled to shine a light on Nicci Green of Melbourne’s Articolo Architectural Lighting, whose luxurious, meticulously crafted products are a bright spot in Australia’s design capital, and around the world. (Indeed, her designs can be glimpsed in top hotels, upscale stores and aspirational homes.)
Green founded Articolo in 2012, with two decades of design experience under her belt at internationally recognized companies ranging from Armani Casa to Donna Karan. Her lighting collection reflects a similarly elevated take on modern minimalism, translated in materials like mouth-blown glass, solid brass and opulent leather, all at play with the spirit of light itself.
Always in search of exquisite lighting, we were thrilled to take a virtual tour of Articolo’s newly opened studio-cum-showroom in Richmond (Melbourne’s inspiring design district), an intimate, impeccably curated space that pays homage to form and luminance. Created in close collaboration with architectural firm Studio Goss, it’s surely worth the 24-hour plane trip — especially if you’ve got a renovation in the works.
RONEN LEV: Can you tell us a bit about your background as a designer?
NICCI GREEN: I’ve never been formally trained in design, and I don’t come from a lighting background, so in that sense I’m not restricted by a traditional approach. Instead, it’s an innate process, informed by the way I see the world and my vast life experiences. I have always been drawn to a European design sensibility that celebrates craftsmanship, timelessness and the artisanal. I started my career as a food stylist in Paris, which taught me the process of reduction and amplification. What remains — whether on the plate or more broadly in design — needs to have purpose and relevance, even if its significance is hard to articulate.
RL: What inspired you to create Articolo?
NG: When I started Articolo, designing and manufacturing lighting in Australia was quite uncommon, with most of the high-end decorative lighting coming out of Europe and the United States. The design brief I created for myself and for Articolo stemmed from a desire to design products for a global market, bridging my passion for creating with my love of travel. At the time, I didn’t know anything about lighting, which in hindsight is perhaps a blessing as I may never have embarked on this journey had I been aware of the challenges. My passion for and experience in interior design and product design informed the company’s direction, in that I seek to create lighting that’s easy to live with, and both decorative and functional. I think shadow play gives each piece soul, along with other distinctive elements, like unique handwriting, that set Articolo apart.
RL: What are some of your favourite materials to work with? Your favourite processes?
NG: I love and celebrate the artisanal nature of mouth-blown glass; I am fascinated by the nuances, fluidity and soul that is intrinsic to this process. Equally, I love solid metals, such as hand-finished brass and hand-rubbed bronze. The soul and human touch of hands creating and crafting is so special — something that cannot be replicated in machine-made glass and electroplated metal finishes.
RL: How many people are on your team?
NG: We have five full-time staff, several part-time staff and a broad group of outsourced contractors who all make up the growing Articolo family.
RL: What was the genesis of your beautiful new studio/showroom? Can you tell us about working with Studio Goss?
NG: We were driven by a desire to showcase our lighting within a space more akin to a gallery than a traditional showroom. The result represents my vision for how Articolo pieces beautifully intersect with interior spaces. The existing floor plan was adapted through the repositioning of existing walls, to create a cohesive sequence of spaces that tell the varied stories of our lighting.
I worked with architect David Goss of Studio Goss on the project. David is one of the most talented people I know, not to mention one of the loveliest. The interior design process was remarkably insightful. It challenged our thinking and encouraged us to embrace the “art of light” in a wonderful but practical application. Multiple light sources made for a difficult task, but with David’s instinctive approach, the outcome was meticulously resolved. We have become dear friends through the process, and David also recently designed our exhibition stand for ICFF in New York. He inherently understands our values and has successfully translated them into an architectural space that elevates both our brand and our product. We revere detail, customisation and art, without forgoing the simple beauty of function, and our new space reflects these values.
RL: What’s a typical day at work for you?
NG: My responsibilities at Articolo span design, sourcing, sales, marketing and some aspects of early production. Therefore it may come as no surprise that most days involve 12 hours (or more) at the office. Whilst the days are long, what keeps me inspired is a true love for what I do — and, perhaps, the fact that some of my best designs have been conceived when tossing and turning over an idea in the middle of the night. I enjoy this holistic, hands-on approach to my business, but also look forward to the day when I am able to focus solely on design and sourcing. How very fortunate I would be to channel all of my focus into designing beautiful product, and have the luxury of detailing, engineering and resolving a product with time and consideration.
RL: Here in New York, we’ve had some fascinating conversations with female design entrepreneurs about their experiences in the industry. What is it like for a woman in design in Australia?
NG: I never feel like a “woman” in design, as such; I simply feel fortunate to be involved in design and the broader design community, which I find to be supportive, open, collaborative and encouraging.
RL: Tell us a bit about the design community in Melbourne. Are there lots of other makers and craftspeople here?
NG: Melbourne, and more broadly Australia, is bursting with talented creators and designers. Given our distance from some of the largest design and cultural hubs of the world, we have a unique sensibility in our approach to design, and the spotlight certainly continues to shine brighter on the Australian and New Zealand design industries. Australia is home to a collection of discerning talent, from architecture and interior design, to furniture and lighting. You must visit!
RL: Where do you get your inspiration? What are some of your favourite places to travel to, for inspiration or research or meetings?
NG: I find inspiration everywhere I go; from the washed, bleached colours of Marrakech and Mexico, to the architectural detail found in minimalist Japan. I love to explore the local crafts, and pore over the work of local artisans of different lands. The Japanese are exceptionally talented in porcelain, whilst the Mexicans are experts in beading, embroidery and silver. At times of travel and exploration, my mind goes into a conceptual overdrive, and invariably I don’t get any sleep as ideas and thoughts ruminate in my mind.
RL: Where should a design-obsessed New Yorker visiting Melbourne be sure to go/do/see?
NG: Your first stop should be Articolo, of course! But while you’re visiting our beautiful city, I can also recommend the Heide Museum of Modern Art, McLelland Gallery and Craft Victoria for inspiring art and design. Melbourne is also famous for its food, and some of my favourites include Kisume and Cumulus Inc on Flinders Lane in the city, and Estelle in Northcote. Don’t miss Eau de Vie for incredible cocktails. And for that well-known Melbourne coffee… well, it’s too hard for me to choose, but thankfully it’s also hard to go wrong. You’ll love Melbourne!
RL: What is your dream project?
NG: I love embracing new challenges, so a long-term goal is to collaborate with an architect on a hotel or resort imbued with the Articolo aesthetic and sensibility. It will be an entirely sensory experience where guests are cocooned from the rest of the world. A dream I’d love to see come true one day.
RL: If I could only purchase one fixture from the collection, which one would you suggest I buy?
NG: This is a very difficult question to answer. The Fizi Collection is so unique as the mouth-blown glass acts as delicate “jewellery” for walls and ceilings. Each Fizi “ball” is bursting with an explosion of bubbles that, when lit, throw dramatic patterns and movement into the surrounding space and walls. Another favourite is the Float “Capped” Wall Sconce. It is superbly detailed with a solid brass or mid-bronze fitting inlaid with a leather cuff. I also love the combination of brass and our signature “snow”-coloured glass, or mid-bronze with grey glass. The mix of materials is something I’m passionate about.
RL: What’s next for Articolo?
NG: More wonderful lighting and more collaboration with wonderful artisans who share our passion for celebrating the art of light. We are also working on a small capsule collection of furniture pieces about which I am incredibly excited. It is superbly detailed, engineered and manufactured in Australia to the highest standard, and of course with our signature Articolo design aesthetic. This is a thrilling extension of what we’ve designed to date, and will complement our growing range of artisanal lighting for which we’ve become known.