Matteo Bianchi interview

Writing your life’s work

Matteo Bianch, book— Listen, Design, Inspire

Matteo Bianch

From his humble upbringing on a Venetian island, to his celebrated work as an interior and product designer via a previous career in anything but, few could argue it’s a story worth telling. Hence the fact it has been committed to print.

Alongside his friend, fellow-designer and writer Simon Hamilton, Matteo Bianchi, the creative in question, recently unveiled a book— Listen, Design, Inspire— documenting his journey from Italy’s iconic lagoon city to opening his own studio in London, and onto the launch of his latest lifestyle collection in the achingly chic French capital, Paris. We caught up with him to ask how the project began, what the production process entailed, and what it feels like to be the subject of your own collaborative work.

Matteo Bianch, book— Listen, Design, Inspire

Matteo Bianch, Book – Listen, Design, Inspire

Hi Matteo, hope all is well. So, how did the idea for the book come about?

“The story goes that this was something I really wanted to do, it had been on my mind for about two years but as a busy studio director you can have the wish and the will for something, but the timing was always a bit of an issue— physically and mentally. Also it is quite scary, as this is quite a big thing.

“I went out for a coffee with Simon, an old friend of mine, and we talked about anything and everything. The conversation turned to the book, as he’s a writer, and at the time he could take more work onboard. So we came out of this innocent coffee planning to write a book— he would be the author, and it would be my story he was reporting.

“The whole book is about my bizarre story, trying to inspire society. It’s not really about me or the studio, it’s more about how a person from small island in Venice can go to London, build up work, change career. Really it’s not about highlighting how good we are, it’s not an egocentric book. Which is why I thought it would be a good idea for someone else to write it, not myself.”

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

When did you and Simon first meet?

“As soon as I changed career, ten years ago, I saw an ad for a designer who was looking for a freelancer. So we went for a coffee and just kind of clicked. I did freelance for him for a couple of weeks, then I had this big project land on my plate unexpectedly— a hotel in Venice. I thought ‘I liked this guy, he gave me an opportunity to learn and work for him, let me go back to the client and ask if they want two designers for the price of one’.

“The client liked the idea of having one junior and one senior designer, so we designed this boutique hotel in Venice and it worked really well. We were very compatible in terms of style, personalities and charisma. Then we went our separate ways, he focussed on his own studio, I set my studio up, but we always kept in touch. As big as London looks it’s actually quite a small world when it comes to interior design. We’d share bubbles at parties, maybe go for a drink, and then had that coffee last year, which is where this all started.”

Did you have any concerns about having your story laid bare to people through someone else’s words?

“It’s a fair question, but the answer is no. He knew me, he saw me grow into an established studio. It was all very personal, and I knew that he would just get the right angle. So it was a perfect combination really.”

How long did the process take from initially sitting down and talking to the Milan launch?

“It started last summer, and from there we would dedicate every other week a good three or four hours. We have a very quiet meeting room, so we’d go in there and I would literally just blurt out all the phases of the book, from the beginning- my childhood— to arriving in London, initial career, the breakthrough project, when we first worked together.

“He would just record, and it was very good, very genuine and quite therapeutic. I almost forgot some of the things I had done in the past. Then he went away in August, when he had plenty of time to think, and worked on the first draft. That was presented in September, and we looked at what would be the best content in terms of copy, then by December we had a rough idea of what was going on, and that gave us a really tight deadline of March. Every week we had a deadline, so it was quite intense, but without those deadlines we might still be here now thinking of how it could be improved.”

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

The book itself, in terms of design, was that a collaborative process between yourself and Simon?

“Yeah, yeah, we were really on the same page with that. The title is kind of my mantra really, what I sell to the client— our way of working and thinking in the studio. When it comes to the size and look Simon gave me some proposals and we kind of art directed together, which was nice and quite refreshing.”

The launch was in Milan, during Design Week. How was that?

“It was very emotional. It’s a big thing, and this is a personal project. If there’s one place you want to launch something quite meaningful in terms of design it’s Milan. It was on a Tuesday, and it was really good.

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

We imagine, given the book’s subject, it was slightly intimidating in a way?

“Yeah, but then to be honest the hard part came before. It was more emotional than intimidating; look at us, one year later we are toasting with the book in our hands.”

And there was another launch at the USM showroom. How was that?

“Again it was really, really emotional. We invited a lot of clients and industry friends, so there was this incredible mix of close friends and clients. So it wasn’t tough, but you could really feel who was there. Some people wanted to say a few nice words about the studio and myself, so it was really quite intimate. That’s what we wanted and it worked well.”

Finally, for those reading the book, is there any specific lesson or message you would like them to take from the story?

“Yeah, well the first page and last page are really interesting. The first sets a picture of this launch in Paris, and Simon basically asks what it takes for someone to get to that point. The last page answers this in some ways, so these are very interesting parts of the book— the beginning and the summary. Then also the part about my childhood, a very humble background, but I wouldn’t want to pinpoint one thing too much from the rest, really.”

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

Matteo Bianch, Book - Listen, Design, Inspire

Buy Listen, Design, Inspire 

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