Venice Preserved: Designers Collaborative Visits the Fabulous Fortuny Showroom

We held our April monthly meeting in the sumptuous Fortuny Showroom in Suite 1632 at the Decorating & Design Building. Our host, Mickey Riad, who co-owns the fabled Venetian textile company with his brother, Maury, gave us a brief history of founder Mariano Fortuny’s extraordinary life and achievements, along with a fascinating account of how the two young men came to be running this iconic Italian firm (click here  to read about it).

Pre-cut fabrics in a cabinet in Fortuny Showroom, D&D Building, New York

A cabinet filled with pre-cut fabric in the Fortuny Showroom on the 16th floor of the Decorating & Design Building, New York.

Fabrics in the Fortuny Showroom, D&D Building, New York

Along with their iconic textiles, Fortuny produces furniture, lighting, pillows, and other decorative accessories.

Madrazo lamps in the Fortuny Showroom, D&D Building, New York

Madrazo table lamps at Fortuny

Since they took over Fortuny in 1998, the Riad brothers have focused on ensuring that the legacy and quality of the company’s signature fabrics is maintained. The textiles are manufactured using the same machinery and proprietorial processes and techniques developed by Mariano Fortuny a century ago—unique dyeing, printing, and coloring methods that achieve the visual qualities of silk while using cotton as the base material.

While the classic archival patterns are kept in production, contemporary fabrics and products that apply the original Fortuny spirit to modern designs are constantly introduced. We particularly admired Nuovle, a gorgeous new design based on the traditional Chinese cloud pattern, and a  new line of pillows created by Malcolm James Kutner.

Nuovole fabric in brown and red, from Fortuny

Nuovole, one of Fortuny’s latest fabrics, is based on the classic Chinese cloud pattern—shades of Marco Polo and Venice’s ancient links to the Far East.

Ashanti pillows in sivery gold and warm white by Malcolm James Kutner for Fortuny

Malcolm James Kutner recently designed a new collection of pillows for Fortuny, including Ashanti, shown here in silvery gold and warm white.

Ron Bricke told us an entertaining story about his days as a student at Parsons in the 1960s. There was a design competition  to decorate the entry hall of the Villa Foscari by Andrea Palladio as if it were used for receptions by the American Ambassador to Italy. Ron upholstered the furniture in a Fortuny fabric, which he also applied reversed to the walls. The design not only won Ron first prize (the judges included the Duchess of Windsor and Salvador Dali!), it was also instrumental in getting him a scholarship to study in Europe for five months. He visited the Fortuny factory on the Giudecca in Venice and was given a party by the Countess Elsie Lee Gozzi, who at that time owned and ran the company. Heady stuff for a 19 year old! (Click here to read more about it on the Fortuny bog.)

Ron Bricke wins the Pini de San Miniato Scholarship at the Parsons School of Design

A 19-year-old Ron Bricke holding the prize-winning design—a proposed makeover of the entry hall of Palladio’s Villa Foscari in Mira, near Venice—featuring Fortuny fabric on the furniture and walls.

Lucrezia fabric by Fortuny

Ron used Fortuny 5689, “Lucrezia,” in warm French brown and gold. It’s based on a 17th-century Italian design and is named not after the infamous Borgia femme fatale but for the 1666  Rembrandt portrait of  the ancient Roman heroine, now in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. 

Villa Foscari (La Malcontenta) by Andrea Palladio, piano nobile

The competition Ron won asked that the entry hall of the villa be decorated as though it were used for receptions by the American Ambassador to Italy.

Villa Foscari (La Malcontenta) by Andrea Palladio

Nicknamed La Malcontenta after the disgruntled wife of one of its former inhabitants, Villa Foscari was built between 1558 and 1560.