Details, Details, Details...Does Good Design go Unnoticed?
March 3, 2019
Ok, as much as I never wanted to admit it – I have a fallen just a little head over heels in love with Lake Como.
I never wanted it to be so. Wouldn’t it be so much cooler to detest the path well-travelled, and instead be one of those hippiedom explorers, that one friend who finds some sort of solace ‘in a tent, under the night stars’. For me, that particular scenario goes something like ‘in a tent, under the night stars, surrounded by insects, on a makeshift twig bed, wondering if I’ll make it through the night without being mauled by a grizzly’ (ok, so The Revenant may have part to play in that mental image).
Back to Como,
Sure, it's where George Clooney has himself a little holiday home,
And yes, everyone says it’s beautiful
and it is so cliché, but OH MY, if landscapes could sing; Como would be echoing with the sounds of “Besame Mucho”.
Landscape aside, my love for this place was cemented from the moment I walked into Hotel Filario. As you may have predicted, perhaps through the lack of enthusiasm for a ‘night under the stars’, finding the perfect hotel is my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the world, BUT, after spending my student years staying in my fair share of grotty hostels, I like to think I’ve earned my travel stripes. And so, at the end of each trip, and particularly at the end of this two-week Italian road trip, it felt only right to treat myself with a little ‘aaaah’ moment. And boy did Filario deliver.
I came across Filario through Design Hotels - an incredible site dedicated to (mainly) independent hotels with unique architecture, interior design, and of course, impeccable hospitality.
Designed by Alessandro Agrati, a native ‘Lake Comoen’ (being from Como deserves its own title surely) the architecture is so contemporary, but fits so beautifully with the natural landscape and beauty of Lake Como. Inside, the contemporary design continues, but without seeming cold or sterile, instead it’s unquestionably tranquil and cosy.
The design pays homage to the history of the building, an old silk factory, without becoming a museum. Hosting grayscale pictures of the old factory machinery and gorgeous silk fabric nestled under glass domes.
The beauty of this place is in the refined simplicity. For me, it's often the small things like every door opening the right way, nonsensical you may think, but how often have you pulled a push door? There’s a natural rhythm to every day movement, and that’s why it feels so weird when the simple task of opening a door seems puzzling. The rhythm is out of sync.
Since beginning my education in design, it’s been about the details. So maybe I’ve been trained to see the details and find the rhythm. And so often, I find that good design goes unnoticed. Undoubtedly, decor will be noticed from the moment you enter a space; aspects like colour and furnishings are so personal and can be incredibly emotive, giving an immediate sense of location, a feeling of admiration, detest or even a complete agnostic sense for the space. But put these aspects aside for a moment, and think back to the details, the details implemented by a designer when initially planning the space, before the first lick of paint has even been considered. This is where good design will often go unnoticed.
Consider your own living space, unless perfectly designed there will be something that niggles you, perhaps you’re over it now and the immunity has kicked in, but it will have niggled you when you first moved in. For me, it’s my guest bathroom. Each visitor, including myself, walks in and straight back out, or will have one arm flailing outside the door, desperately searching for the light switch.
That my friends, is noticeable when it should not be, it is a design oversight. The rhythm just died. And I’ll tell you why. Imagine walking into the bathroom in your own home, now reach to turn on the light, if the door handle is on the right, the door will swing to the left, and you will have most probably reached to the right-hand side of the door, with your right hand to turn on the light, about 2 inches from the door (vice-versa if your door handle is on the left); even if you’re a lefty and regardless of whether the switch is on the inside or outside of the room. In the case of my guest bathroom, the door handle is on the right, the door swings to the left, the switch is outside the door, on the left-hand side, and 4 inches away from the door. Oh, so wrong. No big deal? Perhaps you’re right, and maybe I’m trained to notice, BUT if the switch was in the ‘right’ place – it would go totally unnoticed.
And that, is good design. On a much grander scale than a bathroom light switch of course. My point being, when a designer has considered the ‘rhythm’, has considered global standards, has considered lifestyle, and has considered the way each room is used, it will work so seamlessly that you won’t notice the genius in each detail. Because it just works. And who takes the time to notice what works. Aren’t we always more concerned with the annoyance of what doesn’t? The rhythm of good design is so easy to become accustomed to, we don’t even know it’s there.
Hotel Filario was so on point with all the details, but packed a punch with the additions! I was in a designer dream trance.
The shower was ‘designed’ to perfection, each movement considered; I’m a sucker for a well
thought out shower. One where there is no need to reach all the way across the cubicle, step out of the water, or bend down to grab the shampoo from the floor or a ledge on the opposite side of the cubicle. The shampoo, is exactly where it needs to be; neatly resting on a perfectly sized recessed tile shelf right underneath the rainfall shower head – no yoga stretches required and not a moment away from the water. And whilst I’m a huge fan of a rainfall shower, it’s always an absolute must to have a smaller hand-held shower for those days when the hair is just too perfect to risk a splash! Of course, Filario had me covered.
The bathroom had its own heater. A flick of a switch and the room is nice and toasty in less than 5 minutes, without any effect to the temperature to the main room. Blissful for those chilly evenings when the stepping on to cold tile is just that little bit uncomfortable.
The worst part of being away for me is the suitcase living. Sadly, the reminder is always there staring at you in your hotel room, unless you’re faaancy and only stay in presidential suites. The stands for propping up suitcases are always handy, but even an open case on the stand is such an eyesore when you’re trying to relax, and to be honest, totally kills my zen.
The room in Filario once again, had me covered. The room was split by a corridor with plenty of space for luggage, which led into, but couldn’t be seen from, the room (which, by the way, had a gorgeous and spatial balcony looking over the water). So, this was me; lying in bed, listening to the sound of the waves crashing into the lake shore, curtains blowing restlessly in the summers breeze, reading my holiday book (The 100 Year Old Man, Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, in case you were wondering), and not a suitcase in sight. BLISS.
These details, some tiny and others not so tiny are what makes a space 'designed'. Lots of spaces are beautiful to look at, fewer are designed in such a way that leaves you thinking ‘ah, why didn’t I think of that’. And it’s the details that made Filario stand out as an incredibly designed hotel, with a true sense of rhythm.
And as my design professor drilled into me: ‘details details details’.