IMM COLOGNE

Das Haus by Luca Nichetto

Cologne

18 January 2013

Luca Nichetto's house installation at IMM Cologne is decorated with designs by Konstantin Grcic, Hella Jongerius, Dieter Rams and Jasper Morrison. How similar is it to his real home? "I'd need to make a lot of money to own a house like this," he says leaning over a De Padova railway table. Fortunately, he does own the table. He designed it.

The installation, Das Haus, is the centrepiece of the IMM furniture fair. Nichetto, IMM’s guest of honour, was tasked with designing his ideal home; a role that fell last year to the designers Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien. The result is a nine room bungalow filled with Nichetto's designs - both old and new - mixed in with work from colleagues and 20th-Century designers who have inspired Nichetto.

Nichetto's house is light and open, and filled with plants and vegetables. An open-plan living room is positioned at the heart of a rough crucifix arrangement of rooms, and the different living spaces bleed into each other. The house, Nichetto says, has been created as a design equivalent to the slow-food movement, a culinary trend towards the promotion of local ingredients and regional cuisines.

But given the diversity of designs contained within the installation - originating from Sweden, Italy, France, England and Germany - the link to slow-food is somewhat mystifying. Equally, the wider conceptual background to the project - said to be inspired by Charles and Ray Eames' exploration of the scale of the universe in their 1977 documentaries The Powers of Ten - seems a little forced.

The conceptual focus is a reaction to Doshi Levien's 2012 version of the installation, a project that Nichetto has mixed feelings towards. "I thought Jonathan and Nipa’s work was really cool, but I didn’t feel like I was in a house," he says. "I felt like I was in a showroom. I really didn't want to make a Luca Nichetto showroom."

But although Nichetto has avoided transforming the space into a catalogue of his own work, he has perhaps gone too far in the other direction. In part, the idea behind Das Haus is to provide a prediction of design trends for the year ahead, but Nichetto's focus on creating a liveable interior design means that the impact of the individual products within is diminished as a result.

Nichetto has designed nine new pieces for the Das Haus installation - with highlights including an armchair for One Nordic, a geometric cabinet for Casamania and a splayed-back sofa for Cassina - yet placed amongst works by Claesson Koivisto Rune, Philippe Stark and George Nelson, it is easy to lose track of what is new. Nichetto’s determination to create something more inventive than a showroom is admirable, but a more thorough introduction to Nichetto's 2013 projects would still be welcome: something that will now need to wait until the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February and the Milan Salone in April.

The kitchen of Nichetto's Das Haus

Yet it is difficult not to be charmed by Nichetto's house. The rooms are elegant and understated, and provide an opportunity to see 20th-Century design mixed in with more contemporary creations. Moreover, the installation is filled with neat touches and nods to design's history. In each room Nichetto has hidden different bird models designed by figures such as the Bouroullecs, the Eames, Hella Jongerius and Jaime Hayon. "So many designers have interpreted birds as forms,” says Nichetto. “It's such a familiar thing in the history of design that I liked the idea of having one in each room."

Moreover, the installation is an interesting indicator of Nichetto's direction as a designer. Born and raised in Venice, Nichetto now regularly works from Stockholm, and his interests have come to rest in the intersection between Italy and Sweden's design traditions. "In Nordic countries function is the most important thing,” says Nichetto. In Italy we've lost that over the last decade and focused much more on style and emotion. One of the themes of my work is finding the right combination of both parts."

As an exploration of this dichotomy, Nichetto's Das Haus is a success. The interior design is functional and for what is essentially a product showcase - despite Nichetto's reservations - Das Haus is not overladen with work. Yet there are sufficient touches of exuberance - wooden owls and crows peering down from hidden shelves; a new rug for Nodus themed after the Regata Storica gondola race in Venice - to avert the risk of sterility. With new projects due for Cassina, Lachanse and Berga Form later in the year, it will be interesting to see whether Das Haus becomes a statement of Nichetto’s intent.

Nichetto's ambitions for the project are however rather more modest. "I just want people to tell me that they'd like to live here," he says grinning. "I know I would."