We meet Paolo Benevelli, architect and designer of the “Shelf” project

Ceramics become a designer furnishing with a contemporary feel

During the last edition of Cersaie in 2017, the architect Paolo Benevelli and Coem won the award for the “ceramics” category with the innovative “Shelf”. The project was given the award as it united originality and innovation, giving a new shape to ceramics and to its use in home décor. We met the architect Paolo Benevelli to talk about the origins of “Shelf” and to satisfy some of our curiosities about it.

LifeTiles: Innovation in ceramics is also expressed through special projects such as “Shelf”; how did the project and your collaboration with Ceramiche Coem get started?

Paolo Benevelli: I wanted to do something useful in ceramics, a project that would have some meaning, a real reason for its production. Usually tiles never go beyond their traditional function in terms of cladding; for me however, it was fundamental to get out of the usual thinking and give a new purpose to this material. I wanted to think of the tile not just as a “flat element” for cladding: therefore, by making it jut out from the wall as a shelf has opened the way for looking at the material under a new light. I then submitted the idea to Ceramiche Coem for the development of some prototypes, which allowed me to perfect the design and signalled the start of our collaboration.

LifeTiles: In 2017 “Shelf” won the prestigious ADI Ceramics & Bathroom Design Award; what is it that makes the “Shelf” design original?

Paolo Benevelli: I believe that with this project ceramic tiling takes on a new meaning, transforming itself into a counter, shelf or display space. It is a double application for a material that has always been imagined for a single purpose and that opens the field for infinite compositions and possibilities of use.

LifeTiles: What was the inspiration that led to the design of such an unusual item?

Paolo Benevelli: I had a long shelf in metal and looking at it I thought, what it would be like in the porcelain stoneware tiles are made of? An L-shaped element that could serve a shelving or as tiling. It was an observation of reality from an unusual point of view that got this project started. My research concentrated on the aim of making the shelf resistant to loads and the work that followed, between design and prototypes was really the bigger challenge.

LifeTiles: How does micro-architecture change the outlook for interior design?

Paolo Benevelli: The change is within the new geometry of the spaces and dimensions. “Shelf” is a limitless modular system, out of which a “single structure” with the interior itself can be created. It is part of a way of organising space in an architectural manner, designed within the interior to become part of the structure itself.

LifeTiles: “Shelf” is without doubt a versatile element for home décor, that enriches the interior: which interior areas are suited and make the best use of “Shelf”?

Paolo Benevelli: It can be incorporated into any environment according to necessity: I don’t think there are no more or less suitable areas. Functionality and versatility are its main characteristics. The positioning of “Shelf” can be customised and can be made, on request, in any finish or colour of gres+ porcelain stoneware collections by Ceramiche Coem.

LifeTiles: A last and rather unusual question; what does a creative person like you keep on your shelving?

Paolo Benevelli: Books of course, lots of them, but also small prototypes, utensils, design papers and any other things that may be useful for a project. Sometimes I keep items without any clear idea of what I could do with them, then, it often happens, looking at them at other times they provoke ideas or become useful for new inspirations. I believe that being surrounded by good things can bring good luck.