Molteni&C has finally landed in Australia, and the beauty, grandeur and elegance of it – in all its monobrand glory – is almost impossible to conceive. Jacqueline Foti-Lowe (of Hub Furniture fame) has brought an indefatigable energy to launching Molteni&C’s first stand-alone presence in Australia, embarking on its Melbourne flagship first, with the intention to open in Sydney in the not-too-far future.

Located in the Architectus-designed Industry Lanes development (Salta Properties and Abacus Property Group) on Church Street in Melbourne, Foti-Lowe with Molteni&C have conjured the prestige and enticing eclecticism that makes the 90-year-old Italian design powerhouse irresistible to design aficionados and enthusiasts alike.

Warm and welcoming, the store exudes that Vincent Van Duysen character that is a symbol of the Belgian architect-designer’s approach to all he produces. As the brand’s creative director since 2016, he has conceived a ‘Warm and Fluid Home’ concept for the store that effectively elevates our perception of experiential home retail to leave a lasting impression of aspirational yet approachable design sophistication. It means that almost anyone could image having a piece of Molteni&C – whether sofa, chair or kitchen – in their living environment.

Van Duysen has employed a rich, natural palette of materials – travertine, rendered walls, natural oak – to convey the idea of a cosy, comfortable, welcoming home. “It gives you first of all the image of entering into a real house, and this is the main concept and very fluid,” comments Giulia Molteni, head of marketing and communications and a third-generation family member. “We don’t have a huge separation between rooms as I think [in our modern way of living] these are more connected to each other.”

Here, Van Duysen employs columns and partitioned walls to create a fine balance of interconnection and distinction between zones. Lighting, too, plays a critical role in this architectural composition, shaping the way in which the space is perceived, and aligning with German-American architect Walter Gropius’ idea of ‘opening walls like drapes to invite fresh air, light and sunshine’.

“It also gives the impression of being in Italy, in a way,” comments Giulia. “It’s because of the mix of art pieces – everything is looking like a real… let’s say eclectic, sophisticated house.”

Related: Saturday Indesign Afterparty at Industry Lanes

Furniture is very much a part of the architecture for Molteni&C – in their words, it fuses with the very articulation of the house, integrating new compositional possibilities that embrace the existing architecture.

Since the company’s earliest and most formative years it has built a vision for working with the best architects. Giulia’s father was critical in leading this vision and established Molteni&C as one of the few companies in Italy to work with the likes of Aldo Rossi and Tobia Scarpa. “From the beginning, [my father worked with] the best names in the area and understood the possibility of using architects from all over the world,” says Giulia.

She highlights the esteemed designs of Gio Ponti, many of which Molteni&C produce as part of its Gio Ponti collection – a partnership born in 2012 with the Gio Ponti Archives and Ponti’s heirs under the artistic direction of Studio Cerri & Associati. These re-editions, timeless in their appeal and yet speaking distinctly of the era in which they were created, inject that elusive sense of eclecticism into the Molteni&C lifestyle proposition. Ponti’s pieces are inarguably iconic, and yet they feel familiar and easy to embrace; such is the honesty and modesty of these designs, reproduced by Molteni&C to resemble the originals.

These historical pieces really sit effortlessly alongside the ultra-contemporary offerings within the Molteni&C range – brought to us by the likes of Van Duysen, and also Italian couturier Marta Ferri whose textile research (which we can see in the brand’s fabric and carpet offerings) has injected a degree of femininity into the offering – always bringing it home (so to speak).

When asked about translating that Molteni&C look into different markets – what makes it distinctly speak to our Australian vernacular, for example? – Giulia replies that the key is in customisability. To change a sofa’s fabric is to transform its relevance to a place and culture. Finishes bring with them new contexts and often, says Giulia, they are asked to match the product or solution with something that a customer might already have in their house. Every project brings with it different requests and for Molteni&C’s part, “you must be prepared to answer”.

Giulia, who was brought up in the family company with her grandparents and then her own parents, credits herself as being talented with numbers. Her background in business, which she studied in New York, gave her sound grounding for marketing, sales, retail and business structure. Her passion and natural affinity for retail has served her well. In supporting the company’s continued global growth and its adaptation into new markets, she has become a custodian for image.

“It’s important to be consistent with the image of the stores,” she comments.

Partners are also key, she says. With Foti-Lowe they share a long-term partnership: “We are very happy to finalise this project together, and look forward to Sydney now!”

For those who have not yet visited the new Molteni&C flagship, prepare for a rich and immersive experience – a journey that will take you to the heights of 20th century furniture design and architecture, presented through the contemporary lens of modern living for a distinctly Australian lifestyle.


Timothy Kaye

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