CULINARY CRAFTSMANSHIP

by LESLIE J. THOMPSON

IN MODERN SOCIETY, mass-produced, made-in-China kitchen furnishings are the unfortunate norm. Distinctive, custom-made fixtures and appliances are increasingly rare and therefore a luxury. But, for those with impeccable taste, the investment in superior craftsmanship promises both aesthetic appeal and longevity.

“If you produce a normal kitchen like every-one else, it will have a life cycle of 10, 20 or 25 years,” says architect Matteo Gullo, the third-born son of Carmelo Gullo, founder of the bespoke kitchen design firm Officine Gullo. “In our case, by using only metal and solid materials, your kitchen has an eternal life cycle.”

Balancing tradition and modernity, Officine Gullo specializes in the artisanal technique
of metalworking to create professional home kitchens that are as breathtaking as they are functional. The collection, made in Florence’s signature metalwork style, includes custom-made complete kitchens, ranges, refrigerators, and built-in appliances, as well as hoods, sinks, faucets, and accessories. Each piece is meticulously handcrafted from stainless steel, aluminum, brass, nickel, and burnished copper and available in a myriad of finishes.

“Kitchen furniture is often made with wood and sometimes covered with metal. We are doing something completely different. We are using only metal,” says Gullo. “Nothing about our production is standard. Everything is based on custom requests.”

Based in Florence, Officine Gullo has additional showrooms around the globe, including Milan, New York, Los Angeles, London, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Lagos. At the beginning of the design process, customers are asked for the layout of both their kitchen and the whole house, because the sophisticated installations integrate with and add value to the entire property.

“The second question we ask is about what kind of cuisine you like to make,” says Gullo. “Our kitchens are professional grade, so we can add fry tops, buffets, professional ovens, pasta makers or steamers. And we can create professional cooking ranges that will be part of the furnishings.”

Designers from Officine Gullo often collaborate with clients’ architects and interior designers, as well as with the customer, before putting together a proposal for a tailored kitchen that combines both function and artistry. Once the client is satisfied with the initial concept, CGI and 3-D artists create photo-realistic renderings of the space that bring the project to life. Gullo also invites customers to visit the company’s headquarters, where they can meet with in-house designers and browse the materials library to choose the finishing touches for their one-of-a-kind kitchen. Even the color can be customized to the customer’s taste, notes Gullo, who confesses that part of his own professional home kitchen is pink. “The colors you see in our catalogs are only suggestions made by our designers, but we can create any color in the world from the Pantone scale or European scale,” he says.

Visitors also are invited to tour the factory, located 10 kilometers outside of Florence in Chianti, to see the craftsmanship that goes into the manufacturing process. There, highly skilled artisans shape thick sheets of steel into drawers and cabinets, mold brass hinges and corner trims, and engrave aluminum backplates to create incomparable kitchen suites that marry traditional Florentine design with state-of-the-art technology.

In addition to demonstrating how its superlative kitchens are made, Officine Gullo is opening a new space this spring to show customers how they can be used. “It’s an amazing place in a former church in Ognissanti square in Florence,” says Gullo, explaining that the design firm is installing a custom kitchen in the chapel. Chefs will prepare Michelin star restaurant-quality dinners for visiting guests, who can experience both the elegance and performance of the kitchen firsthand. The intention is not to teach guests how to cook, he notes, but to share the rich history of Italian food and its influence on cuisines worldwide.

Says Gullo, “We want to give our customers the experience of seeing how to use the kitchen from a professional chef while we narrate how our food culture has grown over the last century.” The new venture not only showcases Officine Gullo’s unique heritage but highlights its philosophy that, like a treasured culinary dish, a well-crafted kitchen can stand the test of time.

Leslie J. Thompson is a Dallas-based freelance writer with a passion for interior design and international travel. Read more of her work at lesliejthompson.com.