The FORM Questionnaire: A Conversation with Vincent Celano

Vincent Celano, principal of the new firm Celano Design Studio shares his thoughts on design past, present and future. Image courtesy Celano Design Studio.Toronto-born, but a die-hard New Yorker for most of his life, Vincent Celano has racked up an impressive list of projects to say the least. His portoflio encompasses nightclubs from Miami to Chicago, restaurants in Las Vegas, the list goes on. His newest venture is Celano Design Studio, which opened its doors earlier this year. We’re delighted that he took a moment to share his thoughts on the state of the profession and what makes him tick. 

What direction do you see your profession heading?

I see the design field expanding in terms of the scope of the work we do. Our industry does not just design anymore, it encompasses everything that goes into the experience of a space from the interior to branding to what the staff is wearing—everything. On the flip side, I also notice that some firms are becoming more specific, specializing in one of these components in particular, like branding or graphic design. All of these aspects weave in and out of our profession.

What buildings inspire you?

The Flatiron building—I can see it from my office window. It’s iconic in this part of the city and, to me, it represents the transition the neighborhood is going through right now. When I was growing up, I went to school in midtown, and The Lever House and the Seagram Building were very inspiring to me. The Arango house in Acapulco by John Lautner is another favorite of mine—it’s pure architecture. I’m inspired by buildings that were made for more than function, where the approach comes from a place of creating sculpture that is habitable.

Where else do you find inspiration?

Art, architecture, and fashion are given—and I find inspiration from dialogue and conversation, from connecting with people, and from observing how people respond to spaces and interact with them. I also take inspiration from my clients—having casual conversations with them sparks ideas. There’s an energy in simple interaction that drives me to concepts that translate into an actual spaces. 

What are your three favorite objects?

A roll of white trace, an iPhone—and a cool paperweight sculpture and clip my four-year-old daughter Lianna made me for Father’s Day. I keep it on my desk at work.

Do you collect If so, what do you collect (furniture, records, t-shirts, etc.)?

I have some vintage prints, and I like to collect vintage books on architecture. I also have a collection of old cameras and 16mm film projectors that originally belonged to my dad—I add to the collection whenever I can. I love the functionality components of old film— the inner workings aren’t hidden away in a box like cameras we have today. You can see the nuts and bolts, and they’re very mechanical—as objects, they’re honest and authentic. I also have a 1963 Vespa—I only have one right now but I’d like to collect them.

Who are some of your favorite young designers?

All the designers in my studio are my favorite young designers. They all bring an energy and an aesthetic to our team, and that’s what we cultivate in our studio. There are also a lot of graphic artists I’ve worked with that I’m inspired by, too. I like working with artists who use technology to create visual experiences, and I gravitate toward people who challenge how we define art. 

If you could live anywhere, where it would it be (a location or specific structure)?

I can’t live anywhere but New York—it’s my home. I grew up here and I love seeing it evolve and change. I love Miami too, but I can’t be anywhere else for too long—I’m always drawn back to New York. As for a specific structure . . . a cool treehouse in Madison Square Park inspired by John Lautner’s Chemosphere House would be nice. I have three kids; I think they’d love it.

A decade from now, what trends will be cringeworthy?

Not sure, but I hope it’s not the iPhone. Remember the Sony Walkman? Technology is a field that evolves so quickly that I think we’re always going to look back and laugh at what we once thought was the greatest thing ever.

What current trends will stand the test of time?

A trend that’s going to stand the test of time has to be able to grow and evolve while keep its essence. I think technology and social media interaction is something that we will always have but will evolve in its own interesting way.

What are you reading?

Right now I’m reading a list of these interview questions on my computer screen.

These days I’m reading Italian Uniqueness, by Enrico Morteo. It’s a book on Italian industrial design and production from the early 1960s onward. I’m interested in the idea that a country/a culture can create a national identity via the making/production of product taking into account usefulness and design.My favorite quote so far: “An artist’s dream is in any case to find a place in a museum, while the designer’s dream is to find a place in the local market”—Bruno Murari.

What are you wearing?

My white Converse, jeans and a white t-shirt. I dress casually in the office unless we are meeting a client, then I usually wear a dress shirt and sports jacket.

What are you eating?

Grilled mahi mahi and jasmine rice from Num Pang across the street from our office. 

Do you listen to music while you’re working?

Yeah, sometimes. Sinatra to Tiestro—I cover the spectrum. I used to listen to music more while I worked, but I don’t zone out too much anymore, because I’m the principal of my firm. I’m more active in the studio and involved in what everyone’s working on.

Are you a sketcher or a computer person?

Hybrid. I was always a sketcher, and I come from the school of sketching, but the computer is great for developing concepts.

Social media—yes or no?

Yes, but keeping up with it is a challenge – it’s always changing. 

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