Pushing design to its Extreme: A conversation with Marcello Cuconato
If you’re familiar with the beautiful kitchens and furniture produced by Extreme, it should come as no surprise that our creative director’s passion was born out of the art world. The endless self-portraits and raft of landscape paintings in the fine art world may have been Marcello Cuconato’s initial passion, but it soon took on a new direction. “My approach to art was one that was quite technical” he explains, “I love the technical approach to creativity”.
Combining the highly creative with the truly technical, Marcello’s artistry has come to define the look and feel of today’s Extreme kitchens. While he may not have been there from the beginning, after winning his first design award in 2004, Marcello soon joined Extreme and began to push interior design to its limits.
We sat down with Marcello Cuconato for an insight into what makes an Extreme kitchen so special, discussing everything from the concept of Extreme, to the designer’s technical outlook. We’ll even take a look at what exactly a client of Extreme can expect when they collaborate with Marcello’s team on their own project.
A new approach to interior design
“The vision for Extreme is to change the approach to design in the industry,” Marcello tells us. “With kitchens, we seem to be in a world of standard units and working within parameters”.
It’s true. All too often, kitchens appear to become conventional rooms lacking in much personal flair. With a fridge, sink and oven in the right place and plenty of mass-produced cupboards and worktops, the kitchen rarely deviates from a straightforward, accepted style.
When designing kitchens, you’re likely to focus on the size of the room, what appliances you need and where you plan to place them. In no time at all, what you believed was the kitchen of your dreams has become nothing more than a functional area in which to prepare meals and have a glass of wine every so often – it’s hardly the heart of the home.
“It really is a collaboration between us and the client”
It is this attitude, Marcello tells us, that he is changing through his creative leadership at Extreme. “Forget about the layout and space for a moment”, he insists – Marcello knows that when building a dream interior space, inspiration comes from the soul, not necessarily the practical. When designing a kitchen for an Extreme client, Marcello focuses on how clients feel. “What is it that the space is trying to convey?” he’ll ask his clients; “how does it reflect you, your family and your friends?”. The very best kitchens represent the client’s personality and really tell a story; this is why Extreme’s designers offer a truly collaborative service, using the connection between a client and their home as a driver for design.
The Extreme style
Rather than constraining their clients to one single – if not luxurious – Extreme Design style, Marcello tells us of his pride in being able to “offer clients the opportunity to go in whatever direction they want”. The Extreme style is tailored to provide the best service to the specific needs of each one of our clients.
Extreme kitchens are not created purely to turn heads and impress the neighbours – no matter how inevitable that may be. Rather, as Marcello explains, “the whole idea is that the project is for the individual” – one person’s Extreme dream may be another’s nightmare, but that’s exactly what makes them so uniquely appealing.
“I can’t say we have a set style; we help our clients to uncover their own version of style.”
The reason that Extreme’s design work is so fluid is likely due to the background of its creative lead. “I still class myself as an artist,” Marcello says, adding that the creativity is something that really resonates with him. With such a uniquely creative approach to each project, we ask if it’s difficult to define an Extreme ‘style’ that can be detected across all their projects. “There is consistency, but it’s more a case of execution rather than style”; the creativity of the Extreme team is allowed to soar, but the consistency in our design processes and expert execution will always lead to the birth of an excellent kitchen.
With regards to inspiration, Marcello is just as committed to delivering a unique experience for each customer. “We take inspiration from individual clients,” he explains; Marcello wants to know his customers inside and out to deliver a design that really embodies what they want out of their kitchen. “The stronger the connection we make with our clients, the better the design journey.” It’s a simple but effective ethos, exemplifying the way in which Extreme puts the clients and their personal story at the forefront of their design efforts.
Ultimately, at Extreme, Marcello and the designers work on a client to client basis. There is no ‘Extreme style’, but each client is guaranteed a wonderful, tailored design process.
How does Extreme build its interiors?
Extreme’s designs are bold, beautiful and artful, but without an in-house furniture or appliance range, how can we be sure they’ll impress our clients every time? “We have alliances with manufacturers that create truly amazing stuff”, Marcello tells us. Once the Extreme Design team understands the client – and their kitchen – they can get to work.
“We work alongside top craftsmen and specialists from around the world”
Marcello explains that rather than having their own range of products, Extreme is able to further push the boundaries by working with selected specialists. “It could be some custom pieces of cabinetry” he tells us, “or bespoke European furniture, or just objects using unique materials”. In working with partners, there is no limit to the scale and scope of the projects and the Extreme team can use their entire skill-set to create truly tailored furniture schemes.
This skill-set has seen Extreme expanding out of the kitchen market recently. Marcello explains that, while he and the Extreme Design team are still viewed as kitchen designers, that could change. A study, a bar area, a library, a TV room, a wine room – these are just a handful of the rooms that the Extreme team have been called to work on recently: “we even have projects now like cocktail bars and cinema rooms.” There’s little doubt that Extreme is expanding, however, although the design team are “approached a lot more for furniture design throughout the house” the focus remains in fitted cabinetry.
Advice for your project
If Marcello’s creative passion for the artistic, functional and luxury has encouraged you to seek out an Extreme kitchen of your own, you’re in luck. We asked the man himself if he had any advice for potential customers. “I say to all clients: be free thinking. Every idea, whether it’s bad, early or new, helps us understand them as individuals.”
“Free-flowing thought is really important”
The key to the perfect Extreme kitchen is to be as open and honest about both yourself and your creativity as possible. When collaborating with our designers, this openness will really allow them to craft a room that is designed around every aspect of your story. For Marcello, the best thing customers can do is “just to open themselves up… think about a kitchen not as boxes in a room, but as an opportunity to sculpt something from them”.
The future of Extreme
Marcello is far from unambitious. He craves the more challenging projects, where he feels he can be at his most creative. “Our clients place their trust in us and like to be encouraged to explore options they may not have considered before.” However, creating something that redefines the rules and breaks convention inevitably brings more uncertainty than playing it safe – but that nervous journey is rewarding. “It’s our role to understand how far the client wishes to take the design” he enthusiastically tells us. When all the hard work and sleepless nights come together, “you end up with a project that stays with the client forever” – worth it every time.
On his hunt for the more groundbreaking and challenging, Marcello has shaped a fundamental value of Extreme: “we want to push the barriers of design… when presented with these challenging projects, we embrace them”. So, where will this pursuit of bigger, more challenging works take Extreme Design?
“The most exciting projects are the most challenging”
“Our vision is to have an impact on design and our mission is to be involved in the world’s most iconic projects.” Marcello explains that their shared ambition is to work with the biggest names in architecture and design to produce world-leading interiors. “We already do projects internationally,” he tells us, so the company is certainly on the right track”.