Interior designer Alfredo Ricci first met successful tile-company owners Shama Gupta and Amit Thale for a project they were collaborating on in 2009. Ricci ended up bonding with Gupta and Thale over a shared vision rooted in cultural appreciation, and their discussion at that meeting stretched far beyond the particular project they were working on.
“We immediately connected, and we started an extensive conversation about the Italian culture, where design plays a central role, and how this philosophy should be brought to B.C.,” says Ricci.
The founders of Aeon Stone and Tile, Gupta and Thale, had just returned from travels, including a visit to Italy that left a lasting impression.
“They had a passion for design, and during their travels in Italy and other parts of the world, they understood the need for bringing unique design to Vancouver to bridge the gap,” Ricci says.
Upon their return to Vancouver, a plan for a unique design concept was born: Habitat by Aeon, a high-end furnishings and home-decor showroom specializing in Italian design. Ricci, Gupta, and Thale combined their creative forces, and in May 2017, Habitat opened its doors to Vancouver’s enthusiastic clientele.
“It was designed to meet and embrace the diversity of Vancouver, and we decided to bring in different flavours to incorporate modern, traditional, and transitional styles,” says Ricci, creative director for Habitat by Aeon. “We selected ten companies that can provide full Italian furniture packages, from luxury kitchen and bathroom cabinetry down to area rugs made with the finest materials.”
What sets Habitat apart, he says, is its incredibly diverse selection of products, ranging from full-sized kitchens and bathrooms to furniture, doors, lamps, rugs, and more. The focus is on customer satisfaction and providing top-notch service in every part of the process.
“We are not here to provide a piece of furniture or a cabinet, but a design piece that represents quality and craftsmanship made by passionate manufacturers,” Ricci says. The company’s mission, he says, is to bring passion to clients’ spaces, not only creating an aesthetically beautiful room, but also reflecting the owners’ character and style in a residence that truly becomes their home.
“Each project is unique. We work on residential custom homes, commercial spaces, multifamily projects. Our job is to assist the client from the initial meeting all the way to supervising the installation of the final piece to complete their home.”
Situated in the sleek Ledingham Design building in Mount Pleasant, Habitat’s very location makes a prominent statement, recognized by the city of Vancouver and the design community as one of the most remarkable boutique buildings in the area, and acquired by Paul Sangha Landscape Architecture. “The opportunity presented [itself], and we could not resist being part of such a historic icon and continuing the legacy of the famous, late Robert Ledingham,” Ricci says.
What Ricci didn’t expect was that he would spend more than five years on the project, a venture that followed a notable interior-design career of over 25 years. Despite falling in love with Vancouver, the designer has not forgotten his Italian roots.
“I guess you got from my accent that I am Italian,” he says with a smile. “Allow me to go back to my childhood, living in a small seaside resort town close to Rome. My grandfather had a small wood-furniture manufacturing company, and my father was a local developer. Being drawn into the family businesses at a young age, I developed an interest in interior decorating, superior materials and craftsmanship, and also learned the bigger picture of how design and architecture go hand in hand.”
He felt that a talented interior designer must have an architectural background. After moving to Rome and obtaining a master’s degree in architecture, Ricci went on to work with one of Italy’s top luxury cabinetry companies, which opened up opportunities for participating in numerous international projects.
“I have been involved in the design of celebrity mansions, upscale multi-housing projects and super yachts,” the designer says. “I had the special privilege to collaborate and be mentored by ‘starchitects’ such as Vico Magistretti, Sir Norman Foster, David Rockwell and many others — a valuable and unforgettable opportunity.” In his role with Habitat, Ricci continues to seek out opportunities to share the richness of Italian culture and design tradition with the world.
“We were looking for upscale design companies that are able to manufacture custom products in an organized manner,” he says of Habitat’s selective-vendor philosophy. One favourite is Aster Cucine, with its wide range of offerings. “Minimalistic, transitional, traditional, luxurious and industrial styles,” Ricci says. “Available in over 500 finishes and the widest selection of materials, such as stone, ecomalta, reclaimed wood, and even gold cabinet doors.”
Other notable vendors include Minotti, a renowned Italian modern furniture maker; Lualdi, which transforms door-making into an art form; Verzelloni, a family business that has produced handmade sofas for 70 years; Presotto, a hip furnishings brand appealing to young buyers; Rifra, with its artistic approach to creative bathroom designs; and Sitap, creating stunning rugs using an ancient Turkish kilim technique.
“It was a long process, but we are very satisfied with the partners we have chosen and have received nothing but positive feedback,” says Ricci.
“I am so delighted to lead the team here and utilize my multicultural experience and my Italian roots,” he adds with a smile. Aeon’s work and his role, he tells us, are about more than just beautifying Vancouver’s homes — they’re about enriching lives.