Ornella Pisano, owner of Ercole Home, is the kind of bohemian character I’ve always wanted to be. Leaving her native Venice, she made a stop in Key West before landing in New York’s East Village. She’s been a painter, sculptor, fashion designer and artistic muse. In 1986 she conceived of turning her fascination with mosaic tile into a business. Shortly thereafter, ABC Carpet & Home began snapping up her work – and the rest as they say – is history. I visited her yesterday in her new showroom and atelier on West 26th Street. She shared with me her vision for the future of her company.
With its expansive windows, polished concrete floors, and soaring white walls, Ercole Home feels like a gallery or party venue. I wondered if that was intentional. Pisano’s response., “The basic pieces in my collection will always be available for purchase at either ABC or through my showroom, but I want to work with designers, architects, and artists – to collaborate – to take mosaic to a whole new level as art.” She’s certainly set the backdrop to accomplish just that. I’ve seen her work at ABC, but frankly have scarcely paid attention. I find that store so grotesquely over-merchandised with mediocrity, it’s impossible for nice pieces to stand out. In her new home, which flaunts the rare Manhattan commodity of spaciousness, her pieces can really be appreciated.
Don’t expect to see pre-fab sheets of stock mosaic fashioned into the “pique assiette” tables you’d find at Pier 1 Imports, or the crazy awning of the now defunct “El Teddy’s”. This is the 5000 piece jig-saw puzzle of youth re-invented as glamorous glass-clad furniture. Each sheet she purchases is meticulously cut by hand into preordained sizes. They’re then laid out and pre-fit before they are fixed in place. Pisano designs all the wooden cabinetry and steel frames herself, with exacting allowances made to accept the mosaic. You can choose a piece from the collection to custom color, or work with her to realize your own vision in a completely unique piece. To spark creativity there’s a sample book with shapes and sizes of glass and mirror in dozens of colors, or she’ll back-paint glass any color you choose.
This is the gargantuan table (80″ x 80″ x 30″) that sits just inside the showroom. Pisano named it the “Suspension” table. The base was designed so that the struts which support the top are set back quite a distance from the edge. The mosaic top appears to float above the steel frame. The simplicity of its design contradicts the notion of the labor it took to produce. For me, that’s one of the hallmarks of good design.
Lest I sound like I didn’t get a good look around… I’ll be honest. I didn’t love everything in the showroom. I’m not going to make excuses for the mosaic vases and compotes… they’re a bit trite. I’m telling you to look past them to see the endless possibilities inherent in the craftsmanship.
A bedside table from the collection inspired by Venetian architecture
142 West 26th Street New York 10001 212-675-2218