"Imagination and strong modern style, which blends very well with any other environment" defines the Italian style of the years 1965-1980 which Willy Rizzo claims. As the designer puts it so well, it all starts in a hair salon, located in Piazza di Spagna in Rome, at the end of 1966. While his wife Elsa is getting her hair done, they both discuss their installation in Italy, where their respective careers take them so often. Willy likes this area, he asks the hairdresser if there is a real estate agency nearby. "Sure, just around the corner but you will need a miracle to find an apartment."
And the miracle happened in the form of a second floor occupied by a shirt manufacturer overlooking the Piazza di Spagna. It was a very abandoned one-room commercial space, with no water supply and practically uninhabitable. He immediately signs a rental contract for six months and returns triumphantly to the hairdressing salon, all in 45 minutes.
With a group of local artisans, Willy turns this room into an apartment. He wants brown and gold walls, a silver-colored kitchen, black floors and ceilings. Then he designs furniture: sofas, coffee tables, consoles, hi-fi furniture and everything in between. The result is very chic. Willy Rizzo never intended to become a furniture designer, just his friends saw what he had done in his apartment and fell in love with his furniture. And since he had many friends in fashion, film, orders poured in. One of his first clients was Ghighi Cassini, a social columnist for the American Hearst newspaper who invented the "Jet Set" formula to describe the universe and lifestyle that Fellini immortalized in Dolce Vita. Cassini wanted a modern apartment in a classic Palazzo. Willy Rizzo has always loved beautiful things, beautiful antiques, he knew how to create contemporary furniture that integrated perfectly with the old. This order has appealed to others from across the Jet Set and high net worthy Italian society.
Salvador Dali has ordered several pieces for him, as well as Brigitte Bardot for the interior of the Madrague in Saint-Tropez. He furnished apartments for aristocrats in Palazzo Borghese and Palazzo Ruspoli. The Rizzo style marked an era. Considered the designer of Dolce Vita, he also embodied him. The demand was such that in 1968, he decided to set up his own company. He installed his establishments outside Rome, in Tivoli where his team increased from 8 employees to 150. In the following years he created more than 30 pieces of furniture, steel tables with travertine top, bronze table lamps, all handmade . His furniture is contemporary in style and always based on natural and noble materials such as wood, marble, stainless steel, brass, wild boar. He opened a Willy Rizzo boutique on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, then several in France and in Europe, as well as points of sale in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. His creations are published in numerous magazines.
In 1978, Willy sells and returns to his first love, the photo. "I have never tried to become a businessman and I am starting to get bored. I miss my bohemian life as a photographer”, he said. During these 10 years, Rizzo, a great admirer of the sophistication of Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Ruhlmann, has developed a style that is very easily recognizable today. These pieces have simple lines with well-marked geometric shapes in carefully chosen materials, inlaid in chrome and brass. He has always remained faithful to the traditional use of materials specific to artisans, avoiding entering the mass production system and the plastic that was in tune with the times. The style was first defined by its customers and the interiors to be decorated. Comfort, solidity and practicality are also important elements. As we could say that his photos are beautiful because they have a rare simplicity, we can say that his furniture works perfectly in contemporary decor because they have an elegant simplicity and a reason for being. The originality of his furniture comes from his independence as a designer who has never copied or collaborated, which explains this striking and very different style.