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Portrait of an artist

Furniture and interior designer Francis Sultana speaks to Veronica Stivala about his latest collection, which was conceived in a Venetian piano nobile on the Canale Grande.

Originally from Gozo, Francis Sultana is a furniture and interior designer based in London. Sultana is simply going from strength to strength and he has an international client base covering Europe and Russia, the US and Asia. He is involved with the highest of the top in the design world, from the V&A to David Gill’s new gallery in Mayfair as well as being the designer for the prestigious PAD London VIP restaurant. This year sees him design his first super yacht interior for yacht builder Royal Huisman.

Sultana’s signature mark is noble materials, fine craftsmanship and luxurious finishes which has made him the favoured designer of many of the world’s biggest art patrons for residential and commercial interior projects. Sultana’s style can also be recognised by its main source of inspiration: the 1920s and 1930s, his most favoured periods. His work comprises cabinetry, tables, upholstery and lighting, combining classic lines and materials with a contemporary and sophisticated vision for the modern interior.

Maybe a collection will be inspired by Valletta in the not too distant future

Sultana designed his first furniture collection – Homage to the Art Deco – in 2011 and has since gone from strength to strength in the world of furniture design. This year sees the launch of his latest full collection of furniture and accessories: Celia, which is being launched in the UK, France, Russia and the US. Speaking about this gorgeous collection, Sultana cites the Mediterranean as his main source of inspiration.

“This has a very Mediterranean feel,” he says, noting how it is “inspired by palm tree barks”. Sultana used wood but also mimicked that in the bronze too – the silhouettes and feel of the furniture are reminiscent of the 1930s.

It is always enlightening to learn about an artist’s creative process. Interestingly, Sultana normally designs a collection in a few days, though he does confide that “in my mind it has been coming together for much longer”.

Sultana needs a quiet space and somewhere he loves to be in to create at such a speed. The creation of the Celia collection has a romantic story. Sultana reveals how it was designed over four days while he was in Venice: “I rented a piano nobile on the Canale Grande and the collection came together fast – it was much larger originally and together with my studio, we edited it down.”

We discuss his favourite media, which are bronze and textured glass. But this designer also loves “to be inspired by artisans and their techniques”. So, the linen on wood was introduced to the collection. “I am always looking for new ideas that will work within my work,” Sultana says.

Although Sultana is based in London, Malta holds a special place in his heart. In our previous interview he cited being struck by Ta’ Ċenċ as a child, which effortlessly combined old and new.

Now that he has a home in Valletta, Sultana says he is “more immersed in its culture, especially during the era of the Knights of St John and their patronage of the arts. Maybe,” he adds, “a collection will be inspired by Valletta in the not too distant future.”

Does he have a favourite piece of all his work so far?

“My favourite piece is the Anita banquette – made with Kidassia fur.” It’s been his best-ever selling piece to date.

Apart from his design studio, Sultana is also involved in various other creative projects.

He is designing his first ever pop-up restaurant at the luxury fair PAD in London this October. “It’s a challenge as it’s just for a week and I will have to use a great deal of theatre to make it something that London will talk about and want to be eating at as well,” notes Sultana.

The Royal Huisman will also be a big challenge as this is a sailing super yacht so weight is crucial for the speed of the vessel and Sultana works a great deal with bronze, so he needs to design and create weightless furniture.

Looking to the future, where would Sultana say contemporary furniture design is headed?

It’s now a global market, says Sultana as he writes to me from Shanghai. “It’s amazing to see how design is taking over here – everyone has fallen for the need for great design and also art.”

Sultana’s is an exciting, but busy life. When he is not working, what is his favourite pastime?

“Being away from the maddening crowd in places far, far away. I cannot wait to go back to Mustique, my favourite hideaway and be happy in shorts and a T-shirt, barefoot, reading and drawing, and coming up with new ideas.”

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