The ANDREA BRUGI and Samina Langholz designs all carry a strange touch of naivety — yet at the same time they are very contemporary and modern. They have a rustic and organic appearance; together with their aesthetics they still feel very close to nature and their original habitat. The philosophy is never to create a shape artificially; rather the shape is provided by nature.
The collection includes items ranging from decorating items, small tiny salt jars, and organically shaped chopping boards, handmade olive wood spoons to large family style dining tables and benches/coffee tables in chestnut and poplar to . Each piece is unique.
In our MAGAZINE issue 15 Rigetta Klint wrote:
WE ARE IN ITALY
it’s 2012 – the region is Tuscany, the town is Montemerano
it is quiet here the only thing you hear is a goat if you didn’t know better, you might believe you were on the set of the Nativity.
"And it came to pass in those days" There are goats, sheep and chickens here, there’s a carpenter and his wife, and the child Gloria. An irresistibly beautiful girl child.
The story of Andrea Brugi and Samina Langholz and the little Gloria child isn’t the Nativity, but it’s a modern fairy tale; not only a tale of love and of business, but a fairy tale that took its beginning more than 40 years ago in Denmark when a young Pakistani man came visiting to test the liberality of Scandinavia and a young girl’s heart melted on meeting him. Samina Langholz is the name of the little human who resulted from that meeting – a flirt that developed into parenthood and marriage as well.
In the Denmark of the early seventies that little girl was a rare and exotic creature, celebrated for her outlandish beauty and teased for her otherness, and thus accustomed to attention she grew up and got a place at the centre of events, or more precisely as the one who held the reins and managed events – she became a producer of advertising films, respected and recognized.
- And as she phrases it herself: "I don’t know if it’s the thing about myself that I like best, but I’ve probably always looked around when I entered a room and made sure that everybody noticed my arrival."
"Home for Christmas" was the working title of this magazine, and I went to Montemerano to talk to Samina Langholz who has been living there for eight years now, and who is the woman behind a much sought-after series of rustic decorative objects in wood, usable as Christmas or year-round decorations.
"Home for Christmas" is the final name of the magazine as well, even though Christmas turned out to play a very minor part in my conversations with Samina; those conversations centred instead on being where you are, on being at home in yourself, on taking things as they come.
"Many years before I met Andrea, a wise man predicted that one day I would settle in another country – I dismissed that flatly. I do not believe in that sort of prophesies, in the first place, and I was happy with my life in Denmark.
– I was in control, I was the type who would go on holiday but look forward to getting back to my daily life."
"I had forgotten all about the prediction when, on a beautiful summer’s evening in 2004, I caught a glimpse of Andrea on the square in Montemerano, and instantly knew that my fate had caught up with me. I didn’t know a word of Italian, but in disregard of all reason and under the sole command of my heart, I went back to Copenhagen, struggled to learn Italian, gave notice at my job and sold my flat, car, and belongings. And nine months after that first meeting I was living in Montemerano, in the historic centre three houses away from where we live now."
After thinking for a bit, Samina adds, "but maybe there was a bit of common sense as well. I believe my unconscious reasoning went like this: I’m 36 years old; if my infatuation won’t stand up to daily life, I might as well find out at once, I don’t have the years to spend on an unserious vacation relationship. On the other hand it never crossed my mind that Andrea could move to Denmark."
Andrea made his living from being the local carpenter and joiner, he restored houses and antiques, and in his free time he applied his artistic talents to making the most beautiful cutting boards and furniture. Samina didn’t fall in love just with the man, but with the Aladdin’s cave of beautiful hand tools, antiques and curiosities, and exquisite, unique creations.
Then as now, Andrea had his workshop in connection with his parents’ farm, their Agriturismo – and for the first nine months after moving to Tuscany, Samina spent her time helping out in her in-laws’ business. "I had to get to know them, and the culture and the language," she says.
When she wasn’t helping her mother-in-law, Samina kept in touch with former colleagues and friends in the advertising and magazine business, and it would frequently happen that an international team of photographers and stylists made their way to Montemerano – and then Samina would take on her professional role as producer of the exclusive pictorials and film shoots.
Both Andrea’s cutting boards and furniture and his collection of curiosities were obvious props, and still are, and soon his story and work became a reason in itself for visiting Montemerano. The visitors, and the resulting demand for the products, brought Samina in as a natural and necessary partner in Andrea’s business, which slowly but surely changed from a restorer of antiques with a hobby based
production of cutting boards to a sought after supplier to renowned designer boutiques in the US, Europe and Asia.
The company is now a close partnership and the product range has grown organically.
"I love my life here, I open my eyes every morning and feel privileged to have my little family, to be able to work closely with my husband, happy to deal with something I love and not going to bed hungry," says Samina.
Her simple and immediate satisfaction is catching, and not only do their products speak to the world but their history and humility are infectious, moving and captivating.
I ask Samina about the future - but she doesn’t think that much about it. "During all the years we have been together, we’ve found a way forward without worrying and without planning, and I assume that it will continue like that," she says.
"When I moved here, I had to give up imagining how things should be and just live, and it has paid off."
"Is the craft a tradition for you, or even a calling?" I ask Samina – "It’s more of an accidental thing," is the answer, but on reflection she sees that creativeness and the joy of producing beauty has always been part of her life – "the sense for beauty and for trade is something I have from my Pakistani father," she says.
As for Andrea: Most people in the areawork with either crafts or agriculture or a combination of both, Andrea differs markedly by having an artistic approach.
Samina talks about the beauty of the landscape and about becoming more minimalist herself in her approach to interior design during the years in Montemerano. "In an environment that is so rich in beauty you don’t need so much home décor," she says.
Samina and Andrea’s house from 1678 has been thoroughly but gently and tastefully renovated and furnished in a relatively minimalist way with their own creations and Scandinavian design classics. She dresses beautifully and Gloria’s wardrobe is worthy of a princess; soft jazz flows from the speakers and she serves coffee in Royal Danish porcelain, and you understand that a real aesthete lives here. Samina herself can live on a rock, she says –
“There are many days when I put on work clothes in the morning, come back in the evening, shower and don my pyjamas -it does not sound very sexy, but in fact we are happy"
There are still decorations in the house, carefully selected antiques and flea market curiosities besides Samina’s own design. A collection that in the very modern and environmentally conscious way, or maybe in the old-fashioned housewife common sense way, has its starting point in the waste from Andrea’s production – the first year the surplus pieces of fine and precious old olive wood from the cutting board production was used as firewood at home, but Samina was dissatisfied with the waste and started cutting, chopping and grinding on her own – and today her designs are as popular as Andrea’s. Samina always sees jewels glittering in the scrap piles, the latest addition is a fine prism.
“Are you crazy about Christmas?" I ask at one point – "Crazy about Christmas?" Samina repeats – "Frankly, no, not in particular. I love to wrap presents beautifully and I love the Danish Christmas, and even though we live here, 'Home for Christmas' is a trip to Denmark and Danish Christmas traditions."
"Apropos of Home for Christmas and Denmark – do you miss your family and friends?” I have to ask. "I actually have enough in my husband and my child in everyday life," Samina says, "and when friends do come, they settle in for days or weeks at a time and then we are together in a much more intense way, that fully covers my needs."
One obvious reason for a visit to Tuscany is the food. Once it was poverty that defined the menu in the region, now it’s tradition. Eating is still simple and rustic here, and nature is rich with temptations: beans, wild asparagus, rosemary plants as big as bushes; there is wine here, olives and amazing cheeses, wild boar and lamb.
"Our everyday lunch we eat with Andrea’s family, who all work on or adjacent to the farm here. Lunch can be dry bread cooked with vegetables, cheese and olive oil to a tasty dish – that is the domain of my mother-in-law."
At home I prepare the meals, on weekdays often a little cheese and sausage, bread and olive oil and a simple pasta dish."
"There is no doubt that my Danish friends think I am a little old fashioned, but I find it natural to make sure that my husband gets good food since he works hard physically. Well, actually I work as well, but despite this I think that it is my job to do the household chores.”
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