Toni Grilo is a Franco-Portuguese storyteller, art director and internationally acclaimed designer. Drawing dialogues between the craftsmen, the materials, objects and brands:
“The Object Is The Result Of The Dialogue Between The Artisan And The Designer”
Image courtesy of Toni Grilo
Born in France in 1979, designer Toni Grilo was early influenced by the classical Baroque-Rococò architectures of his hometown Nancy and by the wide skies of Castelnaudary, where he was raised. As a designer and creative director with a Franco-Portuguese heritage, so much of this blend of cultures can be seen in his fruitful creations.
A graduate of the prestigious Ecole Boulle in Paris in 2001, Toni Grilo immediately left for Lisbon to reconnect with his roots. At the edge of the European Peninsula, he re-discovered a country rich in industrial and artisanal heritage and with centuries of know-how in traditional craftsmanship techniques.
After years of travelling and various artistic collaborations, he decided to settle in Portugal. In 2005 he founded his first design agency “Objection” with the designer Elder Monteiro, specialised in set design. In 2008 Toni Grilo Design Studio opened in Porto he could already count in his portfolio numerous projects in industrial design, furniture and scenography for major luxury brands worldwide.
Toni Grilo is a designer who grown up dreaming big and shaping the surrounding reality thought his vision. “When I was eight, I began painting things at one and half metres high,” he recalled. Toni Grilo was also a precocious designer when at the age of 14 he moved to Toulouse, France.
“There, I discovered the word Design. I was fascinated by functionality, but above all by technique.”
When the young student of École Boulle in Paris joined the studio of Marco Sousa Santos in Lisbon, Grilo’s love for Portugal was already blooming. From Marco Sousa Santos, known as one of the main contributor to the new “vision” on Design Culture in Portugal, Grilo started to grow his passion in experimenting with materials. In 2005, during the Experimenta Design biennial exhibition in Lisbon, Toni Grilo held his first design show “Dysfunction” focusing on tableware.
Everything fell into place when Brigitte Fitoussi, artistic director of the renewed fine silver flatware manufacturer Christofle, saw Grilo’s exhibition. This destiny encounter got him the chance to design a cutlery collection for the luxury brand. It became immediately an international success and the founding stone for Grilo’s reputation as a trustworthy artistic director for luxury design.
Image courtesy of Toni Grilo, Line Chair and Stool for Riluc
Toni Grilo is a storyteller with a golden touch for design manufacturers. He is able to grasp the identity of the brand looking at its heritage and know-how and take the best out of it.
A designer and artist, he has the sense of history for materials, a team player who understand the challenges of the industry and appreciate the collective knowledge behind any successful iconic piece. Toni Grilo always starts with a profound understanding of each brand DNA and historical heritage. Riluc, Haymann Editions, Black Cork and Topazio are just some of the design manufacturers the he helped reinventing.
To celebrate Topazio’s 140 years in gold-smithery for example, Grilo invited 14 Portuguese artists to reinterpret the company most emblematic piece, the Manueline-style D. João V vase. The result was a statement of respect to the brand identity together with a strong vision to the changing market. “An exercise in style that was not easy because one must not break with the history of the brand, and still win new customers,” says Grilo. As Topazio Creative Director, he also contributed with a fresh collection of iconic pieces like the Rococò resembling All Style Vase, or the collection of gold and silver bowls Essential.
His passion for yielding the hidden features of natural materials such as marble, porcelain, wood, steel and cork brought him the opportunity to work for some of the best luxury brands in Europe such as Munna, Roche-Bobois, Christofle, Art-on-Chairs, Tools Galerie and Corque. He also developed memorable award-winning collections such as the Dartagnan chair for the Paris-based modern luxury furniture and lighting brand Haymann, winner of the 2013 Artravel Awards for the chair.