Hanging proudly in the dining room of Alessandro Sarfatti and Yasmin Edgecombe’s home in Copenhagen is the pendant light that started it all: the ‘Model 2065’.
It’s a recognisable piece for anyone who is aware of Alessandro’s lighting brand Astep, but for him it is more than a success story. It’s a direct link to his past and future.
This version, an original designed by his grandfather in the 1950s, has been with Alessandro for 30 years or more, travelling with him as he made the move from his native Italy to the Danish capital.
‘It is the blueprint for the very first piece by Astep,’ he says. ‘Yasmin knows how important it is to me and really wanted to put it in the collection. It made history for me.’
Youngest in a three-generation line of lighting entrepreneurs, Alessandro is the grandson of renowned designer Gino Sarfatti, who launched his lighting brand, Arteluce, in 1939. Legend has it that the family passion was ignited when, while studying naval engineering, his grandfather was forced by WWII to leave his education and begin working in a lighting store in Milan. One day, a customer really liked a vase and asked if it was possible to turn it into a light.
‘He not only sold the vase, but fell in love with his work,’ says Alessandro, whose father, Riccardo, also caught the bug – ‘I have to assume it’s in the blood,’ he jokes. After Gino sold Arteluce to Flos in 1973, Riccardo set up his own company, Luceplan, in 1978.
Perhaps it was familial destiny then that Alessandro, like his father and grandfather before him, would set up his own lighting brand. After he stopped working for Luceplan in 2013, he met friend and co-founder Nicholas Zambetti, a former Apple engineer, at a dinner party in Copenhagen. Just one year later, Astep was born.
The two men shared an interest in innovation so, as well as reissuing and modernising Alessandro’s grandfather’s substantial back catalogue of designs in collaboration with Flos, it was also important to the pair that Astep work with contemporary creatives on totally new ideas. The latest of these, the ‘Pepa’ wireless lamp by Francesco Faccin, is made entirely from wood – you rotate its carefully crafted shade to turn it on and off.
All the lights in the Astep collection, new and old, speak to what Alessandro calls the company’s three pillars: ‘design, technology and sustainability’. It’s a trinity that has also influenced his home, which showcases the brand’s lights at every turn. As well as the ‘Model 2065’, there’s a ‘Model 1063’ floor lamp, also by his grandfather, and a ‘Nox’ table lamp by Alfredo Häberli, to name just a few.
The third house Alessandro and Yasmin have renovated in just two years, this home, situated in a family-friendly corner of the city’s Østerbro district, required new walls, new floors and a new bathroom. ‘It was a 360-degree project,’ he recalls. It is the wooden staircase, though, masterminded by Yasmin, that is the most striking addition. Its architectural, floor-to-ceiling slats allow natural light into the narrow three-storey property.
The interior, much like Astep’s collections, is a combination of the sleek, minimalist best of the Scandinavian and Italian aesthetics. ‘Husband and wife don’t always agree,’ says Alessandro, ‘but on taste and furniture Yasmin and I always do. Decorating is the easiest thing for us besides having children – and we have plenty of those!’
They have four, in fact. Filippa, 22, and Kajser, 20, from Yasmin’s previous marriage, as well as Benjamin, 11, and Isaac, nine. Filippa has moved out, but it still makes for a busy household. When things get noisy, you’ll find Alessandro reading at the desk in his bedroom.
His latest literary fix is Factfulness by Hans Rosling, which discusses how the data on how long we live, our ability to cure diseases and live comfortably suggests that, on average, we have never had it better. It’s an ideal read for a man who is, by nature, an optimist.
‘Astep is about taking a step forward,’ he says, but it’s also about all of the tiny steps that have got us to where we are today. ‘All of the curious, bright, courageous people.’ For him, lighting was a calling. ‘My grandfather did it, my father did it, and I like to think I can, too. I have the natural knowledge and passion. Really, Astep is a tribute to evolution.’ astep.design
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration December 2020
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