Our reporter recently had a chance to “sit down” with Julia Berger of Julia B. – frankly it was more like “run after” as Julia apparently never stops, designing a new monogram one minute while carefully scrutinizing a client’s order before it is whisked out the door, or speaking on the phone with Europe in Italian or French or Spanish at any given time and ensuring she is getting the finest possible fabric from her mills.

Amidst all of this frenzied movement, we had a chance to ask her a few questions about the new Quattro Mani collection. Here below is what she shared with us:

Q1. The collection is a limited edition, how did you decide on the final number of pieces?
At Julia B. we are dedicated to handmade. When it comes to designing, and producing handmade products, we are dependent upon the amazing skill and commitment of the individual, human hands that bring our designs to life. Therefore, we knew from the outset that we had to respect the time constraints and the lives of our artisans and that meant limiting what we could reasonably ask of them. Furthermore, we intend for Quattro Mani to be an annual endeavor, featuring new designs and partners each year. We absolutely love this 1 st edition and I have personally always enjoyed the “treasure hunt” nature of finding beautiful vintage pieces so I wanted to limit what we offered to the market. As for why 499? I love odd numbers and we knew we could not ask our artisans to produce more than 500…

Q2. Each tabletop comes inspired by a city; can you explain your design inspiration for each style and how the city connects with the design and why you named them as such?

Como:
On a clear night at Lago di Como, one can feast on a beautiful constellation of stars and this aspect of the Quattro Mani collection expresses exactly that with its airy lightness, creating an easy table- scape for all seasons.   

With regards to the name, as part of my annual visits with our European suppliers, I frequently visit Lake Como which is very close to the fabulous textile mills that are such a critical part of the Julia B. offering. I find Lake Como with its ever-changing light and reflections to be an amazing place, often infusing me with a sense of freshness and simplicity that I sought to transmit in this design.

Firenze:
Firenze is my favorite city in the world; in designing this aspect of the collection, I wanted to create a majestic combination of rich colorways that would emulate the endless combinations of colors that shine forth year-round in this magical city.
 
For me Firenze is incredibly central to my personal journey as a designer and as a person. From when I first studied there as your typical college student, to my first love and now my husband and life partner – Firenze has always connected so many things which are simply beautiful and inspiring - not to mention that two of our amazing production partners in this collection are based in Firenze.
 

Roma:

With Roma, I sought to create an unexpected combination of a romantic, dark background infused with pops of color to provide an elegant, feminine framework which is easy to mix and match with any color of dinnerware Roma is Italy’s capital. It was the center of THE empire for many centuries. Given the historical prominence of this grand city, I decided to go over the top, to not only coordinate all of these wonderful designs but indeed to combine four different napkin designs into a single collection.

 
As for the name, I said to myself, “this collection is fit for kings and queens…or an empress.” I simply had no choice but to call it Roma.

Venezia:
Venezia to me is like shimmering jewelry, from the golden place settings to the ornate patterns carried through on the linens, plates and crystal – I sought to create a look that is as sparkling as the city itself with its beauty reflecting from each surface, whether day or night.
 
Venezia is a Jewel, a gift to the world - a constantly moving and thriving work of art, from its amazing squares to its canals to its infinite vista’s, Venice never fails to capture my heart. When I gazed at the beautiful golden hues of this style I was reminded of a sunset I enjoyed at the Lido, looking at Piazza San Marco and from their “Venezia” became the obvious choice.

Q3. Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?
That is an impossible question, my heart and soul is in every piece, I guess if I were obligated to answer, today my favorite would be the Como linens – but tomorrow I could quite possibly change my mind…

Q4. Homewares make for wonderful gifts. Can you select a few pieces and explain who you would gift them to and why? 
The easy quick answer would be any of our cocktail napkin sets, they come in sets of 4 and are both beautiful and versatile. My mother in-law is first on my list. Another great gift choice would be the Venezia wine and water glasses with a personalized monogram – these make for wonderful wedding and holiday gifts. I love the design we were able to create and the execution by our fabulous partners at Moleria Locchi is just superb. Finally, a set of Firenze placemats and napkins is what my husband has already requested for the upcoming winter holidays and I am hoping he might just get what he wants J 

Q5. You’re renowned for producing the best of the best. To someone unaware, can you explain what “the best” means in the context of the items below? What are the details to look out for? What makes it the finest quality? How can you tell from looking at it or touching it? 

Linen: 
The best linens combine fabulous fabric, excellent handmade workmanship and designs that both inspire and remain beautiful over great periods of time. Our products are meant to become the heirlooms that our children and grand-children will enjoy, hopefully with fond memories, long after we have “moved on.” So, for me, the best is not just the sum of thread counts, soft touch and durability, the best is that item you truly love and for reasons, perhaps not always explicable, you just want to place it on your table time and time again.

Crystal / Glass ware:
Hand blown and hand cut crystal are a dying art and the best combine incredible precision in workmanship, intricacy and elegance of design as well as a balance to the piece when you hold it in your hand or place it on your table that is both effortless and sublime.

Ceramics: 
The best ceramics combine perfect functionality with exquisite beauty. They should be light yet not delicate. From my perspective, the designs are the all-important differentiating factor and it is our aspiration that with “La Collezione a Quattro Mani” we have designed and produced some of the best.

Q6. How did you discover the experts to collaborate with? What is this process like?
There is an incredible amount of “secret sauce” to this process. When seeking out the fabulous artisans who enable us to produce our products, we are constantly researching and looking for those rare, highly skilled and dedicated individuals or companies who have demonstrated to be the best at what they do. Then, when we have a candidate partner, we need to ensure that we are aligned in terms of vision, uncompromising quality as well as dependability. Last but not least, we are particularly sensitive to the human aspects of our business and we always take steps to ensure that all artisans are treated with a maximum of respect and dignity. 
 
Q7. You don’t see gold tableware too often! In your own words, can you explain what makes gold so appealing?
Golden tones are enjoying a revival in the home. It is the warmest hue of the precious metal that has always symbolized wealth, beauty and prestige. When designing the Quattro Mani collection, I questioned whether at least one of our offerings should feature Gold. Then when we were in the prototyping phase and I saw with my own eyes how our monograms and the beautiful hammered gold of the Venezia collection just twinkled at me, well I just knew that for that lucky person who has everything…well just maybe he/she would love this set as much as I do.

Q8. Can you talk a little about the three monogram designs? How would you describe each one?
I wanted to offer a little something for everyone. Contemporary to Classic - and I think each of these styles emulates various personal sensibilities. The A9 (single letter) features a bold, distinct border with a stylized capita letter. The A15 (single letter) is whimsical with polka dots that adorn the letter. The A56 (single letter) is both slender and sleek as well as quite  ontemporary. The A35 (two letters) is script bordered with polka dots – a persistent theme in our collection adding a touch of femininity to the assortment.

Q9. In your own words, please describe why you named the collection Quattro Mani?
Quattro Mani literally means Four Hands yet the name’s choice for this collection stems largely from humanity and its multiple dimensions, not the least of which is that at Julia B. our motto is “Handmade for Life.” On the more rational side, this new, limited edition collection, requires bringing together four different media (linens, ceramics, crystal and silver/gold) – hence four collaborating hands. Thirdly, four different companies, under our guidance, have been working hand in hand together to bring this collection to life. And lastly, the initial spark for this collection occurred when my husband I were traveling in Italy – our combined four hands are what make everything possible at Julia B.