Better than before. The Italian craftsman Luciano Colella transforms antique chairs and tables into some of the most exciting pieces of furniture being made today.
When craftsman Luciano Colella completed his warehouse in Bridgeport, Connecticut about two years ago, it was untethered to a risky time. Now, with Covid 19, the building is a living testament to the restoration pathway and power of this Italian artist.
The son of a Brazilian mother and an Italian father, Colella was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and moved to Italy at four years old. As a boy growing up in Pogliano A Mare, Italy, Colella eventually dashed through the gardens of the villa, working the summers in vineyards, as many Italian students do to make extra money in summer months, only to realize that working with his father and mentor Vincenzo Colella was his true passion.
Colella refined his knowledge and skills as a student at The School of Art and Restoration in Bari, Italy. He stayed in the Bari region helping his father, where he had an atelier called Antichita Coella.
Lacking a clear sense of well-articulated business and economic purposes after Europe unified around the new Euro currency, Colella reached out to a few friends who were living in New Jersey, U.S — a country he’d never visited but always had the curiosity to do so, even though he didn’t speak any English.
In 2003, Luciano, 28 at the time, arrived for the first time in the U.S, staying with his friends in New Jersey. He reached out to a few European dealers in the tri-state region. Three days afterwards, he started working for Angelo Montaperto, an established Italian artist in Manhattan. Following, he worked for Eli Rios, and eventually for Neil Lane Studios, in Southport, Connecticut. Not coincidently, most people in his circle spoke Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese, buying time for Colella to learn English.
During the first few months, Colella was still living in New Jersey, commuting daily. It didn’t take long to realize it was worth moving to CT to stay closer to his new work.
In Connecticut, he met Sandro Pizzicarolla, another Italian-upholstery craftsman who recommended Colella to simply “stick around”. Here in the north east, this kind of restoration work reaches an unexpected apotheosis: ignited by home décor, interior designers, antique pieces, flea markets, and people who love to explore treasure hunting, furniture restoration blooms in the hands of the right artists. And there aren’t too many of them in this area. That was the piece of advice that fermented in Colella’s mind, igniting the dream to open his own business one day.
In 2007, he founded The Gilder, in Fairfield, Connecticut, initially working mostly with antique framed mirrors.
His first warehouse, a space borrowed from Sandro’s, was so small, that everything had to be hung on the walls. Around that time, he met his wife Nina, who worked for 12 years as a hair stylist at Moda Capelli Salon, located one flight stairs above The Gilder’s space. (Like Colella himself, she eventually went on to open her own salon.)
In time, he incorporated other pieces of furniture, including dinning tables, dressers, reclining armchairs, and a myriad of home objects. His English? Perfect, with a seductive and charming Italian accent that only they can do.
Today, Luciano is one of the most recognized furniture artists in the region, enlisting prominent interior designers, including Terri Ricci and Lisa Hilderbrand to design furniture collections and collaborate on unique pieces, which are displayed in elegant New England homes, from Connecticut to New Jersey and beyond.
In 2018, he grew the company to a bigger warehouse, for which he built a sprawling factory of what was once an automobile upholstery shop in Bridgeport, CT.
With a team of six on staff, he controls every step of fabrication and delivery and incorporates a unified visual identity long before such a concept was de riguer. As such, Luciano is making his mark in the furniture restauration landscape.
The contrast of the “before and after” and the ease with which he and his team are traversing the current times, is a living illustration of how artisanal craftmanship can actually coexist with an assembly line. Sometimes, five to six pieces are restored in a single week.
Colella is equally interested in the mechanics of restoration furniture and objects as he is in refinishing, repairing, lacquering, carving, upholstering and most importantly, building new furniture from scratch. “Gilding” or “Gilder”, despite baptizing the name of his business, is actually one of Colella’s least used techniques nowadays, as modern decorations have transcended such flamboyant styles.
Luciano is always at the factory in the morning and used to drive around to meet with clients and collaborators. Since Covid 19, most of his estimates are done virtually, but the warehouse is running on full steam, a testament of his commitment to art, beauty and especially to restoration as an instigation of progress.
1771 Main Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604