Etoilepeople interviews: Manuela D’Elia
ETOILEPEOPLE INTERVIEWS: MANUELA D’ELIA TELLS US ABOUT THE WORKPLACE TREND IN METROPOLITAN CITIES
Madea is a Campania-based agency with decades of experience in furnishing workspaces.
It offers technical and commercial support to industry dealers, architects and interior designers and in any case where specialist advice is needed for the design and realisation of offices, communities and collectives, corporate food areas or hospitality facilities such as lounge bars.
It was founded by Manuela d’Elia, a psychologist by training and furniture agent by inheritance, who found in Madea the perfect synthesis of research and sales: “Every assignment is a challenge and every project a tailor-made suit, made with care and respect for the client’s needs. A pleasant, sometimes winding journey, always aimed at finding the perfect furnishing solution for that specific client, based on the conviction that the workplace is the structural element that expresses the corporate philosophy and should reflect its organization”.
Madea has been Etoile’s partner and exclusive distributor for the Campania region for many years, sharing the same attention and tailor-made care in the project management, namely a tailor-made process that fits its clients like a glove. Besides offering an extensive catalogue of furniture and seating, it is also specialised in design solutions to maximise interior spaces. After a detailed study of both structural characteristics of spaces and specific liveability requirements, Madea designs the partition-wall systems to remodel the spaces and adapt them to best suit functionality, aesthetic refinement, acoustic comfort and a sense of ambiance well-being.
A talk with Manuela d’Elia
Madea operates in the context of a large metropolitan city like Naples. What are the complexities of this particular market that you face every day?
Unfortunately, Naples is a city growing amidst various setbacks, some cultural, others infrastructural. Certainly, the creativity of the Neapolitans, which is expressed first and foremost in the colour and cheerfulness of its places and people, while providing the setting for a beautiful postcard, creates a background noise that makes it difficult to establish more fluid and perhaps functional modus operandi, such as business innovation, an issue on which the city is lagging behind on average. And this is an example of cultural constraint.
From an infrastructural point of view, there are obstacles that would probably be much easier to remove as they would depend on the decision of a few. I am referring to the cabling of public areas, from the availability of information systems capable of reaching the entire population and connecting citizens, to the existence of public services that promote economy development and environmental protection: co-working, remote-working places, functional and modern business centres… the city is not yet equipped for this, to the detriment of companies, workers and the urban and natural environment.
And specifically, what are the trends and demands of your customers in the segment of office and workspace furniture?
There is a marked distinction between an ‘old school’ modus operandi, where office furniture means a 160×80 office desk with drawer unit on wheels plus an UNIEN 1335 ergonomic chair, and a more up-to-date and rational way of furnishing workspaces.
As an agency, Madea meets the needs of those who understand the company premises more extensively, taking into account the spaces’ functionality for a major business productivity and employee well-being. From this point of view, clients’ requests are increasingly related to the need for a better working environment by providing a company location that respects collective and individual spaces, or that gives the possibility to carry out new activities, such as video conferences.
Corporate organisation is increasingly evolving towards new fast-changing paradigms. That is why, borrowing the concept from Bauman, you like to speak of a ‘liquid company’. Can you explain what this is about?
In Madea’s approach, the liquid company is a complex of production activities aiming at the same goal and common interest, which is the company mission, as conceived by its founder. In these terms, the company embodies all the activities, both physical and virtual places that contribute to its success and thus can by no means be forced into a traditional layout, made up of an executive office, a front desk and operational rooms, possibly (indeed definitely) keeping the vending machine tucked in the closet.
A liquid company is one that changes its shape in order to achieve its goals: activities not confined to a specific room or desk, but achieved in ways that are reinvented on every occasion. Companies are characterised by having different organisational cultures: the working culture has evolved over time and after the pandemic we have seen this more clearly: with twisted layouts where meetings can be virtual and work groups meet in the breakout area.
To me, activity-based offices are a perfect example to bring out the concept of a liquid company. The key words here are flexibility and creativity! It marks the revenge of freedom over corporate hierarchies, the rebirth of temporary activities that change over time, contracts that are less and less binding for both companies and employees, working styles that are more goal-oriented and less about standardised schedules.
We know that your work starts with a thorough briefing carried out by using Organisational Psychology techniques. At the planning stage, how important is this approach to defining business assets in terms of resources, processes and HR?
This preliminary work we carry out is actually the distinguishing feature of Madea consulting: only by fully understanding the specific characteristics of our customers can we be truly helpful in building corporate headquarters which function and reflect the corporate culture and where people work better because they are better off.
Madea boasts a decade-long partnership with Etoile. Can you tell us what is the added value that has created such a solid and performing synergy between your companies?
Definitely the tailor-made approach: it is as much a founding value for me as it is for Etoile, we immediately agreed on that.
From this principle everything else flows, namely team spirit and passion. Each project is fertile land for expressing know-how and for contributing one’s own skills to mark a new milestone.
There are a number of aspects of Etoile’s products that I think are excellent and all share the same matrix, which is the powerful know-how on partition walls.
First of all, their wide product range: I would dare you to find a brand that offers a collection of monolithic partitions that come in so many variants. Having a choice even on a common glazed partition is a winning weapon for the designer and it surely reflects the modus operandi of a company that does not ignore any customer.
Similarly, the finishes palette is to me – as someone who loves working with materials and colours – an unparalleled plus in the world of partition walls. In the home furnishing the variety of materials and finishes is quite common and it’s becoming more and more usual in office furnishing too, but in the partition walls segment (notoriously more technical than aesthetic) this is quite rare.
Being able to think in this level of detail around the design of a contract project is only possible with a company such as Etoile.
What I consider unique about Etoile, however, is the focus on partition performance, which allows me to truly tackle any project with no worries.
All products are certified for acoustic performance, as much as for safety requirements, of course. I have a range of sound proofing levels that allow me to always meet the customer’s requirements, optimising the budget as necessary: Etoile has partition walls of all types (wood, glass, structural and non-structural) ranging from 32 dB sound insulation up to 46 dB.
To this end, my favourite product is the monolithic partition UNICA SC2: 47x40mm reduced-section aluminium floor profile customisable in all RAL colours and 40db sound reduction on single-glazing. The 51-mm starting element has a superb, soundproof, flush door with a design-driven handle – what more could you ask for?
I could tell you much more, it is a company that never fails to surprise me. The FORA case history (which later gave rise to the FORA STYLE wall) I think is emblematic: Engineering a partition with those characteristics just to satisfy a customer’s need is not at all common! By the way, the outcome has some excellence in terms of both design and performance: a gem!