A woman with an eye for design and a successful vision for international business: Laura Fontanot and her family are bringing their Italian staircase designs and innovative products from Italy to the big-time global market
What once began as a small family-run business making artisan staircases over forty years ago in Italy, Fontanot is the staircase designer and builder that has garnered a name for itself in Italy, and has taken flight abroad, with branches in the UK and US. And as a family-run business dedicated to innovation and outstanding quality, Laura Fontanot is the sibling that has found a knack for the creative touch.
I was born into design, I was surrounded by it every day at home. My mother used to love to have Cassina sofas rather than lamps by Artemide or nightstands by Kartell.
With design running in her DNA, Laura pursued an education in set design at the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna. Upon her graduation, she signed on with the family business, initially working in the communications office. But it was when she got her first taste for dealing with products that she truly found her niche.
I can remember that one of my first jobs was to re-vamp a product catalogue. I got to put into practice immediately my specialization in set design, which I was absolutely thrilled to do. The idea of choosing sofas and lamps that could go well with my stairs was really exciting for me. I have to say, it’s something I’m still passionate about today, and wish I had more time to dedicate to it.
Dedication and passion are two things that have been engrained in her and which she describes as the foundation for success. As Fontanot evolved as a business over the years, so too did Laura. The 80s saw the standardization of stairs as a product, at which time Fontanot went from an artisan business to an industrial one. In the 90s, the launch of their made-to-measure as well as a line of DIY products gained success that would continue to present day. And recently, a newly launched Contract Division has broadened the business from residential staircases to collaborations with architects and professionals to build custom made staircases for large scale projects, something Laura has begun to follow as well. In fact, Fontanot’s custom designed stairs can be found in the prestigious Isozaki Tower as well as Bosco Verticale in Milan.
We’ve been able to apply our design and building expertise in order to meet the needs of a truly important market and it’s amazing that our family business, my brothers and father and I, have had such a large role in it all.
Laura is also in charge of new business, Fontanot e-commerce worldwide. Her creative eye combined with the ability to meet the needs of an ever-changing market, have brought her great success and pushed her in a more global direction. But the road was not always so easy and she found some obstacles along the way that she has used as a learning lesson.
The biggest challenge in this role is to assert my ideas because being the youngest in the family and a woman sometimes works against you, you’re always the smallest! I can remember one time a magazine agent in the architecture field tried to take advantage by selling me an advert at a price that was exorbitantly high. But he had no idea who he had sitting in front of him…I was extremely prepared before he even got there. Being prepared is of course a given, but I had to be even more so. It’s important to read, study and see the world with your eyes wide open and you will make up for your shortcomings in everything you do. I really do love my job!