Contract Magazine - January/February 2018 - 42
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
Genuine, warm, and gregarious, Alessandro Munge
is the very personification of hospitable. No wonder that
the founder and principal of Toronto-based Studio Munge
has focused his career on the hospitality sector. Bringing
people together in style, awakening their senses, and giving
them a memorable experience: That is his life's work.
By Michael Totzke
Since rebranding and expanding nearly three years ago,
Studio Munge has gained increased international recognition
for innovative, luxurious hospitality projects that are consistent
in their levels of detail and beauty. Munge's portfolio, which has
grown in scale from clubs and restaurants to entire hotels both
in Canada and the United States and soon in China, includes
The William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn, New York, and the new Bisha
Hotel in Toronto. In the midst of a career-defining moment, he is
on a trajectory to do much more. Munge is Contract magazine's
2018 Designer of the Year, the 39th recipient of the award.
An Italian influence in everything
Both Munge and his wife, Grace Zeppilli, are Italian-Canadian.
Zeppilli leads her own art-consulting business, GZ International,
which selects artworks for many of Munge's interiors and shares
an office with Studio Munge. Together, the couple is immersed in
the world of global hospitality while raising two teenage daughters
and now renovating a home with dramatic views of Toronto.
"It's all-things-Italian at home," says the expressive, intense Munge.
"How I like to live and who I am is 100 percent Italian."
The middle child of three, Munge spent the first five years
of his life in Filetto, a town in Italy's Abruzzo region, until his family
immigrated to Toronto. Once in Canada, his mother, Nella, operated
her own custom drapery business. Early on in his teenage years,
Munge would join his mother as she met clients, and eventually
he began to sketch drapery solutions for her. "This evolved into
me helping my mother build little storyboards for her clients," recalls
Munge. "She's my hero. I saw a woman grow a business from nothing
and employ people. It created an emotion in me, a connection
to people through design."
Munge graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto
with a bachelor's degree in interior design in 1994. During his last
summer of school, he interned at the Toronto office of Yabu
Pushelberg, led by George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, Contract
magazine's 2002 Designers of the Year. He continued with the firm
after graduating, learning the craft of hospitality design from the duo.
But Munge yearned to create his own interiors. In 1997, he and
Sia Leung, a colleague at Yabu Pushelberg, founded the firm Munge
Leung that quickly became well-known in Toronto for designing
the enormous and popular Guvernment nightclub for Bechara
"Charles" Khabouth, the head of Ink Entertainment, who is regarded
as Toronto's "King of Clubs."
Guvernment was the start of a long, important working
relationship between Munge and Khabouth. Munge has designed
a number of clubs and restaurants in Toronto for the impresario
over the past two decades, including the nightclub Rebel in 2016.
"I always felt most comfortable with Alessandro because he's able
to recognize concepts, needs, and budgets, and then design
Designer of the Year
JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2018