Creatively Speaking – Interview with Marcello and Bruce “Little Owl”

05 Oct

Friday is here again and it is time to put on the kettle and make yourself a nice cup of tea for another interview with a creative partnership of Marcello and Bruce that is “Little Owl”.

How would you describe your work and style? 

Our work is about finding the beauty in things that perhaps one might over-look. Combining things together, be it plates and paintings in our ‘Altered Perspective’ series, or in our wallpaper ‘Dutch Sky’, where we have used photos we took here in The Netherlands, and combined them with 18th C engravings.

We want to be clear that our work isn’t just ‘upcycling’ as you hear so of much of these days, but a journey to make beautiful things. Our style has been evolving as we have only been working together since 2010, but it is art based. We both studied art (art history & studio art), and that training of the eye as it were leads us to seek out ideas/things that inspire us to create.

What, where and/or who inspires you?

Many things do, a few of our favorites are; traveling and experiencing new cultures, architecture, art (new and old), new culinary experiences, and creative peopleWe have a Pinterest account on which we pin anything that catches our imagination ( and looking at other people’s work or interests allows us to discover new things.

How did you come up with the Altered Perspectives idea? 

The artist Julian Schnabel is known for artwork that combines broken plates on canvas.

Work by Julian Schnabel

We thought of reversing the process, and putting the paintings on the plates, not broken of course. The idea took some time to evolve, and even now two years on we continue to discover new ways of combining the two mediums together.

Little Owl’s personal collection

You have just launched a range of wallpaper, how did this collaboration come about? 

Bruce is the newcomer to The Netherlands, and started a photo album of just Dutch sky, and this in turn led to Marcello adding to the album with his own photos. At the same time we were working on an idea of how to use the 18th C prints we collected, and in particular the detail of the sky in them which we found so lovely. Marcello reworked the photos, and combined the two ideas…

We have already received good reviews, as Anthropologie and Terrain have decided to carry our wallpaper on their webshop! This is the first wallpaper Terrain has ever sold. We think that the ‘Dutch Sky’ wallpaper would be perfect used in a public space, such as a library, a hotel, a restaurant or the cafeteria of a museum.

At the same time, it lends itself beautifully to create a statement in a home, both traditional and contemporary

Do you have any major projects in the pipeline at the moment? Can you share these with us?

We are researching ways of developing our ideas on lighting design, focusing on decorative lighting: we believe that light has a decorative quality which can have the same function as a work of art in the interior.

We are also developing our own range of dinnerware and experimenting with transfers on ceramics and glass, expanding on the idea of pattern and imagery on plates.

If you could have your work displayed anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be displayed?

We love the Casa Necchi Campiglio in Milan as an exhibition space, and also Liberty in London would be a wonderful place to have our work displayed.

The iconic Liberty Store

What would be your dream commission?

We would love to collaborate more with interior designers on private homes or public spaces. So far we have collaborated with designers in Hong Kong, Melbourne and The Netherlands (one of our ‘Altered Perspectives’ hangs in the brand new library in Spijkenisse near Rotterdam), and it’s a very rewarding process.

We talk often of getting to work on a hotel project, working with the interior architect to create a very unique ambience. It is amazing how many new hotels open worldwide, and they all have this same ‘international slick’ look to them, which seems odd to us because the genius loci is just ignored. Every place has its own feel, Sydney is not Stockholm.

If I were coming to visit your home town where would be the must stop place or places for me to visit .

In Amsterdam there are so many places! Museum “Ons’ Live Heer op Solder” is one of them ( behind the façade of the house by the canal lies a largely original 17th-century home and a complete hidden church. This hidden church ‘in the attic’ was built during the Reformation, when Catholics were forbidden to hold public services.

We have had the honour of displaying one of our pieces in the Grand Salon of the house. Also the Museum Van Loon (, which is a private home that is open to the public, and the old stables were just opened this year as an exhibition space.

We like both Friday Next, and Frozen Fountain as places to shop for home design. As for food we are generally underwhelmed by Dutch cuisine, but we do like both Restaurant Bordewijk  and Pont 13  for places to dine out.

Describe your perfect Day 

An unexpected meeting that inspires us.

Now as much as I love your work, I love cooking and am always eager to find out a new recipe… what is your favorite dish to cook?

Bruce has a background as Pastry chef, and both of us love cooking and eating well!

One of the greatest pleasures while travelling is to discover new recipes and ingredients. Of course Italy -and Puglia (Marcello is from Lecce) in particular- remains one of our favourite countries, and we had the most amazing experience travelling through Vietnam: delicious, fresh, delicate flavours everywhere!

We have tons of cookbooks, recipes on scrap of paper, and the notebook Marcello’s mother made for him when he first moved to Amsterdam!

One of the favourite when we have guests for dinner is:

(and it is very easy to make!)

Flourless chocolate cake


For the cake

  • 300g/10½oz plain chocolate broken into pieces
  • 225g/8oz caster sugar
  • 175ml/6fl oz boiling water
  • 225g/8oz salted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
  • 6 free-range eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping

  • 200ml/7fl oz crème fraîche
  • 255g/9oz summer berries
  • 1 tbsp plain chocolate, grated
  • Icing sugar, to dust

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. For the cake, grease and line the base of a 23cm/9in springform tin with baking parchment.
  3. Blend the chocolate and sugar in a food processor until a fine powder forms. Add the boiling water, butter, egg yolks, coffee powder and vanilla extract and blend until well combined.
  4. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed, then, using a metal spoon, gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, then transfer to the fridge for 2-3 hours.
  7. To serve, remove the cake from the tin and place on a serving plate or cake stand, spread the crème fraîche on top, then scatter over the berries. To decorate, grate some chocolate over the top, or dust with icing sugar.

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into Little Owl….  I am off to make that cake!!!! On with the colourful journey.

Other Posts on Little Owl

Dutch Sky – Little Owl Design

Portrait in blue

Dishing Up Canvas – Little Owl


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10 responses to “Creatively Speaking – Interview with Marcello and Bruce “Little Owl”

  1. twoblackdoggies

    October 5, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    The creativity of others never ceases to astound me, I love the work of Little Owl, thank you for bringing it to my attention. That cake looks delicious, please tell me that it tastes just as good 🙂

    • birdcagedesign

      October 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm

      The boys took the picture of the cake, unfortunately I cannot take credit for it, but I will be trying – although I wish they were a little closer to Australia so I could just try theirs!! 🙂

  2. marsellaj

    October 6, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Interesting. I want to hear how the cake turns out.

    • birdcagedesign

      October 6, 2012 at 7:46 am

      I think that will deserve a whole post of it’s own! 🙂

  3. Shirley Wayland

    October 6, 2012 at 3:20 am

    Wonderful interview explaining Little Owl’s beginnings and how it continues to evolve! Plus another chocolate cake! Wow!

    • birdcagedesign

      October 6, 2012 at 7:46 am

      Glad you enjoyed. Thank you for stopping by…. I am going to have to indulge in that chocolate cake!

  4. EverydaySparks

    October 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Great post, BCD – so pleased to read about the guys behind that amazing wallpaper, which I love so much! And on top of all that, they provided a recipe and pic of a delicious looking cake…doesn’t get any better than that! 🙂

    • birdcagedesign

      October 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      They certainly know how to impress, I think I may have to dedicate a post to the BCD cake attempt!

  5. Sue Schlabach

    October 9, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Speechless, and eyeing all my plates.

    • birdcagedesign

      October 9, 2012 at 6:02 am

      Thank you for stopping by, I am glad you enjoyed. It is very tempting to bee inspired ! 🙂


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