It's pretty cold outside in winter, thankfully you can seek refugee in Sandro Damiano's Winter Chalet! Learn more about Sandro (aka sdrnet on LEGO Ideas) and his cosy creation!
- What is your name?
My name is Sandro Damiano.
- Where are you from?
I live in a small town in Piedmont in the province of Turin (Italy).
- How old are you?
45 years old.
- What do you do for a living?
I am a computer programmer and work for an important multinational company in the field of railway signaling and traffic.
- What hobbies do you have?
I have had many hobbies in my life. The two main hobbies are landscape photography and of course LEGO!
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
Yes, I have my personal website where I talk about photography and my LEGO world and creations (https://www.sandrodamiano.com) and also a photo gallery on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdrnet/).
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
It's a difficult answer for me because I'm fond of everything I've created in the last 9 years since I started to get interested in LEGO again. One of the recent works that I really like is a medieval windmill with motorized blades. I like it because it is a very detailed design and it was complicated but very fun to build it.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I played LEGO until I was 16, then I stopped. My interest returned just before my first daughter was born exactly 20 years later. I bought two very nice Star Wars sets and after building them my love for bricks came back stronger than before!
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons.
For me, LEGO is not just a hobby but a pleasant recreation that allows me to relax and take away all the problems of everyday life. Thanks to LEGO I can give free rein to my imagination and creativity!
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
One of my favorite themes is Star Wars because I'm a big fan of the saga and a lover of cinema in general. My style was inspired by the first sets of the Winter Village and the modular Creator Expert. From these sets I perfected my way of constructing buildings with very detailed interiors and scenarios of various kinds.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?`
Without a doubt it is the 75192 - Millennium Falcon UCS (2017)! For me the Falcon is an iconic spaceship that made me dream since I was a child and I waited for so long to be able to buy this set since the 2007 version I hadn't been able to get it. I'm also fascinated by the many important sets that LEGO has been producing over the past 3 years.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
My favorite piece is the 4070 Brick modified 1x1 with Headlight. It has been around for 40 years and is extremely versatile. It allows you to exploit it in dozens of different ways and allows you to create special techniques and joints that are very useful for buildings, castles and other works that I carry out.
^ We bet Sandro has used at least a few of his favourite LEGO elements in this huge winter village display
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
An obvious answer is Jamie Berard. I have always liked his works "clean" and at the same time detailed. I like the techniques he uses and some clever solutions in the use of the pieces. Another fan that I was inspired by who later also became a designer is César Soares mainly because of its complex buildings in fantasy / medieval style.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I visit Brickset very often to stay informed about set and news and also the Brothers Bricks blog to discover and study new magnificent AFOL creations.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I have always lived in my valley in the middle of the mountains and I love being in the midst of nature and admiring beautiful landscapes. The love for the mountains and the snow, has led me to realize a great winter diorama over the years and the idea of making a typical chalet was one of my biggest interests.
^ Sandro proudly showing off his Winter Chalet
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
I already had several ideas in mind and it wasn't difficult. All I needed to do was take a tour of the villages in my valley and take some photos. I made a selection of the things I liked best about a typical alpine chalet. The design work on LDD, parts research and construction lasted 3 months.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
The thing I always look for in my works is to make the interiors as detailed and realistic as possible. The usable space was not much so it was not easy to insert what I had in mind. Even making the roof with that inclination was a challenge.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Perhaps to believe more in myself and to have no fear of being judged or criticized. I discovered over time that my works were appreciated by many other AFOL and this made me very happy.
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
I spent more time designing the LDD model and searching for the pieces. The construction time was quite rapid as the 3D model was ready and I only had to make small changes. The time to promote the project was much longer! After having inserted the model on LEGO Ideas he immediately had many supporters but after a first peak the achievement of 10,000 votes was a much slower and more gradual process.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
Obviously I was very happy! Two years earlier I would not have believed I was achieving such a result. I never thought that a small chalet, a project born in a small town in Piedmont would win the hearts of thousands of people around the world.
To reach the 10,000 votes I spent almost all my time. For my personal principle I decided not to make a pushed advertisement and this choice took me a long time.
Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
Approximately 2650 pieces.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
Two sections that I like are the realization of the tables with all its decorations and the typical mountain restaurant tablecloth and also the bed covers.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
To create the 3D model I used the LDD software. I recently rendered the model using Bricklink Studio.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
I did not make stickers for the original model. In a recent version of the chalet I have instead created stickers to apply on 2x4 tiles as paintings for the walls. The images are my personal mountain photos resized and adapted with Photoshop.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
My advice is to do something that you really love so the work will really come from the heart. You see when a work is cured because behind it there is a real interest.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
To publicize the work the best thing is to take good photographs to make the work stand out. For the chalet I also made two videos of the building and it is also useful to insert additional information that tells the story of the model.
^ Sandro has displayed his Winter Chalet at numerous fan exhibits in Italy
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
In the last 2 years many merited works have been presented and LEGO Ideas has become one of my favorite themes thanks to the variety of the works. The fisherman's house has a certain resemblance to my chalet and I like it very much. I also really like the Saturn V for its complex construction techniques.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I really like seeing a wide variety of works on themes other than the classic LEGO ones. Anyone who inserts a work must objectively think if the work can be of general interest and enjoyable to build and admire.
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
It is not excluded that I will present new works in the future, I do not believe within the next year. I could think of changing the subject by going about medieval or space!
^ Another of Sandro's original creations - a farmhouse in Tuscany
- 10k club
- 10k club interview
- winter chalet