The March edition of Marie Claire Maison Italy shows art dealer Gordon VeneKlasen standing in front of Sigmar Polke's Salamander Stone in his Manhattan house.
Photography by Jason Schmidt / Contrast.
One of the most impressive experts we can think of when it comes to giving advice on how to make an interior work perfectly—Cinzia Felicetti, the Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire Maison Italy—took time out to do just that. We sat up, listened, and we learned a lot.
We tend to perceive Marie Claire Maison as 'supplier of dreams'. Is this perception correct? What vision does the new Marie Claire Maison want to convey?
Marie Claire Maison occupies a unique position in the Italian market, where it’s seen as a dynamic and sophisticated furniture and lifestyle journal. Its pages exude timeless elegance and feature exquisite materials and great attention to detail, reflecting the heritage of the most prestigious brands in the world. A treat for the eye also feeds the soul, which is why beauty and refinement define every editorial choice that appears in the magazine.
Unsurprisingly, Marie Claire Maison’s motto is ‘The art of living’. While it embodies a certain luxury dimension, it’s also unique in the most charismatic, compelling and fascinating sense of the term. Ultimately, our goal is to inspire the reader creatively, immersing them in style every issue.
We’ve read that every design choice we make has a distinct impact on our subconscious. Should we bear this in mind when it comes to decorating our homes?
Absolutely. That’s why I believe a clear vision is a fundamental starting point. In the design phase, it’s important to give shape to our desires and indulge our taste without being influenced too much by budget or practical issues. In this respect, the principles set out in a book by Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization, are very useful: they help strengthen our powers of imagination through the use of mental imagery, giving clarity by involving all the senses. Our job is to know exactly what we want; the architect and other experts who join us on this exciting adventure are there to help transform a simple projection into reality.
Is there such a thing as ‘good taste’, or is this a flexible concept?
Good taste is an innate gift, a natural inclination to recognize authentic, sometimes unconventional, beauty and to give life to harmonious combinations. Essential to creating a welcoming space is freshness, which gives an impression of spontaneity. It's the same principle as elegance in fashion: elegance should look effortless, just like a ballerina’s pirouette shouldn’t reveal even a minute of her arduous training at the barre.
Are there any design principles that need to be considered when furnishing one’s home?
In the same way that if you want to create a great dress you need excellent fabric, the first strategic choices governing a house are the floors, doors and window frames. Getting rid of a bad chair is relatively easy—replacing horrific tiles is much more challenging. I advise thinking about wall colors at the end, to give yourself the maximum freedom when it comes to selecting your furniture. Personally, I discourage the use of very strong shades in rooms that are used for day-to-day living, because there’s a risk of boredom setting in. Better to express yourself creatively in corridors, a hallway, an antechamber, and in small spaces that have a transit function, through which you move quickly with just a glance and a brief moment of pleasure.
Do these design principles inspire you when it comes to furnishing your own home?
My house is an expression of my personality: it recalls many trips to the Far East, my love of precious fabrics, illustrated books and white flowers. Beyond the rules and parameters of aesthetics (often very valid), I think style—in fashion, just as in furnishing—should not be considered an absolute dogma. On the contrary, at its best it should express personality without fear of making ‘mistakes’. In other words, a house that is imperfect but has a fascinating story to tell will certainly be more compelling than something architecturally exact, where every aseptic, carefully designed detail seems to erase all traces of the owner’s life.
Can clever lighting be used to camouflage design mistakes?
Good lighting is a key part of the furniture of a room. Just like clever make-up, lighting can draw the attention to specific areas or items and make them stand out, producing results that are sometimes almost sculptural. Conversely, it can be used to mask structural defects. For this reason, as well as possibly providing support for a central chandelier, artificial light depends on help from wall lamps, lampshades, candles and other sources that can be switched on to create the atmosphere you want. It’s worth mentioning that dark or roughly textured fabrics absorb light, while clear, shiny and smooth surfaces reflect it, helping to illuminate a dark corner or create the illusion of space in a small, cramped room.
What role can crystals play in interior design? How can they be used to enhance a room?
Personally, I love the feeling you get from bright, luxurious accents mixed with simpler elements, because it’s a combination that enhances both—just like in fashion, where a touch of luxury can elevate a casual look. Similar to very clinical clothes that need to be enhanced with standout accessories, rooms that are too basic and balanced demand one or more highlights to avoid the risk of appearing flat and predictable. Sober or medium-size elements, in fact, are rarely exciting. Far better are those that are out of scale (one huge framed mirror, a super-tall vase, or a waterfall of crystals), which create a trompe-l'oeil effect that makes even a bonsai-sized space look more airy and give it a sort of ironic grandeur. In furnishing, combinations should ideally start from a primadonna object, such as a scenic lamp, a nice chair, a large painting, or a sculpture. The important thing is not to overdo it, to avoid the funfair look, and limit it to a single focus of attention, just as one does with jewels.
Does home décor follow the catwalk’s seasonal trends?
Collaboration between these two areas is now commonplace. Among the latest examples, work from designer Alexander Wang and Poltrona Frau stands out, not forgetting the wonderful collection of carpets created by Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy for The Rug Company. Among the most successful synergies of 2014, I’d have to mention Cassina and Louis Vuitton, united by their passion for the late French architect and designer, Charlotte Perriand, which resulted in a limited edition of the definitive chaise-longue: the historic LC4. Also very interesting—especially from the point of view of color—is the line of tapestries, throws and pillows designed by Dior’s creative director, Raf Simons for Danish company Kvadrat; and, of course, the adorable fabrics created by fashion designer Matthew Williamson for Osborne & Little.
What led you to the world of interior design?
My training is rather multifaceted—a bit like the olfactory notes that come with perfume: Design represents the fresh and assertive top notes—this is a relatively recent interest that blossomed almost five years ago under the direction of Hearst Home magazine, but reached full maturity with Marie Claire Maison. I’ve headed it for two-and-a-half years and fits me like a made-to-measure suit—especially in the light of our recent magazine restyling. The soft and enveloping heart notes come from fashion, a passion that’s always part of me (I started my career at Amica magazine), which went on to be further developed on various glossy publications. I celebrated it by writing six books on style that were translated for nine countries. In 2010, I received a prestigious American diploma in image consultancy, specializing in color analysis. Finally, the persistent base notes of this hypothetical fragrance correspond with art, film and literature.
What does design mean to you?
It is the perfect combination of functionality and aesthetics, reason and feeling. Like all things (and people) profoundly beautiful and smart, it makes life more luminous and exciting.
Text by Cinzia Felicetti, Editor-in-Chief, Marie Claire Maison Italy.