Caleido interviews Mariana Martini, interior designer, ambassador for Brazilian creativity also on Instagram. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here / Watch the Instagram live interview here (in Italian language)
Diary of: @marianamartinistudio
1. When I first arrived in Rio de Janeiro, I was really struck by how nature was getting the better of the city, time and time again. A bit like the city has to keep fighting to keep its urban space. It gave me a feeling of great energy. What struck you when you first arrived in Milan? Can you tell us about it?
I arrived in autumn: for me the beauty was this landscape that I had never experienced before. Dried leaves of brown, yellow, red… trees that became naked. We don’t have this season in Rio de Janeiro, it is always warm and the vegetation is green. Coming out of the green nature was a novelty and we changed a lot (my husband Gustavo Martini and I) also according to the new nature. Our colourful clothes seemed to lose their meaning in the middle of winter, only black seemed appropriate. For me – and I’m speaking in the singular – black was only a parenthesis, while Gustavo never managed to get out of this new colour habit: he continues undaunted with black minimalism!
2. What are the main elements that diversify a ‘Mariana Martini’ interior from that of another studio? How has your style evolved over time? How did you become aware of this identity?
This question comes in perfect timing, after my previous answer. After watching the seasons unfold in Milan and experiencing the city in its soul, I realised that I was missing my TRUE SELF, my essence. At that time I was designing interiors for second homes, so I was freer to do it my way, to put my identity, and therefore to make a mix between these two worlds: Milan and Rio. I design houses that have the minimalism and functionality of a big city, but that have the warmth and welcome that someone on holiday is looking for. They are balanced houses, I could say, with natural elements that bring a bit of softness and serenity. Since I started doing this, I feel at ease. They are choices that come from the deepest part of myself, and not from a creative quest. After these first interiors, things changed: new clients brought me photos of my old projects, asking me to integrate those same features into their homes, and this is still the case today.
3. On my Instagram account I have saved several collections of photos of interior projects that impress me. What is the difference between an attractive interior and a really successful interior? How do you approach this issue in your projects?
Look, I save photos that I find wonderful too, but then I realise that certain things are not compatible with my lifestyle and so I reject them. You know, it’s one thing to do a ‘showcase’ interior, which is beautiful to die for, beautiful to photograph, but my great satisfaction is to do a ‘liveable’ interior: aesthetically perfect but which then has a real purpose and is functional for that individual client. We are all different and this diversity can be found within each of my projects. In my work the ‘successful interior’ is the one that carries a Whatsapp message from the client who has moved into the house and tells me that he can no longer leave, because he is in his own perfect world.
4. She is very active on social media, and it fully expresses her identity. Working in this field I have also (pleasantly) noticed something else, which is not at all obvious: you have built up a community of loyal fans of your work, who really follow you and are responsive. How have you managed this?
It started by chance. When I put up photos of my projects, people would ask me to show them the drawings, then to film the construction sites, they were curious to know where I had bought the wallpaper or an armchair, etc. I always answered, every single question. I realised that they appreciated my sharing and I also started to share my work in progress and behind the scenes of my studio. This brought together many people who were just starting their careers and were curious to understand how a project worked. This has created a community of people who are interested in sharing and who support me so much in everything I create.
5. From the very first time we met in my studio, I was struck by your alchemical combination of determination/force and gentleness/gentility. What are the experiences, and people, that have helped shape your personality?
Wow, this question has touched me… My mum always pushed me to always want more, but always with kindness. To be ambitious, but with balance. My parents were hard workers (now in retirement) and I have always lived this example at home. Then there’s my husband Gustavo, a very honest person who has been able to guide me along the way, while keeping his feet firmly on the ground, always supporting me. Then there is a second dimension, less human and more spiritual: I pray every day, I walk beside God and I always ask what He wants from me. So I would say that all this helps me not to lose my head in the middle of all the work I do.
6. If you were to work in another sector, such as fashion, what product would you like to design? What would it be like? For which brand?
I had never thought of that! This year I was asked to develop a collection of tropical-style wallpapers… But if I really had to leave the world of interiors, I might like to create perfumes. Always with touches inspired by nature. If we’re talking about fashion, I love bags! So I would definitely like to create something in this field, perhaps using natural materials, such as bamboo.
7. Besides being an architect, she is a teacher. So she is in close contact with the new generation of designers. How do you recognise real talent?
I’m looking for someone who thinks outside the box. Someone who follows the programme but does something innovative, someone who also tells a story. I like people who have something to say, nothing superficial. I always tell my students that before put the pen to the paper to start drawing, you have to write: to generate a concept, to fix the story behind everything, as well as our lives, which are full of stories and unique moments.
8. I believe she is also a valuable example of active social engagement, as an ambassador of the Young Women Network, an association dedicated to the empowerment of young women. What are the fights you are not yet fighting, but would like to fight in the near future? How can I and the readers of Caleido support you?
I think that struggles are an important part of ‘my world’ here in Italy. Italy is unfortunately still a very sexist and traditional country. What I do day after day is to try to bring the hope of ‘being able to do’ to women, young people and foreigners. If someone listens to my message, someone who, like me, is a woman, a young person and a foreigner, it’s even better! This is my mission: so whoever supports me is already supporting this cause. I am going to say something simple related to the question of age, and as a non-Italian I find it (perhaps) simpler: we do not have to wait to get old to be successful people, even a young person can be successful, competent, valuable. It is not just a question of age: as women we must not accept earning less than a man for doing the same job or, worse still, being discriminated against because of where we were born. We have to be, sincerely, more open to new people and new talents.
9. What are some of the objects you like to include in your interior design projects, and which you have also bought for your home?
Plants: when I set foot in a nursery with a customer to choose a plant for one of their projects I always come back with something for myself too (haha). Immediately followed by scented candles and beautiful cushions. I love these simple elements that have the power to change the atmosphere.
10. What is an object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory associated with it? Can you send us a photo taken by you?
I must be honest: I’m not attached to anything in particular. Maybe it’s because I move a lot… Life is volatile, I care about my dogs and that’s it. But I do have a black and white painting of a tropical forest that I bought in the Navigli area when I moved to Milan. It’s big and it changes the atmosphere in my house, so here it is!