‘IT’S BECAUSE OF THE LIGHT
that I chose this as my home. It has an intense, direct light, like in Paris,’ says Paola Navone, the renowned Italian architect, product designer, interior decorator, curator – basically, all-round design wonder woman. The light – hard and bright – bounces from the surfaces and angles of this incredible apartment; a living space constructed between the concrete breeze-block walls and steel joists of a factory building in the Tortona district of Milan.
It’s an unlikely place to set up house – an area filled with mechanics’ workshops and tatty industrial buildings – but it suits Paola’s sensibilities perfectly. Her design studio is on the ground floor, a workshop of ideas where her vision is translated and synthesised by her team. Upstairs, the home she has been creating for more than two years, and recently moved into, is a space to dream. It’s a crazy, crowded, captivating expression of one woman and her passions, collected from every corner of the globe. When Paola bought the space she was able to add an extra metal floor, including a mezzanine and terraces on the side of the building. ‘This enabled me to have big windows to bring in light and enhance the indoor-outdoor connection,’ says Paola.
‘Travelling has become my way of breathing, thinking and being,’ she admits. ‘I have a nomadic eye that never stops watching, being surprised or linking different elements.’ At home in her apartment, it’s as if she has curated a museum of memories and inspiration – basins made from woks bought in Asian markets; a collection of French ceramics; Chinese lamp shades; Moroccan urns; Italian chandeliers. In the mix are products she has designed under her own name and for international brands – the commercial, physical outcome of her wanderlust. She calls it ‘the anthropology of things’. ‘Combining objects is like introducing a group of people; you put them in the same room and see what happens. Sometimes they become friends,’ she says.
For the structure and layout of her home, Paola has taken her cue from its location and used industrial materials to intersect the rectangular space. The steel mezzanine is bolted on to roughly built boxes that house the dining room, kitchen and guest room. The living room and her bedroom are at either end. Tiled strips and squares, set between cobbles, define paths and living areas. A corrugated metal roof roosts on top of the building.
This is a home infused with Paola’s passion and spirit, from the oil-drum garden at the entrance to the vegetable plot on the terrace. The colours come from a palette that she has made her own – teal and grey, lacquer red and weedy green. Motifs and materials recur; chairs and chequerboard floors; pebbles and polka dots; and painted eyes, looking up from tables. ‘I like putting opposites together; big with small, shiny with matt. Different elements will create harmony or contrast. And I like imperfection,’ she says. That sense of the unexpected is pure Navone. ‘My life has been an unplanned trip, but where I am is home,’ she says, before picking up her passport and heading out the door again.
See more of Paola’s work at paolanavone.it
Paola Navone’s home is testament to her passion for linking different elements from around the world.