Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

Karma Cabana, inside the world of Martina Mondadori

Innate sprezzatura

“We [Italians} do simple things and they come up much better for anyone else,” comments Martina Mondadori, founder of the interiors bible Cabana. The off-the-cuff comment also describes Martina to a T. The editor-in-chief’s innate sprezzatura sets her apart as a style icon and interiors wunderkind, and her sumptuous magazine Cabana has us swooning as we travel the world and enter into incredible space.

Born and raised in Milan in a villa designed by Renzo Mongiardino (the architect, interior designer and production designer who set the standard for fabulousness), Mondadori was infused design and style from the very beginning. The Milan she grew up was a small town and world of front row debates with designers like Mongiardino, beautiful artisans shops and impeccable craftsmen.

Mondadori’s home in Milan by Renzo Mongiardino

“I always say [that Milan is] like an old comfortable shoe. You know how it fits and how comfortable it is. And, sometimes you kind of give it for granted, and it’s only after you’ve left it in your cupboard for so long, and you suddenly find it again, that you think, “Oh my goodness, this is such a great…you know, it’s such a great shoe. I love it, because it fits me so well.”

At 21, Mondadori moved to New York and eventually would travel between the two cities as she helmed Electa, the artsy arm of Mondadori. Somewhere between Milan and New York, London to be specific [where she lives with her husband and children], Mondadori found herself at the midst of a personal creative revolution. “It’s when I moved to London and started looking at [Milan] with different eyes that I started really appreciating all the decorative details”, she explains.

Mondadori spent hours, even days visiting all the historic English homes. She visited the museums, and immersed herself all the eccentric and eclectic collections and collectors. And when she came up for air, she began collating what she saw into mood boards and eventually divining the creative “visual bridge”, as she describes it, between these epic English homes and their Italian counterparts.   Her innate publishing sense kicked in and by about the tenth mood board, the rest is, well, Cabana.

In a nutshell, Cabana is Mondadori’s mind and passions in print, digitalised and now e-commerce. She’s blending places, spaces, textures, images and vibes into a layered and tactile biannual magazine that easily entices all of the senses.  In print, it’s all about timelessness and authenticity. “Cabana defines something that is not brand new and done to the nines. So even if it’s something that was done in the 1970s, there’s something authentic about that interior that feels relevant still today. I think there’s nothing like a house where the owner puts a lot of himself or herself into it, and has the self confidence to know that it’s not about following a style, following a trend, but because that object means something, resonates to him or to her.”

Martina Mondadori at home in London

In digital, Cabana invites you to sit at the virtual table with Casa Cabana, Mondadori’s attentively curated homeware collections and collaborations.  For IRL Cabana conversations, Mondadori hosts weekly Instagram Live chats #athomewithcabana on creativity, craftsmanship and inspiration with design world icons and instigators.

Casa Cabana, Mondadori’s attentively curated homeware collections and collaborations.

On Italy
It’s is the effortlessness. It’s that we make no effort in creating beauty. And when people ask us, you know, how we do it, it’s almost that we need to think about the process of what brought us to…do you know what I mean? It’s just comes so natural. It’s really spontaneous to come up creative ideas whether food, art, chairs, lifestyle. You know, when we do simple things, they turn out much better than for anyone else.

On Milan
Milan is one of the best cities to live in, because logistically it’s like a big town. But it’s a town…you know, it’s like a village. It’s not a city. You know, it’s smaller than Rome, and it’s very easy to move around. You can cross, you know, the city centre with the bicycle, or walking in a sunny day, in half an hour.

When people talk about the Renaissance that Milan experienced in the last five years, I think it’s a matter of energy. And it’s a matter of the optimism that all of us out of the Milanese have, the pride that was never there. You know, Milanese always tend to be self deprecative – and being like, “Oh, Milan is easy, but it’s not beautiful.” Or, “Milan is, you know, we can’t wait to leave on Friday.” I think the Renaissance of Milan has been really happening in the different in the different quartieri (neighborhoods) – rediscovering and re-energising the little things that make Milan great.

On Cabana
I was just being a mom in London, and I started being extremely nostalgic about Italy, and about Milan, and my home. And this nostalgia, and also this point of view on Milan and on Italy, from the outside made me understand that it is the most beautiful country in the world, and there’s so much that was undiscovered to me. Cabana for me was just like the madeleine di Proust…you know, connecting the dots of my childhood, and my childhood memories, and a craving for Italy, and for Italian beauty. And therefore it became a celebration of that. My favourite issue is probably Issue 10 (Vienna), and the latest one (Fall 2020) will be a tribute to Italy. And for anyone looking for, one Cabana – it’s Cabana Anthology [published in 2018].

On the Table
It comes natural to us to have people at home, to share our home with friends – even to do it at the last minute. And the table, – for Italian families, a lot happens around the table, it’s always a great opportunity for a conversation and what happens around the table once you’ve set the table.  A table needs to feel a very happy. I like to style a sort of a collection and table, mixing very different elements, and I hate the matchy matchy. I always mix stuff I make with Cabana, and my grandmother’s plates, napkins that I found at a flea market.  Table dressing, and the table setting, is like day to day decorating, because you can’t redecorate your house every day. But you can decorate your table every day.

As interviewed by Erica Firpo.

A table set in full Cabana

Mondadori’s favourite wunderkammers?

The Treasury of the Grand Dukes at the Pitti Palace in Florence and Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck, Austria – if you’re in Venice, it’s very easy to reach by car, it can be a day trip!

Mondadori’s favourite magazines?

Nest, Flair, World of Interiors , FT weekends, YOLO, and Luncheon

Mondadori’s iconic Italian designers ?

Historic: Renzo Mongiardino, Gio Ponti, and Gabriella Crespi.
Current: Dimore Studio, Martino Gamper, San Patrignano (a recovery community home in near Rimini).

“There is a [training] section dedicated to decorative art, and they make the most incredible wallpapers and furniture”.

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