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A "cuento" on Design

The first design intervention I remember was that of my bedroom. I had just started the Art School, I was about 14 years old and I was struggling with my first wall frescoes.

Luckily I don't keep any photos...

When I was eighteen I moved to London to attend The Islington College, but I soon discovered that megacities weren't what I was looking for and I went back home. At the age of twenty I got married and the closeness of my husband, who is a true all-rounder with a predilection for wooden constructions, has expanded my design possibilities. And so, almost without realizing it, we began to carry out the first renovations together. It started as something between fun and necessity, neither of us would have said, back then, that design would be what we would be doing for the next twenty years. It has never been a job for us. It was simply the need to make the space around us, whether it was the house, the office or the garden, suitable for our aesthetic needs.

Beauty helps, believe me.

Unlike the painter, who when he has a moment of excitement, of inspiration, can run to buy a canvas and get to work, the designer often experiences a moment of castration. Because the designer cannot buy a house every time he wants to furnish. So what does a young designer do? He begins to paint his entire room and when he is done he extends to the rest of the house.

This is the restyling of the living room and dining room in my mother's house, before and after the intervention.

"Masonic / Colonial" style living room and dining room

I don't think the total cost for the transformation of these two rooms has exceeded 300 euros. I bought a lot of things at the flea market. Paintings, cushions and tablecloths are made by me and are creations, interpretations and digital prints of ancient paintings and contemporary works, some of mine (Adam and Eve, the two self-portraits, the black and white photography of the Norwegian house) some others by famous artist, like the splendid Saladin  painted by Cristoforo dell'Altissimo or Caravaggio 's Narcissus , adapted with a panoramic horizontal cut. The materials used for the furnishing accessories go from fabric to PVC and cardboard. The rope was given to me by a friend who was a scaffolder by profession. The table is made with an old suitcase found in the attic together with a large mirror no one was any longer aware of. The television, as it was old, had been given to us as a gift. The antique frames are taken from the second-hand market. Table, lamps and sofa are from Ikea and we already had them, so we didn't have to buy anything new. The wooden statue that appears in the corner was made by my husband starting from a trunk and for the plants I went to "steal" them in my mother-in-law's garden. The wooden chairs in the dining room again are my husband's work, made using two  logs cut in the woods. The vases that look like bronze are actually plastic, painted in bronze color.

In 2010, I dropped out of university to open my own graphics studio. I no longer wanted to study, I wanted to create and earn. The opening of the studio was a new opportunity to do some Design, since the only place available and with a rent compatible with my empty pockets was an authentic catastrophe. Rubble, broken pipes, encrusted walls and on.

It was time for another intervention.

This restyling was more expensive and time-consuming. We had to redo everything including the floors. I don't remember the budget but I do remember that at the end, the only thing we were worried about was being able to earn enough to pay off the loans and start breathing again. Unfortunately, my husband and I have sinned with naivety. In a hyper-bureaucratic and overtaxed state like Italy,  running a business requires great sacrifices, and not just economic ones. The two of us, on the other hand, have always lived with the stubborn belief that even two economically disadvantaged people like us, in life could have aspire to have everything it takes to be happy. So after 5 intense years, which I spent doing any kind of work, decorating rooms, designing furniture, printing menus, making advertising posters, headboards for the bed, light panels... we made a decision. We leave everything and move to a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. To do what?  Who knows... but something will happen.

Graphic studio in "jungle kitch" style

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Some restyling works done during that period.
Transformation of a pop color restaurant into an old peasant tavern

I have never loved pure, bright, contrasting colors. To tell the truth I hate them and the first thing I do when I meet them is to eliminate them. On the other hand, I love dark tones, browns, ochers, the colors of the earth and I appreciate very, very much, black, which is a fundamental component of all my colors. In this restyling I used the digital fresco technique, an innovative and absolutely technological technique. I think I was the first to use it in my city, but I must say my city isn't famous in the world for its avant-garde. The work tools are painted in the form of optical illusion, only the ancient saw is real, because I was lucky enough to find one, I don't remember where. The lamps are handmade. The owner then had the good heart to buy matching tablecloths and napkins.

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While we were planning our one way ticket transfer, I organized a solo exhibition. It was clear from the first days of the set-up that I would not limit myself to the paintings. I added lamps and pillows, side tables  and trunks. I asked the caretaker of the Villa to grant me permission to transport the plants from the garden to the exhibition rooms and I was granted it. Then I asked if I could bring braziers and light some fires and incredibly this was also granted to me. Finally, on the day of the exhibition, just before the guests arrived, I saw stains on the floor. I asked for a rag to clean the floor. The manager of the villa looked at me like I was crazy. Nobody had never seen the "artist" doing the job of the cleaning staff. And yet this is exactly what a good designer should do: make sure that also the floor is in harmonious relationship with everything else. And if the cleaning lady didn't do the cleaning right, I'll do it! And so I took my rag and cleaned the floor. I will always remember that moment because at one point a local journalist walked in to interview "the artist" before the exhibition began. She arrived in the room, saw me cleaning the floor and asked me "sorry ... do you know where I can find the artist?" "Yes, it's me." I will always remember her face.

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When I was little I used to play the only video game I really loved in my life, it was called Monkey Island. When I started playing I immediately felt that that graphic/artistic world imagined by the creators was my world. There were great nocturnal settings illuminated by small lights (that today in the language of design we would define "boho style"). It took place on a small volcanic island populated by monkeys and pirates, rich governors and half-mad people, among palm trees, beaches, inn interiors with battered wooden boards and ancient paintings with baroque frames. It was precisely that stylistic, eclectic and gypsy "huddle", where the European classical taste tries to elegantly settle among the roots of creepers, coconut shells and rats on the loose.

I was at home.

This is why, when I landed on the island that would become my home and that I had never seen before, I realized that the plots of destiny were taking me where I needed to go, that place of the mind you have always belonged, regardless of where you were born.

The first years on the island were not easy. Fortunately, there was a small free market, very well known and popular, where anyone could go and sell their things. You had to get up very early in the morning and arrive in time to get a stand, because since it was free, anyone could arrive and set where he wanted to do what he wanted. There were fortune tellers, singers, puppeteers, iguana owners who asked for money to make it available for a photo, there were carpenters, glassmakers, jugglers. That market is called Rastro de Argual and still today is our only point of sale for those who want to buy the works of Souentos - Souvenirs y Cuentos (this is the name I gave to my stand that now has become a worldwide selling website ).

Then comes a stroke of luck. We meet a person who has a small ruin to renovate and tells us that we can live there if we want to do the work. What is this if not another opportunity to do some Design?

The ruin turned out to be a destroyed chicken coop.

There is no need to say that we got back to work.

The Journey

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The chicken coop is transformed

This renovation was a beautiful journey through restoration and creation using concrete. In the kitchen, only the stoves are new, the furniture is second-hand and everything else comes from the omnipresent China Store. Each bottle and container is hand decorated with a label effect. The floor is hand painted in Inka Stones style. In the living room and bedroom each piece of furniture is built with pallets, boards and wood waste from the sawmill. The legs of the dining table are made from the structure of an old bed. The chandelier is Ikea. Hand painted floor in POMPEII style. The furnishing accessories are obviously all made in Souentos.

The bathroom is the place in the house dedicated to water. The bathroom of a house on an island means squared water.  For this reason the bathroom design was conceived as a tribute to an ancient civilization that lived on an island and that was the epicenter of what we now call Western civilization. Crete. It is on the basis of the famous fresco depicting two Cretan boxers that I developed the entire aesthetic theme of the bathroom, making a copy of the fresco itself on the main wall. The "wooden floor" is hand painted. The mosaic in the shower is made with broken tiles.

Original fresco

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The German couple we met by chance and with whom we went to live later turned out to be working in renting holiday homes. They have various accommodations, scattered right here in the land where we all live together (we in our former chicken coop) and they in their home.  Two of these accommodations need a restyling.

So, we start again.

The Pirate Lair

In this case, I couldn't buy or throw anything away. The challenge was to transform the environment through the use of paint alone and by changing the arrangement and quality of the lights. The pirate style wooden lamp is hand built. Some objects have been found with a stroke of luck. Ancient maps are digital creations made in Souentos. In this restyling Monkey Island was a key concept.

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During the coronavirus, our work suffered an abrupt halt. The Argual market has been closed for almost a whole year. There was a lot of free time to manage. I thought a good pastime would have been decorating a new guest room, this time not for work but for pure fun. I made a survey on facebook, to ask my friend what they would have loved to see painted on the walls. Many indications have arrived, obviously all inconsistent. Someone said a dolphin on the rocks, someone said a King Crimson CD! The challenge was to create, using their weird indications, an aesthetically harmonious design.


It is amazing how an environment can be transformed only by using acrylic colors on the wall. But this would only be art. When doing Design, on the other hand, you must also pay attention to the colors of the bed and towels! Design is never a solo but it is always a concert.

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Over time the couple of people we moved in with, Markus and Andrea, went from being the hosts to being two good friends. For this reason at some point we decided to create something new together. This new creation was the most exciting thing that can be done in  DESIGN: a GLAMPING.

Yes! A glamorous camping.

The idea was mine, I admit it, but the work is a team work. They have the bureaucratic part and we have the creative one.

The dried palm leaves are the key element of the whole aesthetic  and this is why we called it "La Cabaña"- the hut. My husband cut and braided them when they were still fresh and then we left them to dry. Everything is made with pallets: the doors, the chairs, the tables, the supporting structure of the bed. The tent floor is hand painted concrete, as always. Frescoes and furnishing accessories are specially designed for this new project and are digital works made in Souentos. We opened in December and everything works great! If you want to come and visit us, here there's the link to the website. 

And now? And now it continues. I am sure that life will continue to offer me new opportunities to make Design free from commissions, assignments and customers. I am sure that life will give me other opportunities to express my personal harmonic vision.


Tuesday 14th September 2021

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Wednesday 19th October 2022

A year later.

Summer 2022 was a summer of meeting people and relatives that I had not seen for years and who joined us on this distant island to spend the holidays together. It was a summer of lots of kisses, lots of hugs and lots of ron.

We had built a terrace months earlier. It was dark wood with floral decorations on the floor. But then  this sparkling, alcoholic, euphoric summer arrived and so  I decided to transform the Wiccan terrace into a Moroccan terrace, dedicated to mosaics and the colors of the Mediterranean, because even if we have become "atlantic" now, Mediterranean remains our heart.

The inspiration came from the mosaics of Ravenna, the Sicilian majolica and the suggestions of Morocco. Our island overlooks the Western Sahara and therefore my aesthetic fantasies often fly to North Africa. The table is painted in the same style as the floor, with strokes of acrylic diluted with sealant. At the center of the table a Canarian amphora. The fireplace is a small table with drawer covered inside with metal plates. When the candles are lit the drawer works as a food warmer. Moroccan lamps are Chinese (ah!) painted with protective and contain an inverted glass painted with ocher glaze to create a warm light and protect the electrical system. The sofa is obviously made of pallets with foam rubber covered with waterproof fabric. Vases and candle holders are made of concrete using milk cartons as a base for the mold. The yellow vase is a trivial plastic vase from the LIDL supermarket painted and passed off as a Sicilian majolica. It was a creative summer.

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An as I had the brushes in my hand I also painted the staircase.

The concept of mosaic has extended to the decoration of the external floor that precedes the entrance. Then I added plants, lamps and fake archaeological finds created with hot worked polystyrene and concrete.

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