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Profiles: Paola Navone, architect and designer

Paola Navone is brilliant, eclectic and a straight talking interviewee, her great versatility has made her one of the world’s most well-known and best-loved Italian designers. Architect, art director, interior designer, writer and teacher, her work ranges from interior and outdoor furnishings to home accessories and lighting. She has the soul of a dreamer and loves the sea and travel. As her designs show, she is strongly influenced by the places she visits and especially Eastern traditions.  (Here all our posts about design)

Paola Navone, head office in Milan

Her base is Milan, where her Otto Studio came into being. “It all happened a bit by chance, which is often the case in what I do”, she says. “After travelling in Asia and Italy for a number of years the time came when I had to find a place to settle and abandon my nomadic lifestyle., And where else but Milan? The studio is named after the number eight, the number of good luck, prosperity and happiness in the Chinese tradition”.

Paola Navone
Jeko by Gervasoni. ©Alioth

Nowadays it’s a multi-disciplinary studio concerned with interior and product design, also handling creative direction, graphics and style. Coordinated by Cristina Pettenuzzo, Domenico Diego and Gian Paolo Venier, the team involved in interior design, product development and graphic design works on a number of levels, from architecture to decorative details in a natural, constant creative exchange. 

Paola Navone
Paola Navone Ph Enrico Conti

Design as simplicity and respect for tradition

“Our way of thinking about design emphasises simplicity and respect for the world’s artisanal traditions”, says Paola Navone. “Artisanal work is a wonderful creative resource that we like to mix up in imaginative, unconventional ways with other worlds. It’s a rather anarchic process! Then we love hybridising tradition and innovation – we always try, for example, to include some element of artisanal imperfection and originality to our industrial products, giving even mass-produced objects a little of that wonderful uniqueness possessed by hand-made items. Sometimes a small detail is all it takes – a natural finish, a texture…the result is always surprising”. 

Paola Navone
Fish Carpet Illulian

Paola Navone and the importance of surroundings

In Otto Studio’s interiors the link with the project’s surroundings is always present. “There’s never a sharp separation between indoor and outdoor. We like the feeling that the air, light and colours of the seascape circulate freely throughout the interior and exterior”, says the architect. “All the colours of the sky, the water, the sea and the blue of the Mediterranean are the colours of our creativity.

Paola Navone
Hotel 25 Hours

They have a relaxing effect on me. Water exerts an inexplicable attraction on me and the sea has an almost hypnotic effect. I immediately start imagining wonderful places. We allow the scents, colours and sounds enter the home. In this way the structure becomes a white, light-filled box that takes in a reflects the sea in all its shades. The same goes for travelling, which expresses our creative dimension. For us, travelling is a state of mind, an inquisitive attitude. Going a long way isn’t the important thing, sometimes you can find a small marvel that sparks your creativity in the little market under your flat. The secret is to know how to look with eyes that want to see”. 

Paola Navone
Pinecone Fontana Arte – ©Maurizio Cavallasca

Paola Navone and the nautical world

Different worlds influencing one another, like the yacht-building and residential sectors – they used to be totally distinct, but they have gradually learned to form links, to the benefit of both parties. “I think that the attraction between the luxury yacht sector and the design world is very stimulating for all concerned”, says the designer. “I’d like this cross-fertilisation to lead to new ways of living the sea, inspired by an idea of comfort linked to experiencing nature and the marine world rather than that of a luxury residence on the sea. I think it would be more pleasurable and quite revolutionary, too”. 

Paola Navone
Sunset by Exteta,

Otto Studio’s philosophy

What is the philosophy behind Otto Studio’s approach to its work? “Everything we see and breathe in of the world is collected in our head as if in a large grab bag. When we start a new project we reach in and whatever we need comes into our hand, combining spontaneously with other things, always in a different way. There’s no universal recipe – every project is a new, unique adventure that can never be repeated. It’s inspired by a special alchemy, sometimes with a person, sometimes a place or a piece of know-how that appeals to us. An interior design project, for example, is like writing a new screenplay, one that’s different every time. Depending on the project, the script can become an adventure or historical movie, a crime story or a comedy”. 

Paola Navone
Raphael di Ethimo, ©Bernard Touillion

Paola Navone also places great value on respect for the environment. “Sustainability is now a crucial element, an intrinsic part of industrial production. We like the idea of re-using objects in imaginative ways, giving them the chance to have a second life. Our interior designs often feature everyday objects – or even fragments or waste products – presented in an unexpected way, transformed into something different, funny or curious. There are countless ways of giving shape to everyday objects, it all depends on the designer. When we picture an object we give it a simple, friendly, delicate shape, one that’s never aggressive”.  

Paola Navone
Chaises Nicolle.

What can we expect from Paola Navone and her Otto Studio in the future? “We’re working on a project for a hotel in Athens, very Mediterranean, and a new Como Hotel in a special village in the Bourgogne”, she says. “Together with the product design team we’re already designing a number of collections to be presented at upcoming design events”.

Gaia Grassi

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