Lessons in good taste from Martina Mondadori, the editor who makes decoration an art

Martina Mondadori (Milan, 1981) has a very personal and eclectic way of dealing with decoration and lifestyle.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 22:39
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Lessons in good taste from Martina Mondadori, the editor who makes decoration an art

Martina Mondadori (Milan, 1981) has a very personal and eclectic way of dealing with decoration and lifestyle. She grew up surrounded by beauty, sophistication and a certain extravagance, between the operatic house of her mother, Paola Zanussi, designed by Renzo Mongiardino, and that of her father, the publisher Leonardo Mondadori, a voracious collector of art, ceramics, books and textiles who pivoted between the ancient and the contemporary. Martina spent her summers at her grandparents' house, Villa Ronche, a 17th-century mansion near Venice.

Her instinct for beauty is reflected in Cabana, an editorial haute couture that is published twice a year. The 21 issues of this magazine are a sumptuous visual feast of fashion, interiors and art soaked in the style of a woman in whom also resides the legacy of an industrial dynasty - she is the granddaughter of the founder of the Zanussi appliance company.

The magazine's universe extends on the Casa Cabana website, which houses artisanal porcelain, Murano glass, table linens, rich fabrics and collaborations with brands such as Stephen Janson, Pierre-Louis Mascia, Ulla Johnson or the Madrid-based Valeria Cotoner... And now, To round out her world, she has just opened her first physical store, an eclectic mix of home accessories, antiques and vintage items on Milan's Via Borgospesso.

They celebrate the tenth anniversary by opening a store and with a Valentino silk cover. Do you come from a family of great editors, but did you imagine they would go this far?

I believe in printed paper, it is a reaction to excessive digitalization. Ten years ago, print magazines were starting to copy each other. Images getting smaller and smaller, a bit of collage, paper getting poorer and poorer. We thought about making a collection piece with full-page images telling the intimate story. This is how we have broken a little with tradition.

What is style?

Personality. That is to say, people who have style normally have a strong personality and the courage to express themselves with their way of life, their home, their way of speaking... It is not a rule dictated by someone, but it is the very expression of a personality.

How is style fed?

It is linked to great curiosity. For example, traveling, or simply reading a lot of books or going to museums. Traveling with your eyes also helps create your style.

A motto to guide your life.

Dreaming while keeping your feet on the ground.

How do you get it?

Maintaining a little humility, being realistic but dreaming. In my case, I am more of a dreamer, but you have to have romanticism along with a strong dose of reality.

What place just surprised you?

I would say Hungary. Budapest has impressed me with its beauty and energy. Its story has many twists, different moments, crossroads of cultures, crafts, second-hand stores that we must value.

He places a lot of value on craftsmanship, and his homes in Milan and London are full of souvenirs and objects inherited or bought in antique stores...

I think there are things that are being lost, but also that it is important to reinvent traditions to keep them alive, because, if not, you run the risk of them becoming museums. I love the beauty of imperfection in all its forms: embroidery, ceramics, blown glass... This is also a good time for art and antiques, in reaction to the digital world; It returns to what is handmade, to rich textures, to the unique piece.

Is minimalism no longer modern?

There is a minimalism that I like, but it is not surgical, forced, because it goes a little against real life. There was a famous saying that in every minimalist house there is a room where you enter and the real life hides where everything accumulates.

What do you look for when you enter a house?

In the light, its colors and its smells, its atmosphere. Houses speak for themselves and can transmit pleasure, rigidity, comfort, joy...

She lived in a house owned by Renzo Mondichiano, an architect and set designer who also designed for the Morattis, Versace, Onassis, Agnelli... As a child, did you like her or did you find her pompous?

I didn't like it at all. I wanted to live in a white, minimalist cube. My adolescence took place in the 90s, with those families who worked in the design industry. They didn't exactly live in minimalist houses, but they did live in sober ones. I liked that and I said it to Mondichiano to provoke him. But when I left Milan and moved to London, I understood to what extent that house and that type of Italian interior had influenced me.

Are there objects that always follow you?

I love collecting fabrics that I find in bazaars or antique shops, also these Bonacina rattan chairs, which were in the house where I grew up. For my children, they are now part of their life. I like the sense of continuity, of transmission. An object can hold memories, the weight of a story.

What is the secret of the art of receiving?

Making your guests feel comfortable, not imposing, is like a ritual. When they arrive, an aperitif because it is a moment in which they feel welcome, they mix, they begin to feel at home. Then, good food and good wine on a table that should be sophisticated but not pompous, not imposing. I always start with the tablecloth and mix valuable objects with others that are worthless. And in general, also be able to generate a conversation that involves everyone. In my opinion, the ideal number of diners to have a successful evening is eight.

Why eight?

In my experience, when there are eight of us there is enough diversity of people, but not too much and everyone can get to know each other and talk easily.

You grew up surrounded by elegant women, who are your fashion muses?

Loulou de la Falaise, Jackie Kennedy. Maybe Queen Letizia, her style is not exactly mine, but you can see that she has character.

Your mother always wore Yves Saint Laurent, what piece is never missing from her closet?

I like some vintage Saint Laurent, I love jeans, loafers, and maybe a fun t-shirt.

And which one will never fit into your dressing room?

No element of vulgarity.

What is vulgarity?

Well, that's subjective. Maybe something that may seem vulgar to one person may not be vulgar to another. Therefore, you must know yourself very well, your style, how you carry yourself. For me, excess shortness, excess nudity, excess in general is vulgar.

Which celebrity you've met has impressed you the most?

I remember the time I accompanied my father to a meeting with Jackie Kennedy in New York because she was also an editor. He hadn't told me we were going. Jackie was incredibly kind and polite. She met us at the elevator and she walked us back to the elevator. I was 13 years old and she gave me a book. She was a very elegant woman, very kind.

Who has given you the best advice?

My mother, who passed away in 2021, has been a great source of advice. I don't know which one to take in particular, but she conveyed to me the idea of ​​being a strong woman who doesn't let herself be subdued.

And has he achieved it?

Yes, but I also have a lot of fragility. When you go through periods of fragility and come out of them, you become wiser. And knowing how to recognize moments of weakness makes you stronger.

What wouldn't go against your principles?

Pretending goes against nature. The problem is that it has become too easy because of social media. Also because society only wants success and it is very difficult for new generations to deal with this... You have to be handsome, project a perfect life and vacation; Perfection does not exist. We must teach again that we learn from weaknesses; We fall, we get up, and I hope my children can create tools to face those moments.

Is it difficult for a well-known person like you to be authentic?

You must always be yourself, with your people, with your friends, with those you work with. Obviously if you have a public figure you don't want to reveal everything. I'm quite shy and a little reserved, but that doesn't mean you're not authentic, just take a step back.

What do you teach your children?

Leonardo, Tancredi and Cosima are 15, 13 and 7 years old. I tell them to always be authentic people, to believe in themselves and to dream but to maintain a large dose of humility. In my opinion, the big problem today is arrogance at all levels.

How do you protect them from the networks?

You have to share moments of real life with them, have dinner together, talk. My children are also used to sitting with my friends, an exchange that otherwise only comes from the digital world, which inevitably exists for them.

What do they think of their house?

Which is like an Alice story. Boys would prefer it very cool, modern. They have skateboards hanging in her room, but they love the cozy atmosphere.

With your partner, the interior designer and photographer Ashley Hicks, grandson of Louis Mountbatten, are they complementary or different?

We are very different, but there is a fundamental appreciation of quality, beauty, historical and cultural knowledge. It's a good dialogue, then maybe the difference is that he likes to go to museums and I like to go to a flea market. We built the house together and he is very good at listening, he interprets what I want. If you're not a designer, and I'm not, you may know what you like, but you need someone to make it happen.

If you could travel in time, would you go to your past or your future?

I always project myself forward, but perhaps to my adolescence, which was very happy. My parents separated very soon but remained good friends. My father died when I was 21, but we took wonderful trips and I studied Philosophy, like him.

You have collaborated with Zara Home and with the designer Valeria Cotoner, how do you choose the brands you collaborate with?

Zara Home contacted us. It's funny, because my mother, when I was setting up my house in London and Cabana didn't exist yet, told me that all I needed for the table was a mix of beautiful and old things that I had inherited from dad and others from Zara Home. I started following Valeria on Instagram and she found her dresses very elegant and simple. Then I discovered that we had a lot in common and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the welcome that her family gave me in Madrid when we launched our collaboration. It is a beautiful family in which the women count a lot.

Something we wouldn't guess about you at first glance.

Maybe I like to laugh more than anything else, I like the light side of life, it's necessary.