Photo credit: Marta Puglia
Ilaria Fatone. A name to remember, that of an Italian decorator in Provence who is talking a lot about her on social networks with a blog not to be missed under any circumstances. His very sure taste in Decoration is also based on a background in the History of Medieval Art acquired in his youth and an innate talent. Meeting with an artist who does not mince words.
How did you get into the world of interior design, by vocation or by chance? Because I understand that you had another life before decorating?
It was something that I liked but when I was young I never considered studying in it. On the other hand, I lived in Milan, I was studying modern literature with a History of Medieval Art option and suddenly with my friends, we left the University and we went to the famous furniture fairs. Trade shows back then weren't as big as they are now. It was often in the brands' showrooms and you could meet the designers and chat with them. They were very accessible. It was not yet the global event it is today. I had architect friends who had also dragged me to the Venice Biennale, but it was just a passion, nothing else.
It was much later that I came up with the idea of making it my profession. I first came to Paris where I worked in the art market as the director of an art gallery specializing in medieval illumination, my field. The owner of the gallery was an American passionate about 1950s design who wanted to constantly renovate the gallery. So I had to work regularly with an architect for years. And I adored this work, the search for color, for materials to stage stands or sites, at the gallery or elsewhere. We bought the objects from the biggest like Cassina and that was my first approach to decoration.
Afterwards I left the gallery for a much more administrative job which suddenly did not bring me all the satisfaction I needed. My little bubble of air in the evening was to immerse myself in the decoration. I'm not sure how it happened, but I started spending hours on blogs or on Pinterest. And inevitably after a while, I said to myself: and why not me? And there, a new world opened up to me! I opened my blog. There were a lot of bloggers but not as many as today, especially in the field of Decoration, which was still a niche. And I absolutely loved it!
So how did you start your business?
We left Paris for Aix en Provence and I said to myself, this is the opportunity I needed to train myself in this field. I've always been convinced that to be able to do something, you have to train. The problem is that most of the reputable schools in this field were in Paris, which I had just left. My children were small and it was unthinkable to return to Paris to train me.
So I found alternative versions and I chose to participate in extremely diverse and varied “master classes”, with decorators, stylists, photographers. These are fairly short but very rewarding experiences. I even did it abroad and that's how I trained for more than a year and a half. It was a real opportunity to see how they worked, to see what was being done elsewhere. But above all, it allowed me to define the way I wanted to work. I didn't want a classic decorating approach. Despite all these formations that do not fit into the classical line, I remain self-taught, in a way. But, people trusted me. Initially, it was friends who made me work, they had seen my tastes, saw what I shared on the networks. And then word of mouth worked.
How do you position yourself in the decoration sector?
During one of my master classes, I had the opportunity to see working with a very traditional decorator, which is exactly what I didn't want. I felt that there were actually a number of “codes” that I didn't particularly agree with. I did not come from this background, I had a completely different vision and I was going to be able to bring my personal touch precisely made of very diverse influences from Italy, Scandinavia and even England. A mix, a mix of my Italian origins with very French inspirations according to some of my Italian colleagues!
My influences are dominated by color, which I like like the Italians but to a lesser extent than them, which I don't use like them. By the Scandinavian style too, but the real one with pure lines, which goes to the essential, very minimalist and French influences, with more natural and poetic sides. Italians told me that I had this French touch, which I would never have imagined.
How would you qualify “this French touch” then in terms of Decoration?
The French are much more “relaxed” in terms of decoration than the Italians, who are more “quiet”. How can I say... The style is more natural, less assertive than in Italian design, much more "laid back" as the English say, a kind of home comfort that will mix antique pieces, family heirlooms, this appeal of vintage too, specific to the French. For example, on this side of the Alps, we rely a lot on the recovery of furniture, second-hand purchases! Something inconceivable in Italy until recently. It's just beginning to dawn but that's really not part of the philosophy. There, we mainly practice tailor-made. While it's not uncommon for a French client to ask me to find him a second-hand piece of furniture or something!
Precisely, can you describe your creative process and your way of working? How is it going ; do they usually give you carte blanche or already know what they want?
It depends. There are two categories of customers.
Those with whom I have already worked and who trust me. I suddenly have a certain freedom with them, but be careful, the goal is not for them to “live in my house”, that is to say in a place that I have arranged according to my tastes. As a result, I don't like to talk about “carte blanche” because we will have to create their living space for them. The challenge will be to come to terms with what they say to me or sometimes don't say and find a balance!
And then there are those who don't know me, who come by word of mouth or social networks. So, we discuss, we compose, a feeling is created. I try to do a lot of "tailor-made", it's a bit my added value. I am also careful to let go because sometimes customers are not necessarily ready to go for certain things that are new because we try to get ahead of trends and offer them real novelties.
For example, for two years, I had been trying to offer the color green without much success. It was a fairly complicated color to use, there was a lot of reluctance and there, recently, green is finally in the spotlight and customers accept it much more easily.
On your blog you talk a lot about trends. How do you find them? What are your sources of inspiration?
At the start, Pinterest inspired me a lot. Less today, algorithms will only provide you with what you are looking for and will allow you less to make discoveries.
Regarding social networks in general and Instagram in particular, I think it's a parallel world: which orients people's desires a lot by focusing on certain objects and then there's real life, with people who ignore everything about this world and who absolutely do not submit to the dictatorship of having this or that piece absolutely.
Otherwise, I follow style offices like Peclers or NellyRodi a lot, which will give access to all the trends that will emerge. Magazines too but by periods. Fashion also inspires me a lot because it is truly a trendsetter. I also like to see what others are doing and what solutions they can come up with. It's always interesting and instructive, I find when some fear copying or plagiarism. I see it as something very constructive that allows you to take the pulse of what is being done.
I also have other sources of inspiration that people will probably find a little weird, but I must admit that Art and museums inspire me a lot . Nothing like an eighteenth-century painting to temper my many inspirations. I have a passion for small museums like the Granet Museum in Aix, the Hotel de Caumont, the Orsay Museum.
The Chateau La Coste is also an incredible place that brings together incredible nature with art and architecture.
And the Villa Noailles in Hyeres and Toulon. The Design Parade; exceptional!
People who inspire you?
It's very weird because the two designers I love don't represent my style at all, nor what I like. It's very weird and yet...
Cristina Celestino whose world if it is maximalist is still very dreamlike, very feminine, in a word hyperbeautiful!
My second crush is formed by a duo of designers Marcante Testa who embodies the Italian soul so well. It's hypergraphic, full of color, I really love it even if there again, it's very far from my universe.
In another style, Scandinavian this time, Norm Architects is also part of what I like.
What do you think are the challenges of decoration and its usefulness?
I have always been fiercely against the concept of timelessness in decoration. It's impossible. An interior of the fifties will remain marked fifties. And if you create a space in 2021, it is influenced by 2021. You will have to distinguish between what is “trendy”, what magazines present to you as such. And they don't hesitate to tell you that you won't be able to spend the winter without this or that object! And the colors and materials that will be most in demand.
An example with the Togo sofa that everyone knows. This sofa, born in the seventies, has not stopped coming back to the fore for several years, despite its improbable shape. It has undeniable qualities, it is light, comfortable but remains very marked 70! The challenge will be to blend it into our space without the whole thing seeming out of the seventies and not going out of fashion in a few years.
Ditto with brass, a hypertrend material that should not be abused.
It takes consistency in decoration while not hesitating to mix the elements. Not to mention that trends have a fairly short lifespan; no more than five years. And we know very well that when trends arrive in stores such as Maisons du Monde, it means that the trend is already at the end of its life! So, yes, here we go, we fall in love with a lamp at 19 Euros, we buy it, we bring it back and after two years, we can no longer see it. We also got tired because it's not real design but copies. We talk about “fast deco”; a movement extremely harmful to the environment as well as to customers whose interiors are overflowing and which creates an endless production cycle.
So what advice would you give to our readers in terms of decoration?
Not to buy everything they see and for which they have a crush, but above all to take the time and reflect. Reflection is sorely lacking. Ask yourself: will I have a place to put it. Avoid compulsive shopping at all costs. We can even ask ourselves the following question: isn't it better to put the price on a piece that we won't get tired of?” Afterwards, I am well aware of the cost problems generated but, perhaps instead of buying lots of small objects which we will get tired of and which will end up on the right corner, we can treat ourselves with a beautiful designer piece. which we will never get tired of...Not to mention that when it comes to paying a large sum, we think more and it is this reflection that will be essential.
We can also wonder if there are other solutions? Myself, I had seen about three years ago before the loop exploded, an armchair with this material of which I dreamed, but I had two armchairs in excellent condition and it bothered me to part with them . I finally found the alternative of covering one with a similar fabric. I got what I wanted without sacrificing a chair or buying an extra one. There really are many alternatives.
We try to return to more local, artisanal processes, which take more time, which also gives us time to reflect. But, it is a long work to do to change mentality.
Your latest musical favourites?
Her name is Snatam Kaur and she sings mantras amazingly "Mool mantra"
In the kitchen, what is your favorite dish? Italian or French?
Even though I have a husband who cooks French cuisine extremely well, my choice is Italian cuisine for its simplicity. My favorite dish remains the risotto allo zafferano, a saffron risotto, a specialty of milan, by the way. The “pasta”, also because you never get tired of it, and a tiramisu, for dessert.
A website to share? A motto to share?
Two really great blogger sites: Frenchy Fancy which shares brand news and Turbulences Déco which offers real reflection and in-depth work.
As for my motto, it holds in these words and I admit that I often repeat it to my clients even if not all of them are necessarily ready to appropriate it:
“We don't need more space, we need less stuff”.
Another sentence serves as my email signature and has already succeeded in convincing some people to trust me: it is “Our life is lost in the details. Simplify, simplify, simplify!”
Photo credit: Ilaria Fatone
Interview by Edith SELLIER PASCAL