As the founder and Editor in Chief of Cabana magazine — the world's most luxurious interiors magazine — Martina Mondadori Sartogo has formed a network of designers, artists, photographers and writers to bring her vision to life. Influenced by Renzo Mongiardino throughout her career, Mondadori Sartogo has immortalised Mondiardino's creations in her book Renzo Mongiardino: A Painterly Vision. His opulent interiors for clients such as Gianni Versace and Lee Radziwill were akin to museums; filled with exceptional objects and sumptuous fabrics, yet still imbued with the warmth of a family home. We sat down with Martina to discuss the book, her life as a tastemaker and her tips for a stylish holiday season.
MARTINA MONDADORI SARTOGO PHOTOGRAPHED AT HOME FOR VOGUE.
Mariko Finch: Let's talk about your new book, and how the idea came about. What is your connection is to Renzo Mongiardino?
Martina Mondadori Sartogo: It's a personal tribute to the man and to his legacy as a decorator. I grew up seeing him in my house. I lived until twenty one in the house that is on the cover of the book. We decided to do a book photographing the houses that are left intact, as many of the existing pictures of his work date back to the 1970s or 1980s, and therefore they are portrayed in a very traditional way. We took a more intimate approach, which is what we do with any house we feature in Cabana. It was a matter of shooting these houses with an extreme attention to detail: Mongiardino's work is all about the detail of craftsmanship. The mood he created in his houses and his style were the major influence behind starting Cabana three years ago.
THE FRONT COVER OF RENZO MONGIARDINO: A PAINTERLY VISION. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GUIDO TARONI. COURTESY RIZZOLI, NEW YORK.
MF: Cabana has a very unique aesthetic so it's really interesting to hear that you were surrounded by that from a very young age.
MMS: Absolutely, and he's still is a huge source of inspiration. I think it's also probably relevant today because we're witnessing a comeback of a visually rich world full of patterns and layering. Nobody knew how to layer patterns from very different sources like Mongiardino. He would mix a Turkish inspired fabric or an Indian fabric with an Italian silk and a brocade alongside a French tapestry, and still it would feel so full of taste. You really need talent be able to master the art of the pattern mix. He did it without it feeling kitsch, which is always a risk.
AN INTERIOR BY RENZO MONGIARDINO. PHOTOGRAPHED BY GUIDO TARONI.
MF: There are many things to consider when you're devising an interior — from the furniture to the wall coverings, to the art. For you, what makes a successful space?
MMS: As with everything, it's about harmony and balance. It's something that is almost intangible. But it's that charm that you feel when you enter a well-balanced room. As in the case of Mongiardino, it's a talent that not everyone knows how to master, but my approach is to just be bold, give it a try, and make sure to have fun with colours and with patterns. And the other most important thing to remember is that to get the right feeling in a room takes a long time. You cannot enter a new house and think that you have that lived-in feeling and charm in a minute. Rome wasn't built in a day. You might put together the essentials, then go on a trip and come back with some tiny objects that you found in a flea market or at a shop, and it's these items that tell the story. Display them alongside books and pieces you love, and just let it layer naturally over time. I think we have a bit of this obsession with newness nowadays.
MF: Would you say that the whole process is about collecting and accumulating?
MMS: The best houses I've ever seen are the ones that belong to real collectors. I think collecting means having a passion. The best collections that have been put together over the centuries are the ones that were inspired by a real obsession. There's nothing as fun as being an obsessive collector! I'm so inspired by those collectors that are able to create a dialogue between contemporary art and antiquities, because then you experience the history of art. We're human beings witnessing this history. I think it's too dry to just focus on one specific theme.
COVERS OF CABANA MAGAZINE.
MF: Cabana has a very unique relationship to collaboration, so with artists and designers. What is it about that process that's important to you or important to Cabana?
MMS: I always say that what makes Cabana Cabana is the family of contributors and designers, decorators, tastemakers and artists that have been very close to us from the beginning. This network is incredible. People often send me an idea, or tell me to look at a certain thing and this becomes the fabric of the magazine. Quirkiness is what makes Cabana. It’s not an interiors magazine, it's more about eccentricity, through 360 degrees. You might have a passion for old masters, or you might have it for Sicilian coral, or for contemporary art or drawings. But you have to have some sort of passion for something.
MF: If you're drawing on things and you're taking suggestions from the 'Cabana Family', it sounds like your editorial process is quite democratic.
MMS: I really cherish these people. I'm also very grateful to all of them because they've made Cabana what it is today.
A SPREAD FROM CABANA MAGAZINE.
MF: So do you see yourself in that sense as more of a curator than an editor?
MMS: Yes, definitely. I like to curate and put objects together. Last year for Design Week in Milan I was asked to curate an exhibition bringing together more established designers with younger designers. I wanted to focus on glass and ceramics, so I went to the RCA to see the people graduating from there; it was really about curating a space as we would curate the magazine.
MF: Cabana is very famous for its beautifully designed front covers. Is it possible for you to have a favourite of all of the covers you've published?
MMS: There are a few actually! Sometimes we will have up to 20 different covers for the same issue. I love the ones that we have out right now for issue eight. The covers are with fabrics by Ralph Lauren, in Navajo patterns. And it's the first time we've actually done covers with wool. The touch and feel of it is very special.
DESIGN FOR CABANA'S ISSUE EIGHT, IN COLLABORATION WITH RALPH LAUREN.
MF: Whilst we're on the subject of favourites, aside from your own home is there somewhere in the world that is your favourite place to visit?
MMS: There are quite a few, but I would say there is one place in particular: a house that belongs to a good friend of mine in Tangier in Morocco. His name is Umberto Pasti and he's a real collector. When he put objects together he switches from one passion to the next. His house is a testament to his passion. He's a garden designer mainly, so it's the whole place: being in Tangier with those objects, the garden and the smells. For me, it's my idea of heaven.
MF: Are you working on any projects or collaborations that you can share with us?
MMS: We've just brought out our second collection of Cabana objects for the home, and we've just released the holiday season table top collection, in collaboration with Moda Operandi. It was a process of imagination and craftsmanship; every single object is made is hand made in Italy by great artists. There are big plates, lots of glass, beautiful ceramics and linen. For me, working on projects like this a very important part of the Cabana philosophy.
Martina's Tips for Styling Your Home at Christmas
Decorating Your Home
I have an obsession for table settings (as one might have noticed from the collections I curate for Cabana every year) and there is no time like Christmas to go crazy with mixing and layering new items with vintage ones! I always start by picking a table linen, full of patterns, and then start layering from there. This year I will use our new range of colourful round wicker placemats and combine them with the Romanian ceramic plates range. Glassware from Murano and decorative objects on the table from different provenances and different geographies.
FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS AND LAYERED TEXTURES FROM CABANA MAGAZINE.
Entertaining Family & Friends
I like to keep things as intimate as possible on the days leading to Christmas as it is after all a moment of reflection. I am always a fan of intimate dinners at home where you can keep the conversation flowing. The ideal number is 10 around a table. But then we have this tradition on Christmas day to invite many friends to come over after lunch to our house in the mountains and enjoy Panettone with a great special custard sauce recipe. No gifts are exchanged on Christmas Day itself, just lots fun with loads of youngsters running around.
A DINING ROOM SETTING LAYERING PATTERNS AND TEXTURE.
Selecting the Perfect Gift
It's never easy! For my mother and my best friends, gorgeous small bags made with exquisite embroidered textiles from Syria. For the rest of the family the brand new Frederic Malle candles in collaboration with Laguna B. And as hostess gift, the Cabana table linens and wicker placemats!
LAWRENCE DURRELL, AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT NOTEBOOK AND SCRAPBOOK ENTITLED "DIARY AND ROUGH NOTES 1955". ESTIMATE: £1,000—1,500. FROM ENGLISH LITERATURE, HISTORY, CHILDREN’S BOOKS & ILLUSTRATIONS.
The holiday season is a great time of year to add to your family collection; it could be a classical painting, a beautifully-bound first edition book or an exquisite sculpture that can be treasured and handed down through the family for generations to come.