Icon of Interiors
Martina Mondadori is the icon of Italian style. Founder of Cabana, the interiors bible for anyone and everyone who loves design, Italy and fabulous spaces, Martina was born with an innate sprezzatura (ease). Maybe it’s because grew up in a Renzo Mongiardino-designed villa, or maybe it was her years honing editorial acumen with family publishing house Mondadori and Electa, whatever the case, Martina has an ease that makes her an interiors wunderkind, a style icon, and a really nice person. We had a virtual meet up to talk all about Martina, Milan and the karma of Cabana.
The Karma of Cabana
“I always say [that Milan is] like an old comfortable shoe. You know how it fits and how comfortable it is. And, sometimes you kind of give it for granted, and it’s only after you’ve left it in your cupboard for so long, and you suddenly find it again, that you think, “Oh my goodness, this is such a great…you know, it’s such a great shoe. I love it, because it fits me so well.”
It took a translantic relocation for Mondadori to get that fit, and it gave her something. After moving and working in New York in her 20s for Electa (Mondadori’s more artsy brand), she would eventually move to the eclectic embrace of London, a city where she now resides. It’s thanks to London that Mondadori experienced her metamorphic creative awakening. “It’s when I moved to London and started looking at [Milan] with different eyes that I started really appreciating all the decorative details,” she wistfully confides.
In her quest for inspiration, Mondadori embarked on an odyssey through the hallowed halls of historic English manors. She traversed the hallowed halls of venerable museums and submerged herself in the captivating realm of eccentric collectors and their curiosities. And as she occasionally emerged for a breath of air, the fragments of her observations began to coalesce into tantalizing mood boards, eventually birthing what she has aptly christened the “visual bridge.” This creative bridge, an imaginative tapestry interweaving the opulent abodes of England with their Italian counterparts, materialized as a testament to her editorial acumen. The rest, as they say, is Cabana.
“Cabana defines something that is not brand new and done to the nines. So even if it’s something that was done in the 1970s, there’s something authentic about that interior that feels relevant still today. I think there’s nothing like a house where the owner puts a lot of himself or herself into it, and has the self confidence to know that it’s not about following a style, following a trend, but because that object means something, resonates to him or to her.”
When Martina launched Cabana in 2014, she revived gorgeously packaged, image and info heavy design magazines that take readers into homes and interior as well as immersing them in destinations. Like many of magazine fans, I was entranced and have always had my eye on what Martina does and I love seeing how the print magazine has become so much more: tastemaker, on line shop, destination scout and now an experience.
The Cabana Caravan
“Travel really has always been a big part of “Cabana” in the sense that with the magazine, yes, it’s interiors, but really what it all is about, is escapism,” Martina tells me. Her magazine was never intended to be just a gorgeous coffee table mag, she wanted to bring people into destinations and get them into the soul of design. Now’s she take that a step further.
In 2023, Martina and Cabana teamed up with Prior World to create a series of curated travel experiences that focus on “exploring the soul of place through design” as the Prior x Cabana Caravan. To Martina, the travel experiences quickly became an opportunity for the Cabana community – decorators, designers and friends – to come together in a fantastic journey of design and place.
“The idea is to bring the magazine to life, experience in real life some of the destinations that we focus on with the magazine, regions that might be more or less in people’s radar, discovering obviously private homes, craftsmanship, great food experiences. We unlock certain experiences that are amazing. “
By the time this is published, the Cabana Caravan has already taken design-lovers through the Veneto (hello, Palladio!) and as I write, Martina’s team is currently sharing her Secret Salento in Puglia – amazing interiors, design inspirations, favourite restaurants and even a little bit of home.
“You know, Veneto, for Italian…it’s kind of a given. A lot of people just fly in and out of Venice. But I remember growing up in Italy, Asolo was a thing . . . and then I guess over the years, it kind of got forgotten a bit. And so for us, it’s like bringing the focus back to an area of Italy which is so rich in everything, even modern architecture with [Carlo] Scarpa.”
And the same with Salento. Salento is so rich in, for example, the way they host. There’s something similar in my personal experience between Veneto and Puglia in the way people open their homes. There are some regions [where] people are inclined to opening the doors of their home, being welcoming, entertaining, and some others that are kind of more private. My mother’s family is from the border of Veneto and Friuli, and all the people there . . . open the doors to their homes, and just prepare the table with some prosciutto or some whatever. I have these memories of my grandmother in her home there, which will be part of our tour. No matter who would come, at what time of day, she would have delicious almonds, and some prosecco . . . offering that to people.”
In January, Prior x Cabana Caravan hits the road in the Yucatan, Andalusia in March and a return to the Veneto in June 2024.
Photos courtesy of Cabana. Photographers Ashley Hicks, Miguel Flores Vianna.