Italian designer Paola Navone – above – is one of COMO’s greatest inspirations, says Christina Ong, the CO of a luxury hotel brand’s name (the MO is her daughter, Melissa Ong). The brand in question is of course COMO Hotels and Resorts, where, as Christina Ong says, right now ‘we’re focusing on the things we can control to enrich our lives. Paola Navone is one of my closest friends and greatest inspirations. As Rei Kawakubo is to fashion, Paola is to interior design and architecture: profoundly innovative, passionate and graceful, which are values we also ascribe to everything we do”.
Paola Navone has worked as architect, art director, critic and teacher for luxury brands around the world, including Armani and Swarovski. She’s also the talent behind the bold and innovative designs of many COMO resorts, including COMO Point Yamu in Phuket, COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach and COMO Castello del Nero in her home country of Italy.
From Milan, she shares home styling advice for private living spaces…
Do you have any advice for budding home designers? Do not feel like you are trapped. The time you have at home is an opportunity to enjoy your private environment without any pressure. Look around with new eyes, as if you are travelling to a new destination. Try something different – if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. Nothing is permanent.
Is less really more when it comes to design? Less is always more – an important statement. How much less is a very personal decision.
Natural colours or bright and bold? I personally find that white environments always calm me. I like colour in furniture and a splash on the walls. You don’t need to think intellectually when it comes to choosing colour: pick freely. You just need to be sure the colour you go for is sympathetic with your feelings. Don’t be scared – nothing is forever. You can always repaint!
When it comes to décor, what one item should we all have? Nothing decorative is ever essential. Choose only what resonates with you.
Is bigger better when it comes to artwork? For me, when I choose artwork it’s because it’s breath-taking: it’s love at first sight. If I don’t love it immediately, why would I want it on my walls? Artwork is anything that makes you feel joy: it can be a small piece of craft hung on the back of a door or a big piece of beautiful indigo paint on a white wall.
Should we go green? Plants and flowers give life to our living spaces. Add as many as you can. But look after your greenery – they are living things and deserve special care.
Do you believe in the adage ‘tidy room, tidy mind’? The opposite. I believe if your mind is tidy, you can live in a mess. As long as you can see through your own clutter, it’s no longer clutter.
How should we find inspiration? Inspiration is everywhere – in the book you are reading, in a late-night movie, in a drawer you have not opened for a long time. Look and you’ll be inspired.
Does light win over darkness? Light always wins for me. It gives me energy and makes me dream. Add plenty of light to your living spaces.
Any tips to help unleash creativity? Experiment and have fun. One day, try covering everything with white fabric and enjoy the calm feeling it brings. The next day, repaint a piece of old furniture with a colour you’ve always wanted to try. After that, spend a day focused on your bathroom – decorating it in a way that makes you happy. Try new things and don’t be shy. It’s your house, your rules. Enjoy your freedom.
Paola Navone does obviously create magic, sheer magic. As it happens, Girlahead has just been talking with Christoph Hoffmann, CEO of 25hours (he was walking through a Munich park on his way for an Augustiner beer and the local white sausage that must, by Bavarian tradition, be eaten before noon). He coincidentally was raving about his dinner last night, in Milan – with Paola Navone. She is designer of the forthcoming 25hours Florence hotel, now scheduled to open September 2021. You can hear Christoph Hoffmann sharing the story of 25hours in a forthcoming MARY GOSTELOW GIRLAHEAD PODCAST.
Another designer who has made a similar contribution to luxury hotel design was Seattle-born Ed Tuttle, who sadly died 21st June 2020, aged 75. Among his best-known legacy concepts are Park Hyatt Milano and Park Hyatt Paris. The Milan property is deliberately monumental, with interiors of Italian holed Travertine limestone – in public areas, he left this unpolished but in bedrooms rubbing with black inlay that has produced ‘black spotted’ walls that match bathrooms’ black taps and other fittings. In Paris he hit upon the innovative idea of having flying-angel sculptures, everywhere. Parisian sculptor Roseline Granet made these little metal shapes in all sizes so they form door handles and decoration: junior suite 544, for instance, has 16 angels, including four on the bathroom mirror. Girlahead thanks Ed Tuttle for all the joy he has given to so many luxury travellers of the world.