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An Introduction to Italy’s Favorite Anti-Minimalist

In our long history of covering design, we’ve only been privy to one interior created by the legendary Italian designer Paola Navone, but man, was it a doozy. In Milan almost a decade ago, Navone created a pop-up taste lounge for the porcelain manufacturer Richard Ginori, and, as with every project, Navone created not just a space but a mood, and an experience. Walking into a enormous, yawning warehouse of a space, there was porcelain everywhere — stacked on wooden crates, hung from the ceilings, all of it backdropped by a tapestry-like structure made from 500 vintage platters. It was, in a word, extraordinary. It is ironic, then, that Navone should release a book this month entitled Tham ma da, a Thai word meaning “ordinary.” Tham ma da doesn’t refer to Navone’s design sense, however, nor is it an adjective to describe the interiors she creates. But it is perhaps a fitting description of how she can take a humble material and multiply it so that the effect is something much, much greater.

Navone went to architecture school in the 1970s and went on to work for designers like Alessandro Mendini before striking on her own; this new book is hardly comprehensive of her body of work but it presents a tantalizing slice. Written by Spencer Bailey of Surface magazine and designed by Studio Lin, Tham ma da presents five homes Navone has worked on in the past decade, four hospitality projects, and five retail spaces. One home is dominated by turquoise cement tiles and polka dot stairs; another, a former silkworm factory in Umbria is the opposite — all white and gray monochrome. But our favorite interior in the book, La Porrona, sits somewhere in between. A former fashion executive’s villa in Tuscan wine country, each room has its own color and narrative, united only by the terra cotta flooring throughout and an incredible array of paintings and antiques. Take a peek inside below, and then check out the rest of the book when it’s released, later this month.

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