In her 40-plus years of work, Paola Navone has created a vast body of work that seeks to upgrade everyday objects, often with a side of whimsy. She is an architect, a product designer, an interior decorator, art director and an exhibitions and events curator. In the 1980s, Navone was active in the avant-garde design movements Alchimia and Memphis, alongside the likes of Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass, and Andrea Branzi. Due to her time split between Italy and Asia for nearly two decades, Navone has a particular talent for rediscovering design from the past—especially traditional crafts from around the globe—and bringing it to life in new, contemporary forms.
Tham ma da—Thai for “everyday”—which exemplifies a proclivity of hers: finding new, extraordinary uses for seemingly cheap, standard, or utilitarian things.
Creating hybrids of design and handicraft, placing greater value on design that comes about ‘by mistake’ than that which is created for mass production.
Big Bed for Poliform for which she won the 2010–2011 Elle Decor International Design Award; she was included in Interior Design Magazine’s prestigious Hall of Fame in 2014; oversaw Armani/Casa’s debut collection; Dinner with Friends series for Crate & Barrel.
She created an imperfect aesthetic for several McDonald’s stores in France and an edible Christmas advent calendar for Häagen-Dazs.
I started my career alongside great masters. Alessandro Mendini read my thesis and called me in Milan. The team Alchimia was taking shape and Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass, and Andrea Branzi were in the group. They were the anti-academic side of architecture in Italy in the late Seventies. I owe a lot to them and much of my free and unconventional way of thinking about things comes from my involvement in Alchimia and Memphis.
I am instinctive by nature and rarely change my mind about what attracts me. My idea of beauty has always had to do with the simplicity, the imperfection of natural materials, and my passion for the craft traditions of the world.
Maybe a new interior project in a magical place by the sea. Water is my natural element and the sea has a relaxing, almost hypnotic effect on me. Any interior projects near the sea are always very special to me.
There is a book I love. It’s Wabi-Sabi, For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren. A short essay dedicated to the beauty of imperfection and the poetry of simple and everyday things. A way of feeling the world that comes from Japan, but it is a universal concept, precious and seductive to me.
Difficult to me to choose one thing. I am nomadic and curious. And I like to experiment. I could only answer “both of them” for some things. Let’s try.
I’m working on the new collections for Salone del Mobile. And I’m working on different challenging interior projects in Tuscany.
Surely the first crazy and funny collection of objects by Alchimia. Crafted objects, recovered, unexpected, provocative and kitsch. I discovered then that design was a career, so I started to work in it, and I’m still here!