Paola Marella: the interview


Hello to all my #designaddicted family! :)

Today I want to tell you about my meeting with a prominent personality from the world of Italian design and  TV: Paola Marella!

If you live in Italy you’ll already know about her, but if you are reading this from another country then you must know that Paola Marella is a well-known face of the Italian small screen (first on Real Time and now on Sky), with her broadcasts dedicated to quality interior design.

From her shows, we can see a woman with a sparkling and unique personality, but as we know, it is hard to tell from the TV because we get close but we don’t really know the person. Closer, because people from TV become part of our daily life, but then we never know how much of everything we see is true or studied… right? At least this is the feeling I often have.

In the case of Paola Marella, now having met her for myself, I can tell you that she really is as she appears: dynamic, direct, bright, elegant, and she was brought up with design and architecture!

For me, as I entered the world of design after her, she has always been a role model for me, a good teacher of professionalism and style. A woman who has been able to perfectly combine her private life with great professional success.

We met at the Arman Cafè in Milan, a location that we later found to be one of our absolute favorites. 

She arrived on time, dressed casual but elegant: white jacket, jeans and heels. Smiling and impeccable as ever. Although I was rather excited about this meeting, she immediately made me feel comfortable and we started the interview, which was more of a pleasant chat, a few jokes, exchanges of opinions and laughter.

Here is what we talked about:

So Paola, to begin, tell us: in your life, what led you to design? Is there a precise point where you chose this path for yourself?

I came to this area by chance because originally I wanted to study medicine (laughter). Also my father strongly disapproved, he considered an 11 year long faculty too demanding for a woman, and also thanks to the insistence of a dear friend of mine , I eventually enrolled in architecture in 1982, and it was there I started my path. A little by chance, as you can see, following my natural flow of growth.


A path that turned out to be full of satisfaction I imagine …

Yes, but you need to know that halfway through college, a rector of the faculty told me I had chosen the wrong subject… another professor however, Professor Dell’Acqua, supported me a lot. And, funny, when my book came out a while ago, he told me that maybe it was time to send it to him… pointing out how perhaps, at that time, he had made an incorrect evaluation…


Sweet revenge! I also have a couple of people that sooner or later I know will change their minds. But back to the design: what do you think of Made in Italy? Past, present and future.

I believe that Made in Italy is our greatest strength. We Italians are fortunate to be people of great talent, since the beginning. We are known in the world for our creativity, our taste, our genius. We are very strong! What unfortunately penalizes us, in addition to the crisis we are experiencing, is the great tax burden that our country faces. It’s an absolute handicap. Made in Italy, should be cared for and protected, especially by the state, because there is still a lot of  creativity on the part of the Italians, the desire to work, fight and move on. But I must say I’ve noticed a lot of creativity, coming from abroad.


Can you give us some examples that stand out to you the most?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the Big Studio in London, one of the biggest studios in the world. I was completely fascinated by it: they create really amazing projects! They are currently designing the World Trade Center 2 for example. Then, how can I not mention Tom Dixon who I have also personally met. He has the great strength of being a great entrepreneur as well as a great designer. His lights are an absolute masterpiece!


So Tom Dixon is one of Paola Marella’s favorite designers?

His lights are amazing, but there are also many others I like. Patricia Urquiola for example, has recently created, in collaboration with Federico Pepe “Misscredenza” which is a product that I consider a true work of art. And then… Dimore Studio, that as far as I’m concerned, is a true number one, putting together the best existing design of our day.


And so, with all of these beautiful design products that surround us, do you have your own favorite iconic product? Mine personally is, of course, the Arco Lamp. I fell in love as soon as I saw it!

The Arco Lamp is absolutely a must! And I discovered just last year that it did not win the Compasso d’Oro (Golden Compass)! I was speechless… Anyway, besides that, I have to say that I have a lot of design icons: Le Corbusier’s chaise longue, Gio Ponti’s Light Chair, the Toio lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. There are many and I have to say that light design has a particular charm for me.


Do you have this passion too? I find that in general it has a more emotional appeal than other product design disciplines. We’re talking about drawing light…

Definitely, I agree very much with you!

Made in Italy is our greatest strength. We Italians are fortunate to be people of great talent, since the beginning. We are known in the world for our creativity, our taste, our genius. We are very strong!

Paola, let’s talk about a topic that I think may be interesting for women who read my blog: How do you combine your private and working life? What advice can you give us? How can we balance working ambition and a happy family?

I try to carve out space….. at the weekend, because during the week, I admit it is very difficult. On Saturdays and Sundays I like to travel, with my son, who now lives in Barcelona. We arrange to meet each time in a different city of Europe. With my husband we allow these little trips, because we both love traveling a lot. I suggest making choices. There are moments of life in which you have to give priority to priorities, and other moments of life in which you have to give way to other priorities. For example, when my son was little, I was lucky because I had people that helped me, but then any free time I had was dedicated to him. Now in my free time I go to the gym, get a massage, and so on. The important thing for me is to always maintain balance in all things.



Thank you, I really consider it a very important and positive suggestion for all of us. And what hopes do you have for the future? Is there anything in particular?

Traveling, Traveling, Traveling!  For me, a journey is something that can be enriching. I recently returned to Paris and it’s gorgeous: art and architecture are all around you.


What thrills you about art?

I love contemporary art, though I’m not very good at understanding it, but I have a fantastic husband who comes to my rescue.


Is he also thrilled by art too?

His father was one of the greatest art collectors in the 70s and 80s. He had a gallery, so my husband grew up breathing art, from an early age. When I go to a museum with him, he explains and tells me everything down to the the smallest details. It is very engaging and stimulating!



Very lucky indeed! Other than modern art, who do you love the most in art?

I really appreciate Basquiat, Warhol, Haring, Boetti. Lucio Fontana has created magnificent works, not just “il Taglio” (the cut)” but also “il Concetto Spaziale” (the space concept). When I see a work of art I get emotional… I don’t understand it completely, but I’m inspired by it. I think everything we see and that we have around can inspire us.


When I experience moments of difficulty, I always try to find a starting point to find a way out. I firmly believe that there is always a way out

Returning to you and thinking about the past, do you have any regrets or something you would have done differently?

I must say that nothing comes to mind. You know, even when I experienced moments of difficulty, I always try to find a starting point to find a way out. I firmly believe there is always a way out. Even my TV experience started at a time when I was having a little bit of a crisis, so you see… they proposed this opportunity to me and I started right away, I just can’t stay still!  This probably is my limit.


In what sense?

In the sense that I should learn to say “no” more often. I’m working on it… (laughs).


I understand so well! Paola, it was really a pleasure talking with you, and I would like to conclude with a curious question. Perhaps you have already been asked this by many others, but where does this particular hairstyle of yours come from?

(laughs) You’re right, it’s a question so many people have asked! The story, however, is this: in 1999 I lost my dad and I was having a difficult time and I became completely white within two months. Then my trusty hairdresser Adalberto di Coppola suggested this very special and original hairstyle: in his opinion it’s done a lot and softened the features … and so this became my look which I still adore! And now my hairdresser never forgets to tell me “how good he was” (laughs).


Paola Marella, my art director Giulia Grilli and me

After the interview, we took a few photos and said our goodbyes. Personally, I feel enriched. Also, the fact that my work pleases a person I admire and respect, fills me with satisfaction. 


And what do you think of Paola Marella? Did you know about her before? Did you expect her to be just as she appears in the video and that she initially wanted to be a doctor? Would you have asked any other questions? Were there any tips or  suggestions you found useful for yourself, your work, or your personal life?



©photo: CBteam


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