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The History Of Old Objects

There was this big old suitcase in the garage. Interior designer Caterina Caramello was a curious little girl, and opening this mysterious case felt like stepping into another world: It was filled with silk, velvet and other fabrics in all sorts of patterns and colours. 

They were from Paris, where Caterina's great-grandmother – owner of the suitcase – had once lived. "I rolled around in those old fabrics, imagining what my great-grandmother made from them," Caterina remembers. It is easy to see: Luxuriating in the soft fabrics all these years ago left a deep, life-changing impression on her.

Everything we need is already here

Her shop, the "Catelier", is close to Courmayeur's town centre. It is a cosy place with a lovingly furnished interior that feels as soft and creamy and salty-sweet as its owner's surname. Next to her own creations – hand-made accessories, decorations, lamps and tableware – Caterina also sells bohemian-style clothing and other things made by designers she knows personally. There are lots of pieces that could be described as vintage or shabby-chic. And in fact, quite a few of them are upcycling projects, which is one of Caterina's favourite crafting activities. She already loved fixing up old pieces long before the term became trendy. "Everything we need is already here. We don't need anything new," she claims. In her house, which also serves as her studio, she offers workshops on how to repair  broken objects or how to transform something seemingly useless into something that is once again useful. In her shop you can find vintage ski boots that have become lamps. Used bike seats are attached to wood boards and displayed like trophy antlers. Old drawers are turned into little doll houses. She teaches her daughter to see the possibilities slumbering in objects and to not evaluate them by their original form or primary function. "It's about seeing what things can become," she says. "Every object has a certain energy. Old things are full of it, because they tell the story of the people they once belonged to."

Originally, Caterina studied psychology. "But I spent more time at flea markets than at uni," she says. So, she quit psychology and registered at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Turin. Her diploma is now displayed right next to the cash register. Caterina can still live out her knack for psychology, as interior design also has something to do with psychological matters. “The way someone styles their home says a lot about their personality. You get an idea, a feeling of a person when you see the things they own." Styling her customers' houses and flats also means getting a glimpse into their souls. The interior of a home should reflect the spirit of the person who lives there. The colours they wear, or the blue of their eyes and the shade of brown of their hair may find their way into the palette Caterina chooses. And she has even more to offer.

Main inspiration: nature

Caterina describes her style as mix & match or an eclectic patchwork of collected objects. She loves to travel and always comes back with something, whether it is something found at a flea market or a new idea. "My greatest source of inspiration is nature. We our surrounded by marvellous mountains and this outside alpine environment is something I want to bring inside." Other natural environments also inspire her designs. She usually uses her customer's favourite colour as a starting point and then connects it to the place where it occurs naturally. "You can't be completely off if you include the things someone likes in your colour concept." Someone who likes silver jewellery, coffee and oranges will feel comfortable in a home styled in shades of silver, brown and orange.

Once, on family holiday on Polynesia, Caterina went diving and was fascinated by the colours of the underwater world. If you dive deeper than five metres, the colour red disappears. After 15 metres, the water will swallow orange. Yellow after 30 metres, green after 50. 200 metres under water all colours seem lost: it is dark and quiet. “What is usually red turns into this pale orangey-pink. I love working with this palette." The colours she most often uses are subtle and rather pastel-toned than loud. Her style exudes warmth and comfort, it is a bit like the Scandinavian "hygge" or Scottish "coorie" style, which both roughly translate to comfy and cuddly. It is inspired by countries where winters are awfully cold, and people want to get nice and comfortable in their homes inspired by natural elements. And yes, the Aosta Valley is absolutely freezing in winter. A perfect time for a bit of Caramello.

Text: Martha Miklin
Photos: Sophie Kirchner

May 6, 2020

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