How Spaces Function for Humans and the Human Connection

An Interview With: The Venetian Pantry

Abi was lucky enough to sit down with the wonderful Martina (better known as The Venetian Pantry) to talk all things interior and the human connection. She is an Italian designer based in North-East London. A graphic designer by trade, her work also spans photography and, in recent years, interior design. Originally from a small town in the Venetian countryside, she moved to London in 2012, and currently lives in a Victorian house which she and her husband Joe renovated three years ago. She shares her love for all things interiors, good food and travel on her Instagram account, The Venetian Pantry.

What does meaningful architecture look like to you? What materials do you naturally gravitate toward?

I strongly believe a home should be a reflection of the people who inhabit it. My husband is English, I am Italian, and we live in a 19th-century Victorian Home in North-East London. When we approached our renovation, I was very conscious of respecting the integrity of the house – its bones if you will. For example, we were adamant about keeping all its original features, from the beautiful cast iron fireplaces to the old and cricking pine floorboards. But adding an Italian touch was inevitable. For me, that mainly transpired through the choice of materials. I favour natural materials such as Marble, Terrazzo, brick, wood and brass. There is a certain honesty and integrity about using raw materials, an appeal that goes beyond the latest trends. 

What are your greatest influences?

Italy is for sure my greatest inspiration. I was born and raised in a small town about 1 hour away from Venice, in the Venetian countryside. I grew up surrounded by gloriously crumbly buildings, so much beauty that I used to take for granted, just because I didn't know any different. It was only in my last decade living abroad that I realised how much my aesthetic has been influenced by my background.

What would you say your particular style or aesthetic is for your home?

I'm always striving to achieve a timeless aesthetic, without being too influenced by current trends. I want my house to feel warm, inviting and lived in. Whether I managed to achieve this is not for me to say!

How have you designed your home to suit your family needs? Has this changed or evolved over time?

I wanted our home to feel like a calm oasis – a respite from the busy hustle and bustle of a metropolis like London. My husband and I are both graphic designers working from home, and although we enjoy each other's company, having different working areas was crucial for us. We turned our middle living room (traditionally the darkest spot of the house on a Victorian Terrace) into a cosy home office, with a double floating desk. When one of us has a work call and needs privacy, we also use our newly renovated Den (still a work in progress!)

What is your go-to colour palette?

I am risk-averse by nature, so when it came to deciding on a colour palette for our home, I opted for a combination of off-whites. We use the same 3 colours throughout the house: a limewash from a company called Bauwerk in the shade "Stone" for the walls of the new loft and kitchen extensions; Strong white from Farrow and Ball (a cool, almost greyish white) for the old rooms of the house; and Skimming Stone from Farrow & Ball on all woodwork, to tie it all in together. I find it much easier (and safer) to work with a neutral canvas and add touches of colour through soft furnishing and decor. I gravitate towards earthy colours – plaster pink, olive green, mustard and rust.

What does sustainability look like for you in the home?

We have tried to do our bit as much as we can. For example, we installed solar panels on our roof and went for a more energy-efficient induction hob instead of a traditional gas cooker. To operate our stove, we use logs made out of compressed coffee grounds. But perhaps a less expected sustainable move we adopted early on was to buy a lot of reclaimed furniture. I love bargain hunting in antique and vintage shops. It's a great way to inject character and uniqueness into your home, whilst also being a more sustainable way to shop for furniture.

What are the simple pleasures about living where you do?

We feel very spoiled in Stoke Newington, our neighbourhood. It has a vibrant community, a beautiful park, lots of cute independent shops and lovely restaurants. It feels somewhat like a self-contained village – with the baker, the cheese shop, the fishmonger and the butcher – so we find we hardly have to leave! I particularly love the local green grocery, which is so well stocked, it even has an obscure variety of radicchio from my home town. And speaking of Italian influences, there are a couple of shops in the area that make me feel right at home! I am particularly fond of Gallo Nero, an authentic (and tiny) Italian deli packed with all my favourite goods from back home. I always head there whenever I am in a nostalgic mood (or fancy some good quality prosciutto!).

What's your favourite view from your home?

The pantry is definitely my pride and joy! It's a sight that I always find uplifting – hence why we keep its doors open 99% of the time. It is the focal point of our kitchen and my greatest source of happiness within our home. I find there is something so hearty, so wholesome about a well-stocked pantry. So comforting.

How important is outdoor space for your family?

This may sound obvious, but having a garden (however small) made the biggest difference to our quality of life. Before moving in our home, I had lived in a rental one-bedroom flat in Shoreditch for almost a decade. It was on an incredibly trafficked noisy street, with only a small balcony but greenery around. One of the main things that made me fall in love with this house was the presence of a huge lime tree at the back of our garden. Every floor of our home offers a different view of it, and it is particularly breathtaking from our large picture window in the loft. I love watching the seasons go by from there, observing our small urban ecosystem enter our garden: cats, foxes, squirrels, birds, bees. Having a patch of green is such a luxury in London!

Do you have any home design tips?

My main tip would be to just take your time and follow your gut. With interior design, there is no real right or wrong: as I said, I see the home as a reflection of its inhabitants. But I think it's important not to rush decisions and give in to the temptation of sorting everything out right away. I prefer to have a slow approach to decorating, and waiting for the right piece to come along (a little anecdote here: we slept on our mattress on the floor for almost a year before we chose a bed!). I usually have a strong gut feeling when something feels right, and I know I simply must have it. Sometimes I buy pieces without really knowing where they would go, waiting for that lightbulb moment. But it's so satisfying when everything falls in the right place! 

What’s your favourite piece in your home?

It's hard to choose! We collect a lot of things during our travels, so we have many pieces that hold memories or have special meaning to us. One such piece (and probably my favourite) is an 1800s nude painting that I discovered at an antique dealer in Rye. I couldn't really afford it, but I had such an instant connection with it (the aforementioned gut feeling) that I just couldn't leave it be. So, with a little negotiating, we brought it home with us – my first proper art investment ever. It now lives in our bathroom, by the bath. It serves me as a daily reminder to embrace my body, with all its imperfections. 

Do you have any more future plans for your home?

So many! We are currently in the middle of tackling our Den – which until recently had been serving as a miscellaneous storage room and hence nicknamed "the Monster room". I'm hoping it'll be in good shape by Christmas. There are lots of bits and bobs we still need to do around the house: repainting the staircase and adding a runner, sourcing various bits of upholstery, and adding bespoke storage cabinets to the living room, which are currently being built by our carpenter. The main piece of work left to crack is the front garden, which is in really horrendous shape. I always joke that it has saved us from burglars so far!

Follow Martina's journey on Instagram.

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