The Princess of Chintz

Filippo Pincolini

The cult magazine Cabana is reviving a love for color, pattern, and richness.

Martina Mondadori Sartogo, the editor in chief of the indie shelter magazine Cabana, believes that interior design is about feelings. The covers of her collectible biannual publication are actual pieces of wallpaper or fabric. That way, when readers pick up the magazine they have a tactile sensation, a remembrance of things past, or a discovery of the unknown. The fall/winter 2017 issue is sheathed in one of five classic Ralph Lauren Navajo-style blanket fabrics that viscerally convey the rustic coziness of the designer’s Colorado ranch. Lauren’s folk-art-and-cowboy-daydream-come-true was photographed by frequent contributor Miguel Flores-Vianna, and the atmospheric pictures reveal the fashion mogul’s poetic nature. Against the pervasive minimalism of our era, these fantastical interiors—lyrical, evocative, nuanced, soulful—are refreshing and inspiring.

Sartogo, the scion of an Italian publishing dynasty, and Flores-Vianna, a former magazine editor, are leading figures in a design movement celebrating spaces that feature classical architecture, traditional patterned and embellished fabrics, fine and not-so-fine antiques, and decorative arts from around the globe. Cabana offers paeans to Louis XVI boiserie, lampshades made from Indian saris, 18th-century chinoiserie wallpaper, Moorish tiles, American tramp art, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, among others. But what makes things like canopy beds, ball-gown curtains, chintz upholstery, needlepoint pillows, and rock-crystal chandeliers feel fresh is that they’re never all in the same room.


Botanical plates by Laboratorio Paravicini. Marco Dabbicco

In his sumptuous coffee-table book, Haute Bohemians (Vendome, 2017), Flores-Vianna showcases the homes of creative types such as artist Alessandro Twombly’s airy, well-worn farmhouse outside Rome and World of Interiors founder Min Hogg’s colorful, crowded rooms in the Canary Islands. These individuals are among the stars of the new traditionalism, with lives curated via social media to suit the interiors of their homes. They don’t own TVs. They spend their leisure time reading, drawing, cooking, drinking wine, playing the piano, and, perhaps, writing poetry.

As with many trends, Instagram and similar platforms are partly responsible for making the old look new again. “Everyone is posting pictures of places they’re visiting—palazzos in Florence and apartments in Paris—that are 300 or 400 years old, and you get inspired,” says the American designer Michael Aiduss, who treats antiques like artifacts that can add character to contemporary interiors. “But even if you fall in love again with frescoes, you’re not going to paint them on your ceiling.” One of Aiduss’s tricks for bringing a bit of old-world ambience into an interior is to hang oversize photos of an old palazzo or a salon in Versailles.

This return to formality isn’t just for a select group of aesthetes: The design world, from fabric houses to ultra-contemporary furniture manufacturers, is seeing a revival of a more somber, formal approach. In Paris, during design week in January, there was certainly something traditional in the air. French label Ligne Roset, best known for a more futuristic style, unveiled a new sofa system called Enki that has a prim, austere look. Pierre Frey is expanding Le Manach, the very traditional line of fabrics established in 1829, to wallpapers. And at F. Schumacher & Co., the venerable fabric firm founded in 1889, creative director Dara Caponigro is mining the brand’s archives for vintage themes, like toile and chinoiserie, which are increasingly in demand. Caponigro revives them with a new color palette. “There is a return to full-tilt decorating,” she says, noting that it’s a new interpretation of something classic. “Every era brings a fresh eye to design.”


Cabana’s recent cover using Ralph Lauren Home fabric. Lucas Visser

This level of connoisseurship was evident at a Christie’s auction in Paris last fall of the collection of old-school interior designer Alberto Pinto. The sale realized more than $14.7 million—three times its estimate—with classics fetching high prices: a 19th-century Porcelaine de Paris ornithological table service selling for $145,857; a pair of Baroque-style ormolu, crystal, and glass mirrors for $333,475; and a pair of 18th-century Anglo-Indian ivory-inlaid chairs for $362,953.

Now the cognoscenti are setting their sights on the Christie’s blockbuster sale this spring of the estate of philanthropists Peggy and David Rockefeller. The couple collected 19th- and 20th-century European and American paintings, English and American furniture, European porcelain, Asian art, pre-Columbian ceramics, silver, textiles, folk art, and Native American art. Their style was eclectic, erudite, and appealingly unpretentious.

This current period is no different. “In difficult times, the past is very reassuring,” says Sartogo, who theorizes that the turbulence of the present—from terror attacks to natural disasters—has led people to rethink modernity. Living with history and appropriating it in novel ways—“layering fabrics and patterns, being inspired by wall decorations in Italian churches or Moorish palaces”— is what Sartogo considers the essence of #cabanaideology.


Poufs that Cabana sold through an online pop-up shop on 1stdibs; a bedside carafe, also produced by the magazine. Courtesy Cabana Magazine

Where Cabana Collects

UNBURY ANTIQUES MARKET AT KEMPTON PARK RACECOURSE
Sunbury-on-Thames, England

It’s great for sourcing any antiques, really. I have always found amazing vintage plates there: I love the old Wedgwood with vine leaves. It’s also a good source for indigo linens from Hungary. sunburyantiques.com

ALFIES ANTIQUE MARKET
London

It’s my go-to for antique African textiles, which I love for their textures. I used Kuba cloth to cover my dining chairs. alfiesantiques.com

LEYLA’S
Marché aux Puces, Paris

This is where I find one-of-a-kind antiques and vintage textiles, whether it’s gorgeous, sumptuous garments from the Vatican or simple chintz. marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com

ROBERT KIME
Pimlico Road, London

The renowned designer has wonderful textiles, as well as antique Islamic art, at his shop. robertkime.com

FLEA MARKETS
South Tyrol, Italy (in August)

They’re the best place to source Eastern European ceramics, another passion of mine. I collect terra-cotta painted with floral motifs and hang them on walls or display them on shelves.