Name: Laura Marino
Company: Alchemi Group
Position within company: Co-founder and Creative Director
. Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)
I studied Communication Design which is (in a nutshell) being traditionally trained in the arts holistically, and then learning to apply the ideas and design in a strategic & marketing way. Post college I did a lot of freelance work illustrating for local papers and magazines, and graphic design for start ups and small companies. I got my first real “professional” job at a subsidiary for Grey Advertising then started Alchemi after 6.5 years in the corporate world.
. How would you describe your personal interior design style?
Ever changing. I just feel that if you put in what you truly love, it will work no matter the context and will be always be timeless. I think I’m both bold and subtle with a strong emphasis on craftsmanship, details and materiality. I like strong forms, pattern, texture and colour, but heavily and thoughtfully edited. On a small scale it looks busy but on a larger scale it’s surprising how uncluttered and harmonious my design concepts are. I love a home to feel like a home but also interesting and surprising.
. Where does your design inspiration come from?
My family. My father’s family was (and are) so creative with innate good taste. My Baby Gram and her siblings came over from Italy her sister was an amazing seamstress. My Aunt Patti had a studio in Baby Gram’s house and would create stained glass mirrors, wood carved ornaments, papier mache lamps and other decorative items that were just beautiful and I still have to this day. I grew up feeling that the majority of the things that “decorated” my Baby Gram’s house was made or collected out of love and joy. Later, when my Aunt Patti married, my uncle owned a garbage route and he would pick up these amazing antiques people left on the side of the road for my aunt. She would refurbish them and as a result, her house was impeccable with special pieces that any collector would envy in my opinion.
On my mom’s side, her grandparents came over from Italy and my great-grandfather built their home in Connecticut brick by brick; I can drive by and it’s still there. He created his own slice of Italy in the backyard with an impressive vineyard and mature vegetable garden and converted the garage into family style dining with leather banquette seating. My mother was always so creative growing up. We used to bake, she made these amazing chocolate molds and candies and elaborate cakes for every occasion. She sewed and did amazing craft projects for every holiday, and gave gifts to everyone in our large family! She always included me as her helper. As a result I always had a creative outlet from a very young age. She instilled everything I know and believe about what it means to pay attention to detail. She is painstaking in her diligence and thoroughness. She used to say, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” I’ve yet to meet anyone as exacting. She puts most people to shame and she’s one of the most humble people I know.
. In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
Craftsmanship, colour, playing with pattern, mixing metals. Basically, I think the recession had a huge influence on what people are looking for now. I think people are looking for places that feel more like homes…more tangible, less overtly bling, less bland, more unique. Real estate is so expensive and the world is a much smaller and more fickle place. I think people are looking for places that stand out and make them feel like home and that they’re putting their money somewhere that will appreciate, certainly, but also has a voice of its own amongst the masses.
. Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2016 and beyond.
Buy and invest in what resonates with you. Don’t be bothered by trends.
. If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to interior design schemes, what would it be?
What an interesting question! I’m not sure I have advice, who am I to say what is and isn’t right? See my above answer, I think that sums up the best advice I could give. That and trust your gut. Your intuition knows. When I don’t trust an idea, I’m very hard on myself because I know better. When you know better you do better. Cliché? Maybe but it’s true.
From a technical perspective, proportion and curation are extremely important factors in a room and good design stems from those basic concepts.
. How important are The International Design and Architecture Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?
Well I’m certainly honored to be interviewed and on the shortlist! Two of our design team members were just in Pierre Frey and they knew about our nominations so I think they’re very important! I think any accolade is humbling and flattering, but to be on an international design shortlist is fab.
. What projects are you currently working on?
Three show homes—one townhouse in our Leinster Square project, one apartment in our 55 Victoria Street project, and I am finishing up another apartment in our Westbourne House project. We’re also going to be launching a separate design studio as a subsidiary to Alchemi (Studio L) offering a diverse range of work, from consultancy, private residential design, FF&E to CGI Styling, etc.. I’ve been busy with a lot of admin and infrastructure! Plus, the creation of our current developments in 5 Strand and in Nine Elms and a few others in Victoria.
. What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
To launch the new studio, sell our homes, win The International Design and Architecture Awards for the areas we’re shortlisted in! Create a cohesive, collaborative studio with a unique approach and improve upon our body of work.
. Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself
Your most treasured possession?
A 1950’s wind-up musical dancing Santa from my childhood that was my Baby Gram’s which endlessly fascinated me growing up. A painting my husband and I bought in in Newport with money from his father’s will. An autographed photo of Joni Mitchell (one of my musical idols) with Stephen Nash from when they were very much in love that my husband bought me for one of our anniversary’s.
Your favourite holiday destination?
Oia in Santorini and Anguilla
Your favourite hotel / restaurant / bar?
Hotel – for service Las Ventanas in Mexico and décor, The Greenwich Hotel in NYC, for everything – Gramercy Tavern in NYC and Bob Bob Ricard in London which makes me happy and feel indulgent. Bar – The Blind Pig in London, The Ear Inn in NYC
Your favourite book / film / song?
Book – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (all-time fave) and Use Me by Elissa Schappell
Film – Children of Men, Donnie Darko and Dazed and Confused come to mind immediately.
Song – There are too many!! 5 Years by Bowie, Woman by John Lennon and recently the Janet Jackson cover by Natalie Prass “Any time, Any place”
Your favourite food and drink?
Toss up between Pizza and french fries. Drink is a Hendricks and Tonic with cucumber or water.
Your favourite way to spend an afternoon? (in no more than 25 words)
Reading or being with good friends and family having a laugh.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
I always wanted to be a rock star but if that didn’t pan out, a psychologist
Anything else interesting?
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