A love for alpine design

Autor: Alberta Voltolini

With an unbounded passion for interior design, Stefania Sanna has clients in Madonna di Campiglio and throughout Italy. Art and nature inspire her style, marked by her stunning creativity and xtraordinary ability to reinvent materials.

Stefania Sanna: a love for alpine design

Interior designInterior design is a creative profession that is as fascinating as it is complex. When did you know that this was to be what you would do in life?

I’ve always had a great passion for interior design, along with a love of setting the table and reading magazines on all flavors of design, from a very young age. My career as an interior designer came after high school and a university degree in philosophy.

When I was at university, and working at the same time in an antiques store, I realized that this wasn’t the path for me, and I started to become interested in this profession and in getting training in this direction. At the time, there were no schools specialized in the field, but the institute of art and restoration in Florence’s Palazzo Spinelli gave diplomas in interior design, which I earned after the mandatory three years of attendance.

at first...How did your career start out?

As a freelancer, the day after I got my diploma. It was hard at first. The few interior design magazines that there were, like AD, were telling the stories of famous international designers, but in Bologna there were still just architects and furniture makers, whereas interior designers to coordinate these two professions were still unheard of, so it was difficult to get your foot in the door. When
I did, I was able to transform a childhood dream into my life’s work.

my inspirationThings you read, your travels, styles and trends, personal sensibilities.... Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?

I’ve often pondered this question and the answer became clear in the form of two guiding principles: the passion for art that I have always had and my love of nature, an inexhaustible source of ideas. I love everything that is a human expression of beauty - painting, sculpture, film, the figurative arts of every kind. I’m always traveling, within Italy and abroad, visiting museums and exhibitions, dragging my daughters, along with me on my journeys of knowledge and discovery. Then, as far as I’m concerned, nature teaches us everything. You just need to be able to see it in all its simplicity and associate it with our own sensibilities. Nature invigorates me and is an inexhaustible source of creative energy.

“Art and nature are my sources of inspitration.”

Sanna-styleWhat “language” do your homes speak? What can be found in all your designs?

Although, generally speaking, I have a more city-oriented vision, I look to mountain homes with a loving approach, which means bypassing the pure architecture and design teachings - so what needs to be - to let myself slip into that child-like creativity that is very much a part of me. The homes I design in the city are elegant but warm at the same time. The ones I do in the mountains are all different, never repetitive. Each expresses the personalities of those who live there, but whether they are minimalist or decorative, they share a common denominator: the pleasure of living in a home centered around the harmony I seek in an overlapping of objects, shapes and colors in an order that is all mine. I can’t see a client’s home as just a collection of furniture, wood and measurements. That’s just not me.

the materialsYour designs demonstrate an extraordinary ability to transform the traditional use of a material into something new and unexpected. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

I’m a very curious person and pay attention to the world around me, and I like to experiment. I often draw inspiration from materials that aren’t typically used inside a home. For example, I use a patchwork of sheet metal to create hoods for the kitchen, old shingles and bits of roofing for fireplaces in the mountains, and dried lichen as wallpaper in the bathroom.

Once, in a DIY store, I noticed some small bits of wood, basically just kindling. I liked them so much that I bought them in bulk. Stuck together, texturized and coated in a special varnish, I used them as a sort of ceiling cladding. Even acoustic panels or insulating panels are great to find new uses for. I used a material made up of micro-scales to make walls with an elaborate, dynamic effect. All of these elements, and especially construction materials, when reinvented for another use and accompanied by a meticulous calibration of materials, intrigue me like crazy and give me an amazing amount of creative energy. Finally, in the mountains, I use stunningly soft, ecological fur, free from any negative ethical implications, a great deal — lush fur draped over a bed, soft Mongolian fur to upholster chairs, or white horse hide for poufs or as a unique sort of marquetry for kitchen cabinets.

working with local craftsmenYou often work with local craftsmen for your design projects. Do you find they have the talents and skills that you’re looking for?

Absolutely. So much so that I even involve them in my other projects outside of Madonna di Campiglio. I consider this place, where I have come since I was a little girl, more than a vacation destination. I would say it’s my second home, a place that has enabled me to make so many friends and acquaintances who have gradually shown me the way to find collaborators with whom I have greater affinity and who are willing to go along with a “crazy” person like me. I don’t have the habit of replicating designs, so craftsmen who work with me need to be ready to push their boundaries and indulge this desire of mine, coming along with me as we experiment with colors and finish.
At the start of my career here, I questioned the traditional use of wood and fabric, so it was difficult to be understood, but now, with the craftsmen who work with me, there is a relationship of mutual trust, and they are the first to be happy to carry out some special projects. In both Val Rendena and Val di Sole, I’ve come across some very talented, passionate craftsmen who, unlike what I often see in the city, are available quickly. They work as a team among themselves and with me, and this means respecting schedules, achieving results, and having a satisfied customer.

"Campiglio's strenghts: social life balanced with the sobriety of hospitality, plus the environment, amazing in alla season.”

Campiglio over timeHow have you seen Campiglio evolve over time? What have been the most significant changes?

I’ve seen all the transitions and experienced all the changes. For a few years, after my daughters were born, I hadn’t been back. We were only able to come up during the highest points of the tourist season, which was the same time in which Campiglio would become unlivable. It had become popular to “cruise” Campiglio by car, from Spinale to the center of town and back along Viale Dolomiti di Brenta, which had completely ruined the area and made it truly unpleasant for us with our small children. Construction of the tunnel [inaugurated in 1999] was a great move and gave Campiglio an invaluable second chance. It enabled the heart of the town to be reborn and brought back the pleasures of downtown and of strolling along the high street. At that point, we immediately starting coming back.

to change...Anything that you really don’t like?

Things got a bit out of hand when they built the parking garage after the tunnel, which was needed, but it turned out to be this big, annoying, unpleasant wound on the landscape. And I’m not saying that because I live near there and could be a bit biased. It’s a common opinion.

My Madonna di CampiglioWhat do you love about Campiglio?

What I love most about Campiglio is the way it unites social life with the sobriety of hospitality. It’s a peaceful place where you
can meet lovely people, and you don’t get that sense of snobbery that you can find in other places. This is a great aspect, together with the vision of hospitality that the local tourist association has and, above all, the organization and the expected development of the ski slopes by the local lift operator. The Madonna di Campiglio slopes are exceptional, one of a kind in Italy. I would also add the quality of the shops and the kindness of the shopkeepers, which is another attraction. And what I love absolutely the most is the workof nature that are the Dolomites. When I come around the final curves and see Brenta, it’s always just “wow”. The environment is wondrous in winter and in summer, but also in spring and autumn. The foliage at certain times of the year, in Vallesinella is breathtaking - an incredible palette of reds, yellows and greens.

the need to live in a beautiful homeIs the pandemic having a negative impact on your work? What’s this period like for you?

Actually, for me and my firm, it’s a very active period. Before the lockdown, people were always abroad. People were traveling and their vacation homes were often left abandoned. Today, though, people are discovering the need to live in a beautiful home, to have a harmonious home that reflects their own personality. We are seeing a great return to the family home, restructured to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. I’m working a lot, to the limits of my abilities, managing the lockdown that we had and
the ongoing restrictions and any others that are to come. Interior designing has never stopped. 



An interior designer from Imola, Stefania Sanna has been coming to Madonna di Campiglio since she was a child. She has designed numerous hotels and homes here in the Brenta Dolomites, including her own home here with a view of Crozzon. She works in Campiglio and in many other Italian cities.

Presented in Campiglio in December 2019, Madonna di Campiglio, a stunning book published by 3ntini Editore, features some of Stefania Sanna’s best design work in Campiglio. Homes, chalets and hotels transformed into treasure chests of beauty in shapes, colors, traditional materials, modern elements, and surprising details.

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