Gian Paolo Venier: The Complicated Simplicity of Design

Interviewing Gian Paolo Venier is not easy. It takes being able to pause, at least for a moment, his dynamism, his constant journeying, his everlasting movement.

Once succeeded, however, one is fascinated by the delicious lightness and pure kindness of his acts and manners, which can also be found in his sets, designs and architecture projects.

Gian Paolo Venier by Robert Holden
Gian Paolo Venier by Robert Holden

Which of these is Gianpaolo’s deepest, most intimate soul?

“I was initiated to art and beauty by my uncle when I was only 8 years old”, Gianpaolo tells us. “I was fascinated by his curiosity and abilities. Even before enrolling in architecture, I had already started to collaborate with a theater set designer, drawing costumes and sets for a theater in my city. I still remember my debut, a children’s show: “Una rosa non è solo una rosa”, a rereading of “Beauty and the Beast”. On a second thought, now I wonder if such a start did not already hold my future. Decorating your home is a bit like setting up a stage, isn’t it? Was interior design written in my destiny? Maybe.

The truth is that I cannot stop experimenting new ways. I remember that in my first class at university, our professor said: “You must experience everything. You cannot draw something if you have not known it first. At that time, we might not have really understood what he meant, but I think his words have always guided me since.

I have had several important lucky encounters. Like meeting designer Paola Navone; we have been collaborating for years, on many different projects. Paola and I share many passions – cooking, the pleasure of setting the table, inviting and experimenting new recipes, and our love for vintage, which surely influences our taste – including our professional one – and our curiosity for the objects we have found all around the world.

Then, there have been my travels… My friends mock me saying I am a nomad, who could have possibly lived one thousand lives, in one thousand countries. Right now I live in Milan, but I was born in Trieste. My grandmother ran a hotel in Piazza della Repubblica, the main square in Muggia, a small town near Trieste that reminds of Venice. As the story goes, I first ran away from home when I was not even one year old: I was found crawling in the square, I could not walk yet. Since then, many cities and countries have attracted me like a magnet – London, which I discovered when I was fifteen (I only got back home because I had run out of money); New York, where I lived alternatingly for three years; Milan, obviously. And now Greece, too, where I have many partnerships and projects.

Cayo Elounda Gian Paolo Venier

I love travelling, and everywhere I go, I like discovering objects, artisans, materials, crafts… My travel journal is made up of the objects that I take back home, which will inspire my work. Interior and product designs are the result of what I have come across, discovered and learnt from my journeys. This is surely what I love most about my job: meeting people, sharing their thoughts, their emotions, even food! I believe that design is intimately connected with my love for humans.

Cayo Elounda Gian Paolo Venier

Let’s get to your latest project, in Greece, on the island of Crete. It is called Cayo Resort&Spa.

When the project was presented to me, I was excited for various reasons: it was something motivating and absolutely challenging at the same time. It was a big project, extremely diversified, where every single room is different from the others and everything is designed with sustainability in mind. The icing on the cake: it is in Greece!

A country I love everything of. Its traditions, lifestyle, colors. Even the meltemi, the wind that is so annoying to many! Greece feels like home to me. Usually, before accepting a job, I arrange meetings to understand the project’s context. In this case, I was immediately interested… real love at first sight!

The landscape around the resort has a key role in this project. How did you work to make the interior design dialogue with it?

Normally, all my projects dialogue with the identity and traditions they are born within. This bond becomes the common thread of the storytelling. In the case of Cayo, the landscape was so powerful that it would have been impossible not to take it into account, even if I wanted to.

From the exterior colors, homogeneous with the surrounding nature, to finishings, we looked for a smooth transition between nature and architecture. Everything is whispered, prompted; design must not take over.

Cayo Elounda Gian Paolo Venier

We opted for cobblestones, traditionally used in Greece for paving churchyards or old squares, to add a playful touch to the walls. We dived into traditions to refresh them, and we used the same method for all materials, with a common thread: at Cayo, everything is about respecting nature.

Cayo Elounda Gian Paolo Venier

All rooms look out onto the sea and the outline of the Spinalonga island. In the summer, the blinding light of Crete is embraced and enhanced by the light pastel colors of the interiors, for a lighter visual effect and to highlight the view at once. I am so proud of having taken care of every  detail at this resort.

Cayo Elounda Gian Paolo Venier

What target customers did you address?

I thought of those who love the experience of travelling as a life experience, just like me. People that do not look for luxury resorts for a simple holiday, but places where to live comfortably in relaxation, with large spaces for a quality tourism that is mindful of details, fine cuisine and respect – first of nature, then of one’s privacy. In other words, a place where nature stars and design supports it.

Were you to chose just one design element to sum up what CAYO is, what would you pick?

Let’s first consider that almost all furniture and furnishings that can be found at Cayo were specifically designed for the resort. However, the chandeliers on the main staircase represent Cayo’s concept better than other pieces.

Cayo Elounda Gian Paolo Venier

They consist of bamboo cages with hundreds of butterflies in hammered aluminum. Yet, these butterflies are outside the cages, not trapped inside them. The message to guests is: be free like these butterflies!

Would you call yourself a fan of minimalist design?

It all depends on what one means by minimalism. I do not fancy excesses, and I believe that design must consider the need to find comfort and pleasure in things; introducing something contrasting does not hurt at times. I would say that the adjective that best describes this idea is simple. I design simple environments and objects!

Let’s move on to your future projects, both professionals and not…

A project that I hold particularly dear is the Mediterraneo glamping village. Paola Navone and I have designed oversized fabric tents meant for hospitality, which were presented last fall alongside indoor and outdoor furnishings. Today, the real luxury is living in the open air, in nature.

My hometown taught me to love nature and connecting with it. In Trieste, it is not uncommon to go for boat rides, even during lunch breaks, or to cycle in the Carso mountains to collect wild asparagi. You see, this is what I miss most from Trieste – the sea, caressing it with my eyes. Maybe this is also why I love working in Greece so much. I am in love with life on the Greek islands, where I go every summer. One day, maybe, who knows…

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Maria Mele
After 39 years working in Sales and Communication for one of the most prominent Insurance Group worldwide, I presently dedicate my time to what I like best: fine arts and literature, passionately looking for the beauty that surrounds me.

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