Skip to main content
News / Paola Navone, cultivating the creative instinct

Paola Navone, cultivating the creative instinct

From April 18 to 23, 2023, during the 61st session of the Milan Furniture Fair and the 33rde edition of the Milano Design Week, Paola Navone and her studio Otto organized a very clever installation: “Take it or leave it”, a clever way to sort out the shelves of her studio. In Via Tortona 31, a transformed neighborhood, in front of Mudec, the Museum of World Cultures, (the equivalent of the Quai Branly Museum in Paris), Paola Navone had emptied her office and installed on a huge table and on metal shelves along the walls, hundreds of objects collected during her travels around the world. From the upholstered armchair to the little spoon, from the aluminum bento to the miniature vase, the lottery gave the visitor the choice to “Take it or Leave it”. A way like any other to understand the universe and the approach of this very requested designer.

With his friend Daniel Rozensztroch, previously a world traveler and backpacker, former artistic director of the Parisian concept store Merci et creative director at Marie Claire Maison, Paola Navone has had fun spreading out on her shelves hundreds of “trinkets” brought back from India or China, spoons made of tin or boxwood, prototypes of trays for Alessi or porcelain beans and statuettes, German or Chinese. The Slowdown, a New York-based media company, headed by the young and dynamic Spencer Bailey, was organizing the lottery in the best possible way.

The Slowdown, "Make It Or Leave It", Metal table, Baxter © Antonio Campanella

All participants had to choose to be photographed with or without their gift, for social networks. Another difficult choice. To take or to give up…because the question asked by Paola Navone behind this staging is metaphysical. “Why did I decide to do this again? Why continue this activity of acquisition? At some point you are surrounded by thousands of objects, thousands of colors, thousands of samples…but I wanted to clear the void to bring in new ones.” she explains. Spencer Bailey, fascinated by his ability to collect and bring things together to create his magical universe, followed suit. (The result can be seen on The Slowdown.TV Instagram). More than a provocative exercise, “Take it or Leave it” is to be seen as an exercise in upcycling and re-use. And rather than producing again and again, can’t we simply exchange what we already have and reuse it to give it a second life… in someone else’s home?

Baggy lamp, Studio Otto

A creation by instinct


Born in Turin, graduated from the Polytechnic University in 1973, activist in the Alchimia and Memphis groups, she has been in contact with the design “revolutionaries” of the 80’s, Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass or Andrea Branzi, interested in the duality between the industrialization of the European countries and the Arts and Crafts, the craftsmanship of Asia, India and street art. At the head of the studio Otto, her lucky number, and with a score of faithful, she collaborates with brands like Alessi, Baxter, Cappellini, Driade, Exteta, Gervasoni or Poliform. His projects range from 25Hours Hotel in Florence to Como Point Yamu Hotel in Phuket, Thailand.

Sifas, Yakimour, Palmspring and Fringe collections

Nourish yourself with know-how


Designer, architect, art director, scenographer… she is open to all arts, with a predilection for crafts and the countless amulets that man can create to live in harmony with his environment and to ward off evil spells. This thirst for the small object fascinates her. After having travelled all over the world, in Africa, Asia, Europe… she creates the scenographies of the stands on the shows of many manufacturers. It feeds on know-how, materials, factories, workshops, factories. She works on instinct and on the chance of encounters, most of them fortunate, like her meeting with Spencer Bailey, co-founder of The Slowdown (, whom she has known for 10 years now, and with whom she published the book Tham ma da: The Adventurous Interiors of Paola Navone published by Pointed Leaf press in 2016.

Exteta, Moonlight Collection

Create for the greatest number

She has been living in Milan for 20 years after having travelled through Asia, Hong Kong, Europe and South-East Asian countries. Its big customers are in Singapore or Malaysia. Eleven projects are underway for Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. In the studio, one part works for American and Italian brands and the other part for interior design… His colorful universe that can sometimes be found in incredible places is not always of his making. But the copy does not bother her. On the contrary, and the big brands have the services to track down the copy. Her desire is to satisfy as many people as possible even though she is aware of this identity theft. “I can’t spend my days chasing copies. In France, you are much stricter on this point, but I have a friend who is a sinologist and who has done some very interesting studies on copying and in Chinese culture, copying means multiplying the opportunities to be seen and for three times less. At the time, the fact that everything was done in hundreds was very rewarding. Today, everything must be unique, but this goes against the mission of design, which is to make the object accessible to all! The unique piece is an attitude of the artist, not the designer. A chair at 50,000€ or 50,000 chairs at 1€? the equation is complex. If I have nothing to do, I go to the beach. I design for the factories I work with. And it’s the companies that take care of the copy. They have their own integrated services and lawyers for this kind of battle.

Slide, Ottocento up table and high chair Ribs up

An attraction for the kitchen


At the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2018, she had designed the ideal kitchen: one cooking spot, one water spot and one storage spot. “You could walk in with 10 kg of potatoes, without fear of breaking and staining everything. It’s nothing like the new kitchens where you don’t dare to move. With one kilo of potatoes and three oranges, the kitchen is destroyed. Among all the designers, not one would know how to cook an egg. Modern kitchens are laboratory kitchens, where fish and potatoes can turn everything into a dirty hell. It’s like eating in a church. I do things for myself. I’m bulimic, I like to do things myself and I’m not jealous.”

Baxter, Manila outdoor collection
Ethimo, Puntocroce carpet

Innovating for the outdoors

For outdoor furniture, she likes to make a difference:”I did a big project for the company Exteta. We have done extensive research on materials so that they can be put in the sea, in the sand, in the water…and that they do not move. This is exceptional. » At the Salone del Mobile, she was present on the stands of Baxter, with a modular leather sofa … that goes outside: a collection also unveiled in January at Silvera during Maison Objet in The City. We found her in Milan at Ethimo with new Nodi rugs. At the French manufacturer Sifas, the collections were designed by Domenico Diego, head designer of its Otto studio. Slide, Turri design, Contardi… many brands put forward collaborations. After the show, in the city, in parallel to her “lottery”, she installed a tomato path in the Eataly center in Porta Nuova. A generous call to try Italian cuisine, certainly, but also this need – constant? – to keep a step aside, both to surprise and to renew.

Bénédicte Duhalde