Bicolor hair, a multi-colored soul. Paola Marella’s use of color would likely clash with visionary Wim Wenders’, who notoriously said: “Life is in color, but black and white is more realistic.”
An eclectic background (she’s an architect, a real estate facilitator, a TV host and a social trendsetter), a revolutionary hair look with two silver-colored locks framing her face since 1999 (courtesy of her hairdresser, who advised against dyeing all her hair, when we were still a long way from anti-body shaming inclusivity and empowerment), and a naturally positive attitude, from her hair – acceptance of the passing of time, turned into a symbol of confidence – to the tough moments she has lived.
In Paola Marella, elegance and liveliness blend to overcome all age gaps. She has many young followers on social media, where she posts home decor advice, fashion inspirations, trivia and pictures of spectacular places. Plus bits of her private life, which show that during this confinement, Paola Marella has been productive on all fronts – work, professional training, and hobbies.
With the lockdown lifted, I invite her for a chat, and I find out that besides loving colors and Haussmann’s Paris, Marella is fascinated by the world of introspection and psychoanalysis (during lockdown, she even took an online psychology course). “If I just had time, there’s so much more I’d like to study!” she tells me on the phone, the proof that curiosity drives knowledge.
And despite all her professional success, both offline and in the spotlight, she remains very down to earth. “Authenticity and realism are values that I have never lost sight of. I was born of a generation who had started on the ground floor and was driven by practicality. I believe in empathy between people, it’s nice to make a good impression.”
Will you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have an architecture background, and in the first years of my career, I cut my teeth in many assignments as a real estate agent. When the great real estate crisis hit in 2007, with the help of a friend, I brought my profession on TV, and started hosting the programs “Cerco Casa Disperatamente” and “Vendo Casa Disperatamente” on Real Time.
Discovery Channel had an astounding success, with a schedule focused on lifestyle entertainment. Despite the critical times that Italy was experiencing, we had 5 programs like these back then: Enzo Miccio and Carla Gozzi in “Ma come ti vesti”, where they gave fashion advice; Barbara Gulienetti in “Paint your Life”, with the first DIY tutorials; and chef Alessandro Borghese in “Cortesie per gli Ospiti”. We created our own niche audience, with highly satisfying outcomes. From being around 80% of my profession at the time, TV has now given way to new professional adventures, including new programs like “Welcome Style”, “Shopping Night Home Edition”, “A te le chiavi” or “Un sogno in affitto”, editorial projects in collaboration with publisher Rizzoli like “Arredo casa disperatamente” and “Welcome style”, and Home Staging courses.
I must admit that as a child, I wanted to become a doctor, but architecture has always been my passion. I love urban planning, particularly Haussmann’s style, which gave a modern identity to a destroyed Paris, based on contrasting, yet harmonious elements.
Your social media are all about Fashion & Interior Design. You give your followers a lot of advice, but what are your must-haves when it comes to design and fashion?
My motto is that you can be elegant and stylish with little. No need to go expensive. I always try to reuse what’s already there, at home just like in my wardrobe, as it might always come in handy, especially if it’s something versatile. In fashion, my must-have is surely a little black dress – a real fashion cult, in all its possible versions. I’m wearing black less and less as I find it sometimes stiffens my look, but this no doubts sorts your outfit out, and can be livened up in so many ways. I recently posted three different little black dresses on my Instagram too, which I had chosen to shoot a video – each with their own contemporary twist! I never go without a blue blazer, a pair of denims, and a white shirt, pieces that suit every look and style. And for a summer pop – a long skirt or dress with all-over prints, and a nice pair of sandals.
As to interior design, I always look for some color balance: I love color, but contrasts always need to be balanced. I prefer soft tones (but no white!) for walls and fixed furniture like closets and bookcases, shades like Sikkens’s Spiced Honey, mixed with bold colors for upholstery pieces, seats and home accessories.
During lockdown, we have lived our homes so much more, whereas the majority of us was merely sleeping in it before. Do you think that spending more time at home will influence the choice of a new house? What needs will estate agencies have to consider?
First, some outdoor space – if a garden is not a viable option, especially in urban areas, a balcony will surely be demanded often. Second, there will have to be some free space to use as a home office, after being all stuck at home with adults and kids alike needing a quite, silent corner where to work or study remotely. A home office can be easily created in pre-existing spaces, like a niche or console table, or by using multifunctional furniture that can be transformed, such as bedside tables, which can become functional supports. I talked about this in one of my Instagram Stories. Third, a reliable Internet connection will be key, to have calls without annoying interruptions.
April’s issue of Living features a beautiful editorial by Francesco Morace on Made in Italy, which reads that “what’s beautiful, harmonious, pleasing to the eye and touch will be desirable. In other words, there is no price for what is valuable”. What clothing and home design items do you think will be worth investing in?
As to interior design, I have no doubts: the lighting! Lamps are functional and decorative at once, and it’s easy to find them a new place when you move. Other items that come to my mind are sofas, chairs and tables, design pieces that can be freely styled and arranged.
In clothing, shoes and bags are what adds a unique twist to any look – a way to tell something about yourself. Speaking of this, in 2012 I took part in an interesting project by designer Chiara Boni, together with other women who were born in Milan or have moved to the city, like Elisabetta Sgarbi and Camilla Baresani. We were all portrayed wearing the same little black dress, but with unique results, because each of us added her own style touch to it.
In your TV career, you’ve hosted many programs. Is there one you hold particularly dear?
Surely the first ones that I hosted, “Cerco casa disperatamente” and “Vendo casa disperatamente”. Those were pilot programs that later became standards for all estate-related broadcasts. I had so much fun with “Shopping Night Home Edition”, and was really into “A te le chiavi”, a game show created with renovation company Facile Ristrutturare, where contestants compete for the renovation of their own houses. My experience on TV in general has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful people, both colleagues and hosts.
You’re a pink ambassador for Fondazione Umberto Veronesi, and you’ve overcome a difficult time of your life. What would your advice be to women battling cancer who fail to see the light at the end of tunnel?
I firmly believe in the power of staying positive and focusing on the goal of recovering, which is possible. It might take a while and not be easy, but always believing that it’s just a moment that can be overcome truly helps. Thinking positive helps our bodies to react, and the same goes for the people around us – that’s how energy works. Besides my personal experience, I witnessed many cases first-hand, and can affirm that optimism can really keep cancer at bay. This being said, I’ll never stop stressing how crucial prevention is. My battle started with a negative test result, but my radiologist, whom I’ll be forever grateful to, insisted for me to have a surgical biopsy no matter what.
You have many followers and are extremely popular with Millennials, and you’re also mum to a boy. The COVID-19 crisis has unfortunately had consequences on employment too. What would you like to tell young people?
These are complicated times, and my advice is to keep holding on, even in a country like Italy that isn’t exactly “young-friendly” right now. Even if the situation isn’t ideal, they should strive not to yield to dejection, and work towards their goals with a positive, proactive attitude.
If you were a design icon, what would that be?
I love lighting, so the first thing that comes to my mind is the Pipistrello lamp designed by Gae Aulenti in 1965, still contemporary and strongly suggestive today.
If I think of seats, I would probably be Giò Ponti’s Superleggera.
Your projects for the future?
I’ll be working with various construction sites, taking care of the third season of “A te le chiavi”, and interviewing interior design professionals for HGTV – Home and Garden TV channel.
I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. After that, who knows? During lockdown, I studied some subjects I was interested in, like psychoanalysis, and I followed video-conference classes by Professor Recalcati. I find introspection so interesting!