Since Martina Mondadori founded the interior design bible Cabana in 2014, it’s morphed from a biannual magazine into a fully-fledged lifestyle brand, offering not just inspiring photography and interviews with design experts, but furnishings, homeware and books sourced from creatives across the globe. It’s hard to believe it began as a simple series of mood boards; after Mondadori felt inspired by the design differences between her adoptive country England and those of her native Italy, she started pulling images together and in doing so realised she was onto something.

Rachel Khoo is wearing a green cardigan and is sitting at a desk, in front of an Apple Mac laptop. She is smiling off into the distanceRachel Khoo is wearing a green cardigan and is sitting at a desk, in front of an Apple Mac laptop. She is smiling off into the distance
A bed dressed in white cotton sheets with frilly pillow covers. On top of the duvet is a breakfast tray holding a mug and a croissant.A bed dressed in white cotton sheets with frilly pillow covers. On top of the duvet is a breakfast tray holding a mug and a croissant.

“I was making mood boards, mixing images of historic Italian houses and all the incredible stately homes in England that I was visiting as a tourist,” she tells design journalist Bethan Ryder in the sixth episode of our podcast series, House of Tales. “After the fifth or sixth mood board I thought, ‘gosh, there’s something there’. I was connecting these two traditional worlds of interiors in England and Italy, and that’s how the first idea of Cabana started.”

The publication and accompanying brand are perfect reflections of Mondadori’s own interior design style; eclectic, maximalist and globally inspired. Her home, which she shares with her three children and her partner, the interior decorator Ashley Hicks, is as curated as the magazine – and at the heart of both are a love of, and appreciation for, craft. She puts the revival of artisanal practises, and the consequent recognition of their importance, down to a collective desire for something unique. “Over the past 10 years, [people have] reacted differently to craftsmanship and rediscovered the pleasure of artisans – and the pleasure of understanding and appreciating the time it takes when something is handmade,” she explains. “I really hope, if we can create as much awareness as possible, that [these traditions] will be continued.”

I think the one thing we probably all learned from the pandemic is how important our houses are… They're our safe places. So why not be bold about it and express yourself, just as we’ve learned to express ourselves through our personal style.

Martina Mondadori