Founder of Studio98 in Milan, an architecture and interior design studio formed only by women, after graduating in architecture and various experiences including journalism, Clara Bona made her passion and profession related to interior design a true style of life. Inspired by the still untapped potential that she can grasp in every place she meets, through her creativity and strong sense of concreteness, she has succeeded in realizing the home of dreams of many people. I met her in her studio in Milan where she told me about herself, her work and the struggle that as a woman, even in her field, needs to be done to affirm her voice and talent beyond gender and prejudice.
Where does your passion for architecture come from?
It was an almost natural path. After high school I enrolled in Architecture, and after graduating I started working in a large design studio. There I realized that It wasn’t good for me the architecture in the traditional sense, while I discovered my passion for interior design. I left the mega studio and started working with a friend who was following apartment renovation projects. I started designing houses and following construction sites and I was immediately passionate about the work but I was absolutely not prepared, like all those coming out of the University. I learned everything working.
What do you love most about your job?
The best thing about making houses is that you do everything quickly. Sometimes three months, or six months, a year. The client call you, you can start the project, think about the new cutting of spaces, which is the most fun phase, up to all the subsequent phases. The house is made up of many small details that must be followed well until the final stage. There is also a more difficult aspect of bureaucratic procedures and relationships that are not always easy with people. You always have problems of all kinds on site. But if you have passion, if you love what you do, like me, it’s very nice to see how much you can do for someone else. And it becomes as if you were doing it for yourself.
Is it the customer who guides you or is it you?
There are very few people that ask you to do everything in the way that you want. With the most we work together. I try to understand what the style of those in front of me is. If, for example, the house is located in a modern building or in an ancient villa, I can already have many indications about the project to be carried out. My commitment is to always realize the right home to respect both the characteristics of the place and those who will live there. Every place can be solved in a thousand different ways and if there is collaboration with the customer, you can achieve the perfect result.
What fascinates you about spaces?
As soon as I see a place, I immediately understand its potential and imagine what could be improved, especially when I am faced with a bad renovation, a disfiguration of the building.
Didn’t you have the same emotions in journalism?
I like writing but it’s another thing. Of what I do I like concreteness. You have to be in this way to be sure that everything go well. They see me and think that I do colorini, light and frivolous things, wallpapers … It is not so. In the yard you have to be super tough. You often have to work with men who think your information has little value. One thing must be functional but for me it must also be beautiful.
So is there prejudice?
Yes a lot. You must be able to manage this persons and you have to find a way to do it, very kindly. I realize that on so many things a man, in my place, would have fewer problems. The part of the building site is a fundamental part of the success of the house. I have so many clients coming to me with disastrous restructuring experiences, especially when there has been a lack of planning, of organizing practical parts that always have to join the creative one.
Is there continuity with your customers?
I am doing houses for thirty years and I do so many. Most of the time I stayed friends with the people I worked for. Many of them have expanded the house or bought the one at the seaside and have turned to me again. I have great continuity and everyone told me they were passionate and had fun. I worked with clients who had no passion for the house and threw themselves at work, now they take care of their home. I find it nice to experience work not as a problematic phase but as a fun moment. Then couples often quarrel because one has tastes and the other has others, but getting inside and understanding everyone’s desire is important. I get so many messages at the end of work that make me happy and repay me for all the hard work. They wrote me: “I come home at night and feel happy to get here, in this house that matches me perfectly” or “My house is as I always wanted it, I realized my dream”.
What is the project that you love more?
I made many houses that I liked because they were close to my style. That I felt. In others, for example, I liked the relationship with the owners more. The project that I most loved is that of my house by the sea in Liguria, an old rustic of peasants. It was a dream of mine but it was complicated to achieve and instead I succeeded. It is a home that I love very much and it is the project that I see most akin to me. It wasn’t easy. I have so many architect friends who are very good at doing things for others but then when they have to do them for themselves they are ten thousand doubts. I started from the preexistence and got almost everything I wanted. I had old floors, nice doors, ceilings that I then bleached. Fortunately, there were points from which to start: I love houses that already have their own identity.
You are very followed on Instagram. Did the social networks help you make your work known?
Few people see a furniture magazine. They buy it for that month when they have to understand how they want to renovate the house and that’s it. Although I have always had many publications, it is not that so many people knew exactly what I was doing. Perhaps this is the difference from when there are social media. Everything is more immediate there. I noticed that there was some interest in finding out what the houses I was working on would become. I also introduced a little story and I realized that many people felt involved and passionate.
What is creativity for you?
A natural way of seeing things. It is a way to instinctively observing them, treating them in my own way and realizing that right here my personality emerges that is different from that of anyone else. I think that creativity is in everything, in any aspect of life and in how you deal with things. In my work, creativity often has to deal with costs and technical problems: from design something is born that will have to exist concretely and function well. So you can fly but you also have to confront reality.
An advice to the young women who would like to take up this job?
It’s a job with a lot of opportunities unlike what they say. If you work hard and seriously it is a job that allows you to express yourself. And I see that today there is a lot more attention on the part of people for interior design. At first you earn little as in all the jobs you need to learn, but if you can find your own style and bring out your personality, there is a lot of work. In our studio we have many requests thanks to so much word of mouth.
What book are you reading right now?
I am reading “La Straniera” but the book I would like to recommend is “Patria” by Fernando Aramburu. I liked it very much. I started it, I abandoned it but then I took it back and I was passionate about it. He also taught me many things.
What is the journey that has enriched you the most?
India. I have been there every year for the past 15 years and I started visiting it when I was 18. It is my journey of the heart.