- Jai Morton
Storytelling through space
Updated: Nov 26, 2021
- with interior designer Denise Giglio
I met Den of Maiden Interior via Instagram, exploring some of the spaces she’s created as an interior designer. I ventured from Instagram to her website, and that’s where I was intrigued to learn more. Den welcomes people into her world of design with warmly curated words and images, far from any commercial approach to attracting new clients. She explains her approach to design, creating spaces with emotion and honesty, as a reflection of who we are.
It was that sentiment that really drew me in, reflecting who we are in a space. Maybe because I've found that I get a lot of joy out of my own spaces. Reasons aside, I wanted to know more about Den’s story and her approach to design. To me it was instantly clear that it was about more than light fixtures and paint swatches.
There is a curiosity driving Den’s creative process. One that I can only imagine leads to a more reflective, engaging and fulfilling experience for both her and her clients. As she describes it, “my profile as an interior designer took an introspective turn: what I was passionate about was not limited to helping people furnishing their spaces according to the style in vogue. I was first of all interested in their personalities.”
What inspired you to start Maiden Interior?
“Well it’s been ten years since I studied at the European Design Institute in Turin. But it took me a long time after completing my diploma to create Maiden. I grew up in a restaurant. My dad is a pizza maker and my mum is a chef, they had a restaurant in Italy for 24 years. They really needed me, so I worked at the restaurant while I was studying, and I was also a dancer. So, not with much time for myself. But I grew up with this mentality.”
“And I knew that I didn’t want to do what the other teenagers in my hometown were doing. After studying, I wanted to leave, and so I moved to Amsterdam to ‘restart’ my life.”
“I was working at a hotel there, where I met my boyfriend and we decided to move to Australia for a year. We travelled and did farm work. To this day he still wants to go back, he was completely in love. But we had to leave sooner than planned because we didn’t complete all of our farm work in order to extend our visa.”
“But thanks to travelling in Australia, I had time to think, and decided ‘when I get back to Amsterdam, I have to start’ and a few months later I set up my own business, Maiden.”
Curiosity and conversation
The psychology behind how we choose to build, curate, design, decorate or present a space is a fascinating one to me. So I can see how you’d be curious to learn more about the people you design for than their favourite colours and furniture pieces.
“Yeah, actually I don’t feel at all like a typical interior designer. Instead of looking first at the space I am going to work with and creating mood boards, I prefer to simply talk with clients first to get to know them. I start with a questionnaire, and I ask them to share a bit about themselves.”
“I have a quote I love that really reflects my philosophy for designing interiors and spaces:
"We must not generalise every person, each of us think, feel and act differently. Similarly, we perceive and feel spaces differently."
“I find that most people that reach out to me or find me tend to be people that are also open to sharing a little more. During those conversations, and with what I learn at this stage, ideas start to flow. But we don’t always go with the first or second idea, it’s a process.”
"It’s about more than creating a cool space and having fun for me. I want to help people, I want my work to mean something to them. Especially in recent times with the pandemic, a lot of people have a new appreciation for their home spaces because they’re spending much more time there.”
Looking at your work, I am struck by the fact that each space you’ve designed is so different. Usually when you think of a designer in any sense, you expect them to be carving out a unique style for themselves. I like that your unique style is in your approach, and while the outcome for each client is different, it’s more so because you have curated their space to reflect their story. Do you have a space you’ve designed that you’re particularly proud of?
“My first project. I wasn’t super organised yet. I had just moved to Amsterdam and a friend of mine had a friend who had just bought a house and was looking for an interior designer. At the time I had just been through a break up and was talking to a psychologist, which I was finding very interesting. The experience actually piqued my understanding around how closely design walks with one’s emotional profile.”
“I knew I wanted to take a personal approach with my business, and I thought I’m not a psychologist, but I can help people tell part of their stories in another way.”
“The house is on Olympiakade in Amsterdam. It was centered around a theme of sharing, and needed to work for a couple and their children. The woman was from Sicily, and she was in love with these particular white flowers from there. So I worked with a wallpaper designer, Katarina Stupavska, to create a bespoke wallpaper with the white flowers and beautiful lemons. To me, this was just one way of telling part of her story, reflecting it in her home in a unique and personal way.”
Those little bespoke details – to have so much personality and story just in one element, like a wallpaper. I can imagine that it really elevates the feeling of being in that space for the people who live there. When details are personal and remind you of different moments in your life, it must also impact the way people use the space too?
“Definitely. If you have a good energy in the spaces you live, work and create, it has a big impact on your experience and your focus.”
“But the most beautiful result of this place was that the woman in the home said it changed her life a lot. We are still in contact and she told me one day that she is really happy about the house, and that the change in space somehow instigated more change. She had been partway through studies that she had put on hold, and after we restyled the space, she picked it up again and finished.”
Stories guide the way
When you’re designing a space is there a certain place you enjoy working on the most?
“I think perhaps the hallway, or entryway. Because it is the first place people go. But it is actually different for each home or space. Oftentimes I think it’s where people spend most of their time. For example, if it’s a family home and they tell me they spend lots of time in the kitchen, that they love making and enjoying breakfast there, then my focus tends to be drawn there. Their stories help guide me.”
“Similarly, when people share stories about certain pieces of furniture, my focus and ideas can be drawn there. For example, in the Olympiakade home, there was a beautiful table from Sicily in the corner that the woman loved. It had books covering it. As part of redesigning the space, I wanted to center it, bring it into focus and breathe new life into it.”
It’s a great point about items people are drawn to through memories or special moments. Do you have an item like that in your space that reflect your own style?
“Yes, it's a chest in my home. I saw it in a secondhand store window and bought it for about 25 euros. It is about 100 years old. I am often drawn to vintage style, but lately I am also feeling more minimalist in my personal design style. But I don’t like to label it because I am certain it will change in the future. Styles grow and transform as we do.”
Thanks for sharing your story with us Den, and for helping others express theirs too.
- all images by Denise Giglio.