Alessandra Branca’s lush, textured interiors have been featured in many publications, including House Beautiful, Elle Decor and House & Garden.
Never content to rest on her laurels, in 2008, Alessandra opened her Gold Coast boutique, Branca, where she makes available the kind of one-of-a-kind pieces that have graced her projects, and in 2009, she published a gorgeous coffee table book “New Classic Interiors,” which is now in its fourth printing, with all proceeds benefiting inner city children’s programs.
Do you have a signature aesthetic?
I’m very comfortable mixing periods, cultures and colors to achieve what appears to be a very simple, ad-hoc design. The final result can look like you just threw it together—God bless—but what people don’t know is that it works because it was thought through.
How do you approach working with new clients to create that kind of space?
I sit down with a client and we go through every single detail. How do they live now? How would they like to live? What are their short- and long-term goals? We do floor plans in black and white for quite a long period of time before wallpaper or fabric is even involved. When we finish a drawing, it’s literally almost like a portrait of the room.
How willing are you to incorporate their personal possessions?
My goal is to work with as much of a client’s things as possible, because it’s like doing a portrait. People are hiring you to create a room for them, not a room for you. My personal taste isn’t what this is about.
In your book, you write that you’re not a fan of period rooms. Why?
Because they have already been done. We owe it to the future to take it forward. If we don’t include today and the talents of the people who are creating today, then everything is dead. We’re not sitting in a room needlepointing anymore, and we’re also not stopping our day because it’s 3 o’clock and getting dark out. Having said that, there are some wonderful period rooms that have been restored and which I admire and think are incredible.
Your projects feel vibrant and alive. How does one create that feeling at home?
What we love so much is character, and that doesn’t exist inherently in any part of life. We have to go and embrace character.
First of all, there are these lovely things called kids [laughs]. There’s no way you can have a really clean space with all these children running around, dropping things everywhere, so if you’re a neatnik, we have to create spaces in which you can put things. Life has to happen. Life is character. We all have different experiences, histories, memories and aspirations, and that’s the spice we all love.
Your boutique embodies character. How do you select the merchandise?
The whole idea is to bring things to this town that otherwise wouldn’t be here. It’s a lifestyle store in the sense that there’s a bit of everything, yet it’s not a decorating store. There’s no how-to. I want people to go in and just do it. Go for it. Have fun with it. I still go nuts shopping in my own store.
How do Italians live differently than Americans at home?
In Italy, there is the drawing room—one room living. In the 18th century, every room had multiple uses, so you got more out of things and you put more into things. Because of the Victorians, many Americans have a room for every mood, and for every purpose, but the sad part about those spaces is that nobody uses them. A room that’s not lived in is a very sad room. Personality comes from use, and personality is the patina of a space.
How do you nourish your own creativity?
It’s so important to keep your mind fresh. I walk, read and travel an enormous amount. I like the happenstance of walking into unexpected places or going to a museum and walking through different departments. There’s no plan to Rome. You are forced to go in and around, and there are dead ends, but in the meantime, you walk into a palazzo and discover something you’ve never seen. That’s what life is about. That’s all there is.