Born in South Africa, Interior Designer Marni Burger has long had a passion for all things Italian. From a young age, she longed to travel the world. Italy was at the top of her list. “My first trip to Italy was so formative to me as a designer,“ she says. “At the time the fashion was very much French design, and everyone wanted faux Provencale interiors,“ she says. “It was so over done that it irritated me! Interiors were same same but only slightly different,“ she says. Visiting Italy was a breath of fresh air. “Italian interiors, for me, have always had so much style, an understated elegance that is hugely inspiring.“
Having studied design in South Africa at the South African School of Interior Design in Pretoria, Burger moved to London and became friends with fellow South African designer Justin Van Breda. “He inspired me enormously, and encouraged me to explore Italian design.“
Burger has fond memories of towns and villages across Italy. Viareggio and Luca are particular favourites. “In the markets, you see the most incredible things,“ she says. “Markets tend to give a very good perspective of how people live, or how they once lived. The sheer size of the secondhand furniture that you find for sale - it is huge, you'd need a palazzo to put it in,“ she says. “Sadly it is always too big to ship home.“
Smaller findings, however, are small enough to send home or stash in the luggage. “You'll often find boxes of old portraits and paintings and photographs,“ she says. “This is the kind of thing I collect and bring home for myself, and my clients. You can change the whole look of a bathroom or a study by framing such pieces in old frames and hanging them in groups together.“
Vintage Italian textiles are another easy to carry inspiration. “I love Italian linen,“ says Burger. “Especially soft tablecloths, they are so durable and have been used and used, and they only get better and better with time.“
Burger stashes tablecloths, napkins, even pillowcases in her suitcase. “You don't find linen in colours like today,“ she says. “Rather they are ivory, light greys, anything but stark bright white which is not a natural colour.“
Moving to Australia in 2004 Burger discovered Australia's strong ties to Italy, but was surprised by Australian's propensity to throw everything old away. “Most Australians want very contemporary interiors,“ she says. “If they have an old piece of furniture from their family they want to chuck it. That's when I raid my magazine library at home.“ Burger has collected interior magazines since she was a teenager. Among her favourites are Italian titles Abitare and Cose di Case, as well as vintage editions of Case da Abitare.
“I show my clients examples of Italian interiors, which illustrate to them how seamlessly heritage and modernity can be mixed.“ Burger often teams a contemporary piece of furniture with a piece that has been in the family for generations. “A modern chandelier over an old family table, or an old armoire in a bedroom without built-ins,“ she says. “As Australians, we can learn a thing or two about the importance of heritage in good design and great interiors from the Italians.“