Christy Capano: The Italian Job

GA 30 | Interior Designing In Italy

 

Christy Capano is a fantastic interior designer currently working on a dream project in Italy. Her family is Italian and she felt Italy calling her. She up and moved to Florence nearly 2 years ago to work with a couple who purchased a working farm and then painstakingly renovated the foundations of it. Christy gets to transform the inside, drawing inspiration from every part of the land there – from the moss to the sunsets. Christy is self-taught and wants to make interior design accessible to everyone. Whether you own a big house, you rent an apartment, or you’re on a budget, she believes everyone can have a beautiful home, even if it’s done room by room. When she’s not working on projects, she is always taking a language class, taking a design class, touring iconic homes in every city she visits, and soaking up every bit of knowledge she can get. Her talent and intelligence make the fiercest combination.

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Christy Capano: The Italian Job

Christy Capano is with me. She’s one of my best friends. She’s an incredible interior designer and an amazing friend. She’s in Italy designing an Airbnb on a farm, which sounds completely magical. It’s her dream job. She’s up and moved to Italy a few years ago. She talks to me about how she became an interior designer. She gives me some family history, which is intense and dramatic. I hope you enjoy this talk with Christy Capano.

I’m so happy that you’re here, Christy.

I’m so happy to be here.

I can’t pretend that this isn’t anything but completely personal because you’re one of my dearest friends. I love you so much. I had to drag you here because you’re so humble. I felt like you shouldn’t be on here, but I made you. I can’t wait until everybody gets to hear all that you are and all that you do. Let’s talk first all about the fact that you did not train for that, which I love stories like that.

I did not go to school for it. I ended up working in the design field for so long and it was a natural progression for me to go into design. I always loved it. I never understood you could make a career out of it.

What did you study in college? I know you went to NYU.

I studied Liberal Arts. I did do a set design class there, which was one of the favorite classes I had ever taken and that got the ball rolling and the wheels spinning in my head. From there, I started working in real estate. I started working for furniture design companies.

From the furniture design companies, you branched off and started having private clients. One of the hundreds of things that I love about you is that you made interior design feel accessible in a way that I always thought it was for super-wealthy people or if you owned a home or if you had a big home and you had a lot of money to have a gigantic budget and do your whole place up. I felt like everybody else like me unless you were gifted at feathering your nest, you were stuck with the gross place. You changed all that because you told me that you could do things room by room. You could do things remotely. People could send you measurements. You said that you believe everybody deserves to have a gorgeous home that they love to be in.

I do. That was my biggest problem with the interior design was it’s incredibly expensive. I understand there are heirloom pieces that people will pass on for generations. You should spend money on things like that. You can source vintage things that didn’t make it to somebody’s next generation. It’s my favorite thing to do. Every interior designer is also a hoarder on the side. I swear if you look at all the big interior designers, they all have warehouses full of things that they don’t necessarily buy for a specific client. They know that they will find a home for it one day.

You have an incredible bed that you bought at an auction online.

I am addicted to auctions. It’s the colonial bed maybe. It’s from the 1800s. It’s from Maine. It’s amazing.

You did the bedroom in my apartment and you made it from so yucky to so yummy. I love our bedroom and I wished that we could do it. Now you’ve moved away and you’re doing incredible things. Everybody should know that they could contact you via email or anywhere on Instagram. You don’t have to be in the same city even.

It does require a lot of work on the client’s part in terms of measurements. They have to send me the photographs. They’re going to have to receive and install all the furniture. That’s where the interior designers charge a lot because that’s a lot of work. Measuring alone takes hours and drafting. Most interior designers get the furniture themselves in a warehouse. They check it all off. They install if something’s broken. They have to do the returns. There’s an upcharge for that.

You do full service. You can do all that too.

I do like to do that. If you are a hands-on DIY person, your design is good. Putting a room together is not easy for everybody.

The nice tattoo parlor, you did that in New York.

You don't need to get a degree to be a designer. Click To Tweet

They have since moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn from Carroll Gardens and I’m redoing it. It’s a completely different aesthetic. They completely changed their business model and everything. It was originally female-driven because the tattoo industry is notorious for being a little misogynistic. They have only female tattoo artists and a place where you can come and feel comfortable like a coffee shop vibe. There are lots of Millennial pink. I remember when that was a big deal. They’re not catering it so much in one gender direction for everybody and they want it to be more neutral. I’m working on that now, which is exciting. I do that with my sister, which is great. She’s one of the owners.

I also want to talk about Italy. Your last name, Capano, you’re super-duper Italian. You left and abandoned me in LA a few years ago. You went to Italy. It was a calling for you. You moved to Florence. You have one of your best friends in the whole world there. You have a very exciting and incredible dream project. What is it? Tell me everything.

She went there in college and did a semester abroad. She fell in love with an Italian and ended up marrying him. He’s from Tuscany. They live there now with their family. They have purchased a farmhouse. It’s completely rundown with no plumbing, no electricity, no roof. It was built in about the 1500. They have done a painstakingly arduous renovation on this place. They kept it historically accurate for the most part. There are lots of stonework, rebuilding the roof, the architecture, the integrity of the place. They did such a beautiful job of maintaining it. They’re working with a local architect there. It’s a shell now. They’ve hired me to furnish and do the kitchens and the bathrooms.

What are they turning it into?

It’s going to be a high-end Airbnb. It’s four apartments each between 2 and 3 bedrooms. They each have kitchens and they’re all on three bedrooms, living rooms and fireplaces. They each have an outdoor dining area. There will be a big pool.

Are you going to have a different theme for each apartment or is it going to be a common aesthetics?

It’s going to be a common aesthetic throughout. I’ll probably assign colors to different apartments.

You’ve done a few stories when you moved over there and you were working with them. They were still in the process of renovating. It looks absolutely exquisite.

It’s heaven. It’s such an amazing opportunity. Italians work with their hands. They’re craftsmen. They have been for thousands of years. I’ve been able to work with these stonemasons, these contractors and these people that do the plaster. It’s incredible. The ceramics and everything is made from scratch. It’s all local. This morphed into a big thematic project. Everything is with intention. Everything is going to be sourced locally. All the motifs are going to be Tuscan motifs or Etruscan, which is the ancient community that built throughout Italy. All the color palettes, we’re going to take all the colors. They’re so amazing. Every room is going to be based on a picture I’ve taken of the grounds, whether it’s like moss growing on the rocks or the olive trees that are changing color in autumn.

I want to go and stay there. I can’t wait to see all your work. Christy is the type of person who would call me and say, “Let’s go on a tour of this house.” You have your favorite lady, a professor from UCLA. Christy does nothing but take tons of classes and learn all the time. You taught yourself how to do all the drafting. You didn’t get a degree in interior design, but I want to point out to everybody that every single time throughout the years, you were always going to UCLA. You were always taking courses and taking classes.

It’s a UCLA extension. It’s for adults. Eleanor Schrader, she did the history of architecture. It’s a four-part course. It’s four semesters. I fell in love with her. She hosts these tours of these private homes. LA has the most incredible architectural history.

I know that from you. I didn’t know that before. Eleanor Schrader is the coolest person. I have been on a few of those tours with you. They’re special and cool. I didn’t even know you could do that.

I didn’t either until I took the class. She has her own website. It’s her name, EleanorSchrader.com. Anybody out there that wants to tour like the Sheats-Goldstein House. There are all these incredible gems in Los Angeles. She has many contacts because she’s been here for so long.

She knows everybody. You’re going to be in Italy for the next little while until this project is done.

I want to try to stay there forever.

None of us want you to. Do you speak good Italian?

GA 30 | Interior Designing In Italy

 

No, I do not. It’s intermediate at best, but I can get around.

I love it when you say all the words. We have to talk about your family. I want to have you and your three sisters. You’re one of four girls. You guys are very close in age, eighteen months apart?

There are five years difference between me and the oldest and the youngest sister. My mom had four of us in five years.

Your mother, Kay, is a goddess. The four of you couldn’t adore her any more. You celebrate and worship your mama. I hope my children love me half as much as you guys do. Each sister needs their own episode on the show because all four of you are accomplished doing the coolest things. They’re the smartest girls.

I could not be proud of my sisters. I know you’re going to chastise me for saying this. They truly are so much more accomplished than I am and I’m proud of them. They’re amazing.

You’re all amazing. I’ve met you. I’ve gotten the privilege of hanging out with the four of you. It’s like the stuff of dreams for me. I know you guys fight badly and I love your big fights. I love it when you told me to take your hoops off when you get ready to fight, hair in a ponytail. You’re the little tiny one of all. Even though you’re the oldest, you’re the tiniest. Did you grow up in Delaware?

Yes, we did, in Wilmington, Delaware.

One of the things I also love about your story is the fact that all four of you are accomplished, incredible and close. You came from a lot of crazy, dramatic and traumatic family stuff. I would love to talk to you about that if you feel okay about it. In high school, what year were you?

I was a sophomore when everything started. It got serious in my junior year.

What started?

My father got arrested for murder. He was a lawyer.

In your junior year, is that when he went to prison?

Yeah, he did. It takes forever. It’s not like on Law and Order when things happen. It took years for all of this to happen. The trial didn’t start until I was in college. My sisters were still in high school.

It’s better than the now in terms of media coverage, but was that so awful?

It’s a very publicized trial because he was a big lawyer. His family is in Wilmington. My uncles are developers in construction. The name is pretty big there. Somebody was murdered. I want to be respectful of her family. She worked for the senator or the governor. Honestly, I blocked so much of it out. The FBI got involved.

As a teenager, I can’t even imagine having to go to high school with everything and all that huge flurry. It’s a huge testament to your mom, to your family and to all of you. You’ve all come out of it and risen.

People can teach themselves anything. There are lots of free videos on YouTube. Click To Tweet

That’s my mother. The media coverage was the little taste that I got. It truly is crazy. They would follow us to school. They would have these huge lens cameras outside my grandmother’s house. We were children too, which was so bizarre.

Were you fifteen?

Yes, 15 and then 16, 17. They would comment about what my sisters were wearing that day and it was crazy.

Your father has passed away now. He died in prison. You have all advocated about how terrible, inhumane and awful solitary confinement is. I did an episode with this incredible Yogi. I don’t know if you know that one with Lauren Eckstrom. She’s wonderful. She and her husband are both Yogis together. They do what they call karma yoga. They’ve started this program where they go, there’s a maximum-security prison in Maine. They go there and they work with the people in solitary confinement to bring them yoga and meditation. The positive changes that have come out of that program have been extraordinary.

That makes me happy to hear. I can’t even imagine they would allow that in prison where my dad was. He was in Smyrna, Delaware. It’s maximum security. He’s in the SHU, the Solitary Housing Unit. He was in there for twelve years, which should be illegal. It’s torture. You’re alone 23 hours a day. They say that it’s for his own protection because in the general population or gen pop, he would have gotten killed. He was like, “I don’t care. I would rather be around people and risk that.”

How often did you guys get to see him?

We would go at least once a month. My sister, Katie, for sure went the most frequently. I was in New York so I wasn’t as close. I definitely went through a period where I didn’t go at all because I was mad, but I did get over that. I’m happy I got over that.

I have spoken to you and Katie. We went away together for one girl’s trip. It was fun. You talked to me about that. In theory, it sounds so terrible. Hearing you confirm that it is and Lauren also said the same.

Solitary was awful. I would like to do more to bring awareness to the issue. I truly think it should be illegal or if not illegal, there should be a max or a cap on how long somebody can be in solitary. People go crazy. He definitely did start to go crazy at the end. I’m impressed now that I’m older and I understand how traumatizing that is and how people do use it as a form of torture, like how strong he was. He probably lasted longer than most people.

He sounds like he must have been very resilient to do that. The four of you, I’ve gotten to witness your closeness on many occasions, at parties, at engagements, at weddings. You’ve been to your sister’s births. Two of your sisters have kids. The close-knit vibe of you and your sisters is special. You’re an interior designer. You have Katie who is an acroyoga queen, midwife and nurse practitioner. Jenny is in the fashion world. She has a very important job.

She works for a company called Sacai, which is a Japanese company. They’re very cool. They did a bunch of collaborations with Nike. She’s got promoted. She worked hard to get it.

Alex, the baby is a PhD.

She’s not a PhD. She’s a doctorate in nursing. Nurse practitioner was her Master’s degree and she got a doctorate after that. She is now the Chief Science Officer of a company called Ananda Hemp. In addition to doing textiles with hemp, they do CBD research and CBD products. She did her doctoral thesis on CBD. She’s amazing. They research it. They get things passed through the FDA. She’s in charge of all that. She did anything from pain remedies. She did a lube, which is awesome. She invented a CBD lube. She’s very proud of that. They’re working on the ad campaign now. Our friends did the photoshoot and it looks incredible.

All four of you are mega impressive. The only reason I got to have you this time is because you flew back to the States because Alex had her babies. She had twin girls. You’re going to go back to Italy. You’re going to finish this Airbnb, but isn’t it called something?

It’s an agriturismo, which is what they call in Italy. It has to be on a farm.

Is it a working farm?

GA 30 | Interior Designing In Italy
Interior Designing In Italy: There should be a cap on how long somebody can be in solitary because people could go crazy.

 

It has to be a working farm.

What do they farm?

They do olives. There are vineyards there, but they don’t own the vineyards. They’re trying to buy them.

Do they sell olive oil?

They haven’t yet, but they do harvest it, which I got to do with them. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. It was amazing. They harvest it for personal use. They don’t sell it. They have the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Do you find yourself completely inspired by the city, the architecture of the city, the museums in the city?

Yes.

Do you find yourself doing what you did here like taking design classes or going to the tours?

I haven’t taken any design classes there. I’m in a language school. I’ve been pretty busy because of the language school. I did five days a week for 4 to 5 hours a day. I would work in the afternoon. I haven’t had time. When I go back, I definitely want to. There’s a big expat community in Florence. They have many cool programs that I can find. I’m sure that there are design classes so I’ll be there. I’m a nerd for life.

I’ve seen what you do. The technicality of what you’ve been able to teach yourself is very advanced, in my opinion. You also get to go to France a lot because Jenny, the one in fashion, goes to Paris for the Paris Fashion Week. You get to go over and visit her.

She’s over there three times a year, sometimes four.

When you’re there and she’s doing all of the fashion parties, I know you go to parties and stuff with her, but she’s working. Do you explore the city and soak up everything Paris has?

One day, I did thirteen miles walking around Paris. I spent a lot of time by myself in Florence and I enjoy that. I am not afraid to have a meal, go to a movie by myself. I love it. I enjoy it. That’s what I do. In Paris, I’ll do touristy things, but I’ll have a nice 2, 3-hour lunch and people watch. Paris is my favorite. I have to say Paris is the most exciting city I’ve ever been to. Every time I go, it gets more and more exciting.

I haven’t been in a long time, but it’s one of my favorite places. Who are your most favorite interior designers? The top four.

In Los Angeles, Kelly Wearstler is not human. There are some designers that are incredible in any art, in any professional. There are some people that are touched. She’s amazing. She is incredible. Everything that she does. She works so hard. Her eye and the way she put everything together. She’s a genius. I love Pierre Ivanovitch. Jean-Louis Deniot is a Parisian architect and designer. He’s incredible.

There are people that are architects and interior designers like India Mahdavi.

You got to get creative and do work. It may be more labor-intensive, but you’ve got to sacrifice somewhere. Click To Tweet

India Mahdavi is definitely one of my faves. A lot of them are trained in Italy like Paola Navone is another one.

I would think they were different designing the outside and designing the inside.

It’s interior architecture too, which is a profession that is relatively new to the States, but it has been in Europe for a while, interior architecture. It’s like the nurse practitioner of design. You’re not quite a nurse and not quite a doctor. Interior architects aren’t quite trained as architects, but a little bit more than interior designers.

Besides the interior architecture or even exterior, are they also saying this couch or this rug? They do everything.

Not only that, they design the pieces themselves. They do everything. They’ll do custom colors and fabrics.

They’re the writer, director, producer and star.

They wear all the hats. They have their own fabric lines, their own ceramic lines, their own furniture lines and it’s incredible.

If you were a guidance counselor now and I was a high school person who wanted to get into interior design but I didn’t know that I wanted to go to school for that, what would you say to people to learn how to do the things? What would be the best things to focus on, in your opinion?

I do wish I had gotten into interior design school. You don’t need to get a degree. There are plenty of people out there that don’t have degrees. Jeff Andrews, for example, is a designer. I worked with him here and he didn’t go to school for it. He’s incredibly successful. It’s important to have a technical background. I do think it’s important to study the history of design, but you don’t need to. If you have a passion for it, you can outsource all of that stuff. You can outsource the drafting.

I like that you don’t. You do it all.

I like to do a few amazing projects.

You’re very selective about what you do. That’s why you love your projects so much.

If I took on more clients, I would have to outsource all of that because it takes so long.

I celebrate the nerd in you because you told me you were a mathlete. All the numbers and the measurements, you love that.

It’s crazy when I learned AutoCAD.

Tell me what AutoCAD is?

GA 30 | Interior Designing In Italy
Interior Designing In Italy: There are some designers that are incredible in any art, in any profession.

 

It’s Computer Animated Drafting. It’s what architects use. It’s what designers use to draft something. It’s all scale. It’s what you use when you take something to a contractor or an engineer. It’s the blueprints for the house. I was shocked at how easily my brain picked up computer software programs. Anytime I’ve tried to learn something on the computer, my brain works that way.

I remember you saying that you got it immediately.

It’s very logical.

It’s exciting when you find those things where you’re like, “I understand intuitively what’s supposed to happen.”

Intuitively, I understood exactly what was supposed to happen. I taught myself SketchUp. It is a great one. People can teach themselves. There are lots of free videos on YouTube.

You can learn to do it yourself.

You absolutely can self-teach. AutoCAD, you definitely need to take classes, but SketchUp for sure you can teach yourself. The program itself offers a basic lesson. I took that and from there, I was able to use it proficiently.

I like all of my favorite people in fashion who combined high and low and you’ll be like, “Where is that from?” It’s something very fancy and incredible, but I’ll ask, “Where is it from?” “I got it for $1 on this trade.” You’re very great at that. You have found things and recommended things where I’m like, “I need something for my apartment that is small, that the kids can get dirty.” You’ve always sent great options. You’re the first person to show me the Ikea hacks. You love Ikea. I was always like, “I can’t,” and now I’m like, “They have great things.”

I am not ashamed to use Ikea in the project at all.

Renters wallpaper, you were the person who told me about that. There are some cute ones now.

A lot of my clients have been renters.

It’s nice to know that you don’t have to live like a college student twenty years later. You’re going to have a nicer home.

You can. There’s so much you can do. You’ve got to get creative and you’ve got to do work. It’s more labor-intensive, but you’ve got a sacrifice somewhere.

You’re doing your sister’s nursery.

I’m so excited. I’ve got to say the kids’ rooms are probably my favorite room because you can get a little crazy.

The inspiration you sent me for the kid’s rooms, I want to live in those rooms.

An actual boutique hotel is every designer's dream. Click To Tweet

She’ll pretty much say yes to anything which will be great. I love colors too, so that’s another place where you can go crazy with color. I’m excited about this nursery.

One of the things that I remember you saying to friends of ours who moved into a home and they were deciding what to do with their place. You were saying that window treatment, curtains are important.

I think they can transform a space. Not everybody agrees with me but to me, that’s a huge place to make a big impact. It can be renter-friendly. You can take them with you when you go.

Do you have a dream project in the future once Italy is done, once the farm is done?

My long-term goal, which will take me years to get is an actual boutique hotel, which is every designer’s dream.

We should also mention that you’re an unbelievable cook.

Thank you. I can cook for sure.

I could see you having your bed and breakfast stuff.

After doing this for somebody else, I’m like, “I want one,” and they’re affordable.

In Italy, wasn’t there a buy a castle for $1?

You can literally buy a place for €1.

What is the deal with that?

There are these abandoned villages. The population in Italy has decreased exponentially since World War II, in the country, everywhere. Mostly in Southern Italy because the economy is not great there. After Greece, it’s the worst economy in the EU. It’s not great. There are no jobs. A lot of young people are moving. They moved to other places in Europe like Germany, which has a great economy, France. A lot of the young people are leaving and the Italian government is trying to get all these people to come back. There’s an asterisk next to it. You have to fulfill certain obligations, which you have three years to renovate the property and make it habitable.

It’s three years €1?

Don’t quote me on the three-year part. It might be 3 or 10. Ten seems way reasonable. There’s a time limit. I don’t know what they do if you don’t do it, but it does come with contingencies.

I feel like that’s a good incentive program. On your Instagram, I always love what you post. It’s pictures, designers, colors and spaces that inspire you.

GA 30 | Interior Designing In Italy
Interior Designing In Italy: Window treatment curtains are important because they can transform a space. It’s a huge place to make a big impact.

 

It’s a mix of both. It’s things that inspire me and some of my personal projects. I’m so bad. I haven’t posted for so long, but when I go back, I will.

I look forward to your stories. Are you getting right back into the Airbnb?

Yes, I will. I’ll get right back into it at least working on it. I’m always thinking about it.

Do you have a studio there?

I do. My friend who is an incredible artist, Monique Rollins. She has this beautiful huge warehouse space where she lives, which is outside Florence. It’s about 45 minutes by car. She gave me a corner of the space. She’ll paint and I can set up my desks and I’m happy with it.

You can do it all yourself.

Yes, we have the internet. I have my office set up there.

She could be your bestie.

We have playlists. We listen to music.

Is there a great view?

No, you can’t see anything. It’s like a cement box with windows at the ceiling that you can’t see. It’s next to a car wash, but it’s magic inside.

You have an apartment in Florence. You speak proficient Italian. You have a studio there. I’m very worried you’re never going to come back. We have to get your projects here. Anybody can reach out to you. That’s one thing I do want to say. Christy did my master bedroom in my tiny apartment and transformed it. I love being in there now. She can do that for you too. People can find you on Instagram. Is your profile public?

Yeah. In Instagram, it’s @ChristyCapanoDesign. My website is my name, ChristyCapano.com.

Everybody should use you because I need you to come back. When I eventually buy a home, when I grow up one of these days, you need to make it beautiful.

It would be an honor and a privilege. I would love it.

Thank you for coming.

Thanks.

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About Christy Capano

GA 30 | Interior Designing In ItalyChristy Capano graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. While focusing on literature and art history, it was a class in set production that incited a preexisting passion for architecture and design. After graduating in 2003, Christy moved to Los Angeles, and began renovating houses. As project manager, she was required to oversee the most intimate details of each restoration. From selecting exterior finishes to interior base moldings, each selection was carefully chosen to highlight and enhance the architectural integrity of the structure.

Christy has also worked in several boutique interior retail stores throughout LA, exposing her to a vast array of design resources. She has since parlayed these experiences into a growing interior design career. Recognizing that fantasy can often turn to folly, she encourages her clients to make bold choices, yet maintain a cohesive aesthetic where comfort and livability are always the ultimate goal. A curated mix of vintage and contemporary selections are incorporated side by side to create a timeless appeal, ensuring that a client’s space will be enjoyed for many years to come.

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