Builder Mark Cristofalo and Real Estate Broker Carina Cristofalo operate Wonderwall, a 3,000- square-foot showroom in Sand City that is open to both interior designers and the public. Wonderwallhome.com also provides access to the beautiful, one-of-a-kind and custom home furnishings that are available in the store and offers a to-the-trade program. Carina suggests starting off 2020 by observing the items in your own home and evaluating how they can best serve you through form and function.
Q: Mark has incredible elements in his home projects through Mark Cristofalo & Co., viewable on markcristofalo.com, such as a beautifully round window set in a plaster wall and custom fireplace inserts. Those choices transform what could be an elemental house into something extraordinary. How do people do that with their own homes?
Carina: You have to have that little bit of courage to go with that oval, round or iron window in your home design. Most people want it to be matchy-matchy. You can make it a unique, fun challenge how to make your home really special. It’s a permanence of building and a design legacy…People are so transient now. A lot of people buy something and throw it away. We need to ask: Where is that heritage, that permanence and legacy in our lives? It is what we have around us and who we are that matters. Mark has a timeless, European perspective where things are substantial, and pieces were done by hand and intentional.
Q: How can one achieve a pleasing and balanced design aesthetic?
Carina: People have preferences toward warm or cool, old or new, light or dark, but you need to make it proportional. If you lean towards cool colors, then 60 percent of the house can be cool, but 40 percent of the house needs to be warm. You have to balance it from flooring to flourishes to walls to lighting, and when you put it together properly, the home gives you a peaceful easy feeling.
Q: How are you preparing your home for Spring cleaning in 2020?
Carina: I suggest being really intentional about what you have around you. If things don’t serve you, it’s okay to let go of them or give them away. Someone else might find them useful. When you look for the function you desire with an object and for the form to be beautiful to look at, it inspires you and makes you feel special. It touches a part of your soul somewhere. You may need to be willing to move things around in your space that may not seem obvious. Where there’s art you can put a mirror, or you can place a lamp in your laundry room to make it feel more intimate versus utilitarian, and you can bring natural elements from the outside in.
Q: How can design make unpleasant tasks more manageable?
Carina: When you are more organized and your workplace is surrounded by beautiful things, it will make tasks like doing your taxes less daunting. You can also change your perspective physically, like moving the chair you sit into another part of the room or going to sit by the fire or in a coffee shop to work on your projects. It’s about changing the energy, like looking at a painting upside down.
Q: Any tips for managing clutter?
Carina: I want to be a minimalist, but I can’t quite get there. It’s a nice ideal. When I’m reorganizing, I make things into project piles and put them into beautiful containers, like a chest from Wonderwall instead of a drawer. To reduce clutter, you can even use vases or unique bowls or brick molds to hold things on your desk. It’s a way to create organization but beautifully so that you want to get on that task. You can use baskets for projects that you can move from room to room or use Chinese trays and put the most important thing of the week on it. I use pretty baskets for laundry to make sure everything is inviting to me.
Q: How can we nurture ourselves through our spaces?
Carina: You need to know yourself well enough to step into your life and get creative. You can honor the blank spaces in your home and own fewer things. If it’s a small space, pick the top four things you love, and make sure they are dual purpose: both beautiful and functional pieces. In a larger space, it may be 20 pieces that you keep. Mark approaches design like an artist and looks at scale, volume and proportions. It’s very intuitive and everything in the room relates.
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