Together with his business partner Joe Zito, Robbie Spina runs the bespoke design company Spina. With backgrounds in fine art and fashion, the designers set out to revive the ancient art of passementerie and are famous for their extraordinary tassels and tiebacks for curtains. These are hand made using an assortment of both expected and rare materials from feathers, silk and ribbons to crystal and coral. This is haute couture for the home.
Nowadays the duo, along with their small team, also creates bespoke lighting and installations for large scale projects – always with an emphasis on luxury and craftsmanship. In this special two-part A Room of my Own, both gents share with us their early decorating memories. Today we bring you Part I: Robbie’s first room in London….
“My very first room when I moved to London from Sardinia as a young student was in a terraced Georgian house. It was a basement room with parquet flooring. I painted the walls white and I had a double bed in the middle of the room. The landlady’s boyfriend was an event organiser for music festivals and used to store some equipment in my room, including the biggest acoustic speakers you could possibly ever imagine. They occupied the whole width of one side of the room, from floor to ceiling. I used to display everything in them – books, clothes, shoes, anything. I first sprayed them matt black and to this day I still think they were the coolest shelving units I have ever had. They were a truly dramatic feature for the humble room.
My light fitting was literally a bulb that I covered with a paper ball cover (from Habitat I believe!). This was the time before Ikea, so affordable design items were not really around. I have more elaborate lighting now.
“I always had a passion for design and fashion but I couldn’t really afford design items. The closest thing that I could get was to collect carrier bags from my favourite designers and stick them to the wall. I used to go to all the posh shops in Bond Street and ask for a carrier bag. Some of the assistants were very nice and would happily give me one or two bags, others were quite reluctant and stuck up. But I managed to gather a wonderful collection including Gucci, Gaultier, Katharine Hamnett, Vivienne Westwood and Hermes. I loved being surrounded by all those names of designers whose work I admired and I would play with the bags, putting them together in different groups according to sizes or colours and hanging them from the handles. It looked stylish and pretty unique!
“I discovered that decorating is an integral part of living, the yearning to create a personal space that feels safe and comfortable is something we all have. Relating to decorating on a personal level is a basic need and this ethos is rooted in my decorating aesthetic. Wonderfully we all are so different so as a starting point each space becomes an ocean of possibilities. But whether for a client or for myself, the same rule applies.
Interior design has to enhance our living. When we enter a room, clever and thoughtful interior design will make us feel good almost automatically. I would advise always bringing something personal into your design whether it is a hat collection or spindles from a Burmese Loom or a collection of carrier bags! It will add a touch of humour and individuality. For instance, I still haven’t stopped collecting white vases from every corner of the globe.
“For me those first decorating experiences meant everything and made me understand who I wanted to become. I would probably say that my style has not really changed but it has evolved. Of course we tend to learn a few tricks along the way and gather more experience but the core of the matter in decorating for me is still the same: Keep it personal.”