Addressing the need for homes to be furnished quickly, Claire Maestroni and Giorgio Stefano Maroulis can get the goods in record time and design a stunning, modern look.
The name Mis en Scene is French for “Setting the Stage.” Claire Maestroni and Giorgio Stefano Maroulis are interior designers who enjoy setting the stage for a recently purchased home or for a home about to go on the market. With clean lines, simple designs, and a modern aesthetic, the two designers can provide a fresh look to a ‘tired’ house in an instant, or they can create a customized, original design to a single room.
Claire is originally from France and moved to the United States about 28 years ago. Giorgio is from Italy and Greece and has been here for 42 years. They have a business in Greenwich and they recently opened a new business and shop in Washington Depot (where Huntington & Hope used to be). Their European outlook towards form and functionality combined with their passion for design sets the premise of Mis en Scene Home.
Mis en Scene’s unique philosophy and business approach are based on a quick turnaround. Claire and Giorgio found that their clients wanted instant gratification—they didn’t want to wait three months for a sofa to arrive. With this in mind, the designers decided to select products from companies that had inventory and could quick-ship. They discovered products that are not the kind you can find anywhere, ones that have quality craftsmanship with the best materials. These are the things that motivated Claire and Giorgio to put together the collections they sell. With a big warehouse stocked with lighting, area rugs, furniture, artwork, and accessories for staging, they can design an entire house in two weeks. Or they can design one room, or provide one piece of furniture — fast. This is their Turnkey Concept.
The aesthetic is modern and clean, more minimalist than other shops in the area. By using a vocabulary that has a minimal platform with a sense of romanticism that draws emotion, a vocabulary that uses texture as an important element, their rooms are inviting and calm. Furniture made of unusual materials contrast well with the walls’ flat textures. Beautiful rugs from Finland (that have never been sold in the U.S.) bring together the pieces in a room. Naturally attracted to materials, Giorgio and Claire mostly use organic, sustainable materials so as not to hurt the environment.
Their design process begins around the client’s art or art that they have selected. Once you have your color and form, it helps to stay on the whole aesthetic. By not compromising the art, it is not treated as decoration. In fact, they feature works by a new artist on the walls of their shop every month. Their artists are from around the globe. While the artworks provide color, the rest of the pieces have more of a monochromatic theme.
When it comes to architectural details, they use fewer materials and keep the walls and trim in a home very simple, staying away from too many layers of crown molding. Planning the design of a house, they often use recycled flooring or create pieces from repurposed wood. Wall treatments include delightful, textured wallpapers. Window treatments are simple and made of linen, raw silk, and bamboo. In the back of the shop are two stools made with a cast aluminum base, a rubber cushion, and bamboo sticks that move as you sit down. Surprisingly, the stools are very comfortable.
Close to the stools is the Dragnet Chair, a large round chair that looks a bit like a geodesic dome made with a metal frame covered with black fabric. The designer Kenneth Cobonpue uses materials from the Philippines. The chair which can be used indoor or outdoor comes in black, red or white and has grey cushions made with Sunbrella fabric. Function also plays an important role in the pieces that Giorio and Claire have selected. A nearby coffee table opens up into two wings for use as a buffet. A set of three small tables, called On the Go, are versatile and portable— their tops have handles and lift off to be used as trays.
Everything in the shop has a story. Textile wall hangings and jewelry are made by a tribal group of Masai women in Tanzania. Handbags are made with an outdoor fabric. And every month the shop will feature a new collection of products. This month it is an Outdoor theme. The stock keeps evolving as the seasons change.
In New York City and Greenwich, Claire and Giorgio designed residential spaces, hotels, and apartments for developers. They didn’t just work on the interior design but were involved in the architecture as well. Houses were made with sustainable woods, zinc roofs, and other natural materials. They moved to Washington Depot a year ago, after living in New York City and Greenwich. They love living here in the country, being away from distractions. It helps them to unplug and be creative. They love the beauty, the architecture, the creative energy, and the cultural activity in the area. We asked them a few questions — here’s what they had to say:
You both seem very passionate about design. Were you interested in art and beauty and function from an early age? Who or what were your influences?
G: Yes indeed, it was natural as I grew up in a family environment of artists and craftsmen. My mother practically “made” every gift she presented, from clothing to decorative objects. My father was a builder and my brother is an architect and artist. Music, sound, and theater was my passion and early studies, ending up in the Environmental Department at Parsons School of Design, and later on Grad School, Masters in Decorative Arts at the Cooper Hewitt Museum.
C: Right after my Bar Exam in Paris, I went to study International Law at NYU, and worked for a few years as a lawyer between New York and Paris. One day, the house we were renting, was visited by some potential buyers and they wanted to buy all our furniture and hire me as a designer! Several neighbors asked me as well to design their home. I always had an appreciation for art and design and decided that it was may be time to change career… As I wanted to be formally educated, I went back to school to study Interior Design at Parsons. It was a complete change of career, however, my legal and business education helped with the organizational skills required in the interior design field, and has allowed us to always establish and keep a controlled budget for our clients.
Are all of the products you choose to work with made of natural materials and using sustainable practices? Why is this important to you?
G & C: We live in a time where humans have placed the environment in great danger. We are not presenting ourselves as the advocates to save the environment, but it is our responsibility to do anything possible not to deplete the resources available to us. What we elect to surround ourselves with, reflects our needs and creates the history of the times we live in. For instance, adding three layers of crown wood molding on a ceiling is just not responsible, while using LVL beams to support a ceiling is. Keeping up with innovation in materials and technology is a must, and when we intertwine that with great craftsmanship we realize our dream. Necessity becomes art and that is what drives the design solutions.
Can you tell us where you get rugs, textiles, furniture, lighting, and accessories? How do these companies philosophies align with yours?
G & C: Rugs are from Belgium and Scandinavia, using a variety of materials from natural fibers to recycled bottles. Lighting is also from Belgium, Italy, France and others, again using sustainable, recycled and/or recyclable materials from bamboo, aluminum, bronze to resin. For furniture, we like a company in Belgium, sustainable wood furniture and organic textiles in Italy, corian manufacturers from Denmark and Australia, both outdoor/indoor furniture manufacturers. Italian wood veneers, glass and aluminum, natural and recycled fibers, from Belgium, and reclaimed wood flooring, and many others.
Their philosophy aligns with ours in the terms of providing the public with product lines that are made with sustainable, recycled or recyclable materials. Whether synthetic or organic, always in line with our aesthetic of clean, minimal, timeless, yet with a romantic sense that helps discover and/or being aware of the beauty that exists in all things, either new or old, synthetic or natural, in pure form, amorphous or distorted.
What makes your business different from other home and design shops in the area?
G & C: Two things really set us aside. Our European background and Turn Key concept.
Both of us are European—French/Corsican, Italian, and Greek— in the full sense of the word: Mediterranean. We grew up literally surrounded by a “sea of culture.” We have been submerged in so much art, architecture and design. We also have access to European craftsmanship and artisans. Most of the companies that we showcase are European or International.
Our Turn Key concept came to answer today’s needs of our clients: the design world has changed: instant gratification, internet sales, and new access to resources made us realized, that waiting for the completion of the design of a home for sometimes over a year, was not satisfying and even frustrating. For these reasons, we work with companies that have a quick ship program. In addition, we own a 10,000 square feet warehouse full of lighting, furniture, rugs … Our expertise as stagers allows us to furnish and style a complete home in little as two weeks.
You have an impressive stable of artists providing paintings and photographs for your clients and they are featured on the walls of your shop. How do you find them and what do you look for?
G & C: We work with art curators, as well as established or upcoming fine artists. We also travel extensively and attend international shows where we can source new art.
When you design, how important are collaborations with artists, furniture makers, and other designers such as lighting or fabric and rug specialists?
G & C: It is absolutely essential. The collaboration with artisans and craftsman further inspires our design work. Meeting with a glass blower, a weaver, a woodworker, a metalsmith is so fulfilling and opens up so many horizons. These moments are the one that makes us create further than the selection of a piece of furniture. Understanding how a piece is made and who makes it, the story of this person, is indirectly giving soul to a home.
What is your philosophy about the use of color when designing rooms for a residence? Where do you begin? What is your process?
G & C: We mostly set our color palette from art. Colors derive either from a painting the client already has in their possession, or we show them selections or “color stories” for selection. Then we will study the space for light and shadows and fine-tune our selection. We like a clean and timeless design and are privileging furniture and lights with pure lines that allow the unobstructed mind to rest and appreciate the surroundings and settings.
What is the most fulfilling part of what you do? And the least?
G & C: In addition to the collaboration with artisans and craftsman mentioned previously the most fulfilling part is the reveal. To see the “dream” that we have helped the client build become a reality. Sometimes our clients even cried because they are so happy and don’t recognize the space. It is a gift to watch.
The least fulfilling part can be working with clients who are unsure of what they want us to do. They have clearly hired us because they trusted us and liked our design aesthetics, but they aren’t willing to let go or are getting influenced by friends or family. It is a challenge to achieve the design they imagine if they are not willing to let us do the work, and/or keep changing their mind.
What has the response been from the Litchfield County community since you opened the shop?
G & C: Everyone that has visited our new store has been most gracious and encouraging of our designs. They have also commented that it is quite different and more modern than other designers and home furnishing stores in the area, which we are encouraged to hear. We have also embraced our location in Washington Depot as it has an incredibly artistic community.
What are your goals, hopes, and plans for the future of Mis en Scene Home?
G & C: We are in the process of creating a collection of Mis en Scene signature homes, redesigned and fully furnished, ready to enjoy. Our concept is to provide Turn Key houses that reflects our passion for art and clean design and architecture where the buyers will come only with their “toothbrush.”
Hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, and
Sunday by appointment.
Mis en Scene Home
2 Green Hill Road