Designer Spotlight: Maddalena Fanconi Creates Inspiring Decor With Artisanal Wall Finishes

Maddalena Fanconi—the principal and surface designer of Fanconi Studio, which specializes in artisanal wall finishes—always enjoyed beautifying spaces—as a child she decorated her family’s rooms. “Almost every couple of month I used to change furniture arrangements in my parent’s house.”

She found creative inspiration within her family. Her mother did needlework, creating elegant crochet curtains and tablecloths that Fanconi said are worthy of Queen Elizabeth’s room in Buckingham Palace. Her Aunt Sandra is an expert seamstress that does work for the pret-a-porter line of high Italian fashion houses such as Manuel Facchini and Luisa Beccaria. She even recently discovered that her great-great grandparents did decorative painting for theatres. “Elegance and taste are in my DNA,” she said.

Maddalena Fanconi designer
Fanconi with a decorated panel.

An Education in Design Leads to Decorative Painting 

But before Fanconi began working with clients such as the New York Public Library, she studied her craft, taking drawing and painting lesson since the age of 11 and refining her skills during high school with art and architecture classes. She earned a degree in traditional decorative painting techniques from the School of Fine Arts in Italy as well as a master’s in Interior Design. “During my academic years I decided to pursue the decorative painter career applying all my technical knowledge working in the high-end residential in Milan, French Riviera and south Switzerland,” she said. “I was very young at that time and I felt the need to boost my profession in a more business-oriented point of view.”

She eventually ended up in the United States, where she continued developing as a decorative painter. “My career encompasses elements of house painting, interior design, fine art and construction general rules, of course, but most of all it follows interior design trends and design needs,” Fanconi explained. “Nowadays there is a great attention on surface finishes and a re-evaluation of walls as [an] important element in the interior design setting.”

Maddalena Faconi detail on wall

Buffing a detail on the wall.

Finding Her Unique Wallcovering Technique 

Fanconi switched from using past techniques such as classic frescos, faux effects, gilding and patinas and instead began creating monolithic, seamless and resistant wallcovering made mostly of Italian stucco, stone components, metals and imply performing paints and varnishes. “These durable artisanal coating are suitable for walls and furniture or artistic items as well,” she added.

She has shown her work in numerous collective and solo fine art exhibitions in Italy and Europe. Fanconi has also created designs all over the world. One of her favorites was in 2018 when she did work for Estiatorio Milos Restaurant at the Hudson Yard in New York City. She was impressed with the choice of finishes the architects used: Italian white Marmorino plaster and concrete striated that provided an elegant contrast between smooth and rough, and satin and matt. “The presence of these two materials shaped the character of this branded-restaurant, bringing all the Mediterranean atmosphere to the heart of Manhattan,” she commented. 

One of her latest project was a hotel for Japan, where Fanconi created large-scale panels and architectural elements in the United States and then shipped it for assembly in Japan. It really felt like working with a giant Lego, she said.

Maddalena Fanconi plaster wall

Plastering a wall.

How Fanconi Creates Her Wall Designs 

Typically, she uses a wide-range of materials, textures and patterns in her work creating custom designs for homes and businesses. “I am crazy for natural textures and patterns,” Fanconi said. “Stones, barks, shells are my main source of inspiration. Every project I am involved with is an inspiration as well: It challenges me to find the best-tailored solution and to think out the box.”

Usually a project takes from one to three months, including design and execution. Big architectural projects can take an entire year. “The execution of wall finishes depends on the kind and size of job,” Fanconi explained. “Panels can be realized in the shop, walls have to be handled on site.”

Maddalena Fanconi wall sample

A wall sample.

An Artist's Next Steps

When Fanconi is not working, she likes reading and a good cup of coffee (both preferably). She’s lived in New York and West Palm Beach, but spent much of the last year on the road doing various projects. One of her upcoming goals is to partner with a wallpaper company and to visit her birthplace, which she rarely visits. “I miss Italy,” she said. “It is a place that helps me refine my ideas and fill my eyes with wonder,” she said.

Photos supplied by: Maddalena Fanconi.

Fanconi Studios three wall samples

Three sample designs from Fanconi.

See our other Designer Spotlight features on Susanne FlotherJonathan French and Victoria Larson.

two metal walls from Fanconi Studios

Two metal wall designs from Fanconi.

Slate wall from Fanconi Studios

Slate wall design from Fanconi.

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