Conversation with Alessandro Consoli of Design B&B
Catania shines like a black pearl under the Sicilian sun. Built with the dark stone of Mount Etna, it’s a city of contrasts. Nowhere else are the blue of the sky and the green of the plants as bright. Here, flowers are more colorful, leaves are brighter, fish are glossier, cats are more silky… and man is probably more imaginative. In the heart of this very particular city, close to a typical old Sicilian market, Design B&B was born from this very state of mind, a kind of madness. As its owner Alessandro Consoli recalls: living so close to the most active volcano in Europe creates abnormality.
Alessandro, your Design B&B is not a common place. When you open the door to this apartment, a kind of energy welcomes you. Very energetic colors, unusual forms and design, special pieces of furniture… There is something very special here, something psychedelic. Can you explain?
Alessandro Consoli: “Well, I’m from here and let me tell you something: Catania is not a city like any other, even in Sicily. There is a special energy in this town. Probably due to, or thanks to, the volcano Etna. Maybe we are a little mad, here in Catania. Especially here, in this district which is full of artists and actors but also with so many craftsmen, workers, fishermen… An interesting mix of people.
“My B&B reflects this mix of colors, sounds, forms, even smells. Originally, I was an art director in advertising. When I opened this B&B 20 years ago, I was looking for a nice place, not too far from the center of the town, not too far from the harbor. My idea was to enable people to travel in a world made of different colors and forms. This is the reason for this particular decoration in the rooms.”
There is a kind of confusion here, in your decoration?
AC: “You’re right, exactly like in the streets of Catania. A kind of mess and madness. I’m from the Seventies, and I am a kind of nostalgic for that period. But I love to mix different styles, different periods, different moods. Right now, the Seventies are very fashionable and I’m glad about that, but it wasn’t the case 20 years ago! I have a lot of artists, architects, young families, young travelers… They appreciate the atmosphere of the place and they share a coffee in the lobby, they exchange addresses, sometimes they begin new friendships. I sometimes think it’s the spirit of the volcano doing its magic…”
What is this special spirit you’re talking about?
AC: “Listen, Catania is the sea and the mountain. This mountain is an active volcano. Catania is fire and water in the same place. Catania is good and bad at the same time. Catania is popular and aristocratic, magnificent and dilapidated. Catania is dead and alive at the same moment… This is our madness.”
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Main photograph by Léonard Lièvre