Meet Freelance Fashion and Print Designer, Cristina Bartl Villa
In this month’s No Place Like Journal, we travel to Summit, New Jersey, USA. It is in this lovely city located in northern-central New Jersey that we meet our featured homeowner, Cristina Bartl Villa.
Cristina’s full days in Summit revolve around family, self-care, and her work as a freelance fashion and print designer. A typical day, Cristina says, looks like this: “I wake up around 5:30 a.m. to meditate and have a quiet coffee before the kids, Diego and Mila, wake up. After the craziness of getting them to school, I hit the gym where I love to play pickleball with my retired friends.
Around 11 a.m. my workday starts. My client work is my first priority and once that's completed I work on my passion project which is my e-com art shop. I paint, journal, share on social media and ship out orders in the solitude of my home studio.
The kids are back around 4 p.m. and we have "merienda" (Spanish for afternoon snack) together, hit the park, or play outside until my husband, Vince, comes home. He usually cooks, we eat together, the kids go to bed and then some Netflix and chill.”
Also at the core of this family’s life is their home, a Victorian craftsman-style house built in 1906. “This home is very special to me,” Cristina explains, “because of its historical details, such as a dining room floor bell that the original home owners would use to call the service, an original stained glass staircase window or the characteristic craftsman style ceiling beams to name a few.”
The house, purchased two years ago, was renovated while “trying to be respectful to its original history and character”. The renovation process revealed “hidden surprises along the way”, as Cristina points out and goes on to name some of those. “A secret closet in the attic, an original pencil sharpener in the pantry and old gas pipes inside the walls. Last but not least,” Cristina affectionately says of her home, “I love that this house has only been owned by two families before we purchased it (at least that the records show); considering its old age, that tells me that the house has been loved and you can feel that when you are in here.”
"This home is very special to me because of its historical details, such as a dining room floor bell that the original home owners would use to call the service, an original stained glass staircase window or the characteristic craftsman style ceiling beams to name a few.”
“I would say I am a maximalist with a midcentury modern/bohemian/classical vibe all mixed together,” Cristina says of her decorating style. “I love books, decorating with special objects acquired during our travels, moody colors, textured fabrics, wallpaper, and of course lots of art. Most of our furniture is second hand from places such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or even revamped objects and toys that I have picked up from the curb.”
Evident in her home décor is Cristina’s creativity as a designer. “As I paint, I also enjoy reusing canvases I find in thrift shops or even painting over Bed Bath & Beyond's ugly mass market ‘art’. I have designed the wallpaper for two of our rooms and hand painted murals for my kids’ spaces.
“I would say I am a maximalist with a midcentury modern/bohemian/classical vibe all mixed together,” Cristina says of her decorating style.
When second hand won't do it, I like to check the décor store CB2 for modern, sleek pieces and also our local home décor shops.” Some of those shops Cristina favours in the Summit/New Jersey area are: Murray & Finn (kids clothing and decor) ( https://murrayandfinn.com), My Love Story (https://mylovestorynj.com/collections/art-1), Sustainable Haus Zero Waste Shop (https://www.sustainablehaus.com); Great House (https://www.greathousenj.com), The Farmhouse Store (https://www.thefarmhousestore.com), and Uptown Vintage, (https://www.facebook.com/uptownvintagenj). Not all of these, Cristina explains, are home décor shops, but they all provide inspiration.
Cristina names as one of her favourite décor pieces a hand woven quilt from the family’s recent trip to Portugal that “now rests on our bed”. She adds that “I also adore our alebrije from a very special trip to Mexico, and our vintage Afghan rugs (which my now husband purchased before we met at the famous Massachusetts flea market, Brimfield, so I can't take credit for those!). In a not-very-Victorian fashion we decided to tile our kitchen floor with encaustic tile from Spain (since the original wood floors that appeared under the vinyl floors from the 70s couldn't be salvaged) and it brings me so much joy every time I step in that room, and also gives the house extra character.”
“I mostly find things online via second hand sites,” Cristina tells us. She does, however, “also like to visit estate sales as often as possible and shop locally for smaller items”.
As mentioned earlier, travel, as well, is a source of finds and inspiration for Cristina’s home décor pieces. She says, “our house is filled with little nods to our travels, such as old maps found at a Paris flea market, little lady copper bells from a London antique shop (I believe they were used to call the service) and woven Moroccan baskets that decorate our staircase are close to my heart. And I almost forgot the Argentinean hand-painted Mafalda coasters that I love! I have to say I am a bit allergic to clutter, so finding that balance can be a real challenge. Not really travel ‘souvenirs’, but when I used to travel to Hong Kong to visit factories and suppliers I was sometimes gifted small luxury goodies, such as an Hermes' trinket tray or a Louis Vuitton postcard box. Even though I am not a logo person at all, pretty much the opposite, I like these small objects sprinkled here and there, as I find they bring a touch of sophistication that sometimes can be missing when going too overboard with travel ‘souvenirs’ and second-hand finds.”
“Our house is filled with little nods to our travels, such as old maps found at a Paris flea market, little lady copper bells from a London antique shop (I believe they were used to call the service) and woven Moroccan baskets that decorate our staircase are close to my heart.
Cristina also draws inspiration from visiting estate sales and gleans ideas from Pinterest and other social media. Though she confesses to having a “love-hate relationship” with social media as “it can connect you more and better than ever, and at the same time completely disconnect you”, she does note that, “I love blogs such as No Place Like or magazines such as AD to read about the story behind the spaces. It is all about the stories. I also love people, talking to people, connecting, smiling to strangers in the street, all that weird stuff.”
In conclusion, Cristina adds, “I love Hacienda, the vision and vibe behind it, and No Place Like is just right up my alley. As I said, it's all about the stories.” To see more of Cristina’s story, visit her on Instagram at: @honorapapers.