Federica Barbaranelli is the owner of Federica & Co, a multifunctional space incorporating a B&B, an interior decorating shop, cooking classes, workshops and more. Located in an eighteenth-century manor house in Cóbreces, in Cantabria, the venue has a traditional flavour and is surrounded by a big garden.
The recent interior renovation project stays true to the spirit of the home, and includes restyling of the kitchen, a very special place for Federica.
SapienStone collaborated in the renovation of this country-style kitchen with installation of a Bright Onyx countertop, which Federica chose for its brightness and elegance, perfect for setting off the white wooden kitchen cabinets. Subtle grey veining adds life to the white surface with refined design.
In addition to aesthetic considerations, Federica chose SapienStone porcelain for its resistance, non-absorbency and easy cleaning.
In the interview that follows, she tells us a bit about herself, what the kitchen means to her, and the sensations she experiences when working on a SapienStone countertop.
Tell us about yourself and your passions. How did you come up with the idea for Federica & Co?
I am Federica Barbaranelli, and I was born 42 years ago in Rome, where I lived until I was 13. Though I have had the good luck to live in other countries for a considerable amount of time from an early age, particularly in France, where my father’s family (originally from Rome and Vetralla, a small town in the countryside outside Rome, near Lake Bracciano) moved in the ´80s. I moved to Spain at the age of 13 with my parents and my little brother, and I have had plenty of adventures since then.
Even at a very early age, I was an unusual child interested in all sorts of things other children didn’t understand, or perhaps didn’t experience with the same intensity and passion. I have always felt that I didn’t belong to this world. I was curious, sensitive, cheerful, always in motion, and always eager to learn, observing the world and finding it both strange and interesting; though I was in some way grounded in the real world, I have always lived half in a world of my own, where I took refuge, and only half in the tangible, human world.
I have always loved cooking. My grandmother, Nonna Valeria, used to get up early and go to the market in Via Cola di Rienzo to buy fresh mozzarella (the braided sort was my favourite), pizza bianca (without tomato), vegetables, and coffee from Castroni. She would come back home while I was still sleeping, and I would wake up at dawn to the scent of homemade fettuccini, and of course ragout; every morning there would be a jam tart waiting for me, made with natural jam. The smell of the oven alone was enough to make my heart beat faster. My grandmother was a very simple woman, but cooking was a labour of love for her and I always went into the kitchen very carefully, walking on tiptoe so that I could just reach the edge of the kitchen shelves with my fingers. I was only five, and this simple act of cooking seemed to me to be the most beautiful act of love in the world. As I am a romantic spirit, I entered a world that I have never since left, and that has always been a part of my soul.
I think my passion for music, dance, film and, of course, books began at about the same time. Books were my whole world. And this is how, while still very young, I discovered my true passion: writing. I have always wanted to be a writer. And art, whether it be the art of cooking, music, film, painting, history or sculpture, created an amphitheatre within me, in which to give form to all my dreams. Which were up in the air, rather than down to earth!
Federica & Co. is, in a way, the result of random circumstances. Twenty years ago, I had just returned from New York and Paris, where I had been studying creative writing, comparative literature, art history and, of course, cooking, at the Cesar Ritz Escoffier. Coming back to Madrid at the tender age of 23, I wanted to write, but found myself under pressure from the real world; in actual fact, I don’t think I was emotionally mature enough yet to dedicate myself 100% to writing. And so my first business partner and I opened the first Federica & Co in the centre of Madrid, in a very unusual space combining fashion (which we imported from New York, Tokyo, London, Brazil and, of course, Italy), art exhibitions, lots of vintage items, gardening, kitchen accessories, and practically everything we saw and liked on our travels around the world. Eventually we opened five Federica & Co locations, one by one, and thus our first concept store became a project that has evolved, just the way people do, practically becoming a part of me as I grew and matured.
What is your most important source of inspiration in your recipes and content?
I was very technical at first, wanting to put everything I had learned over the years into my cooking: I am obsessive about learning and nourishing my essence, so I studied not only cooking, but wine-making, and over the years I travelled and lived with the goal of discovering new recipes and new ways of transforming classic recipes with my own hands. I had learned the basics in France and Italy, but my curiosity was infinite. Though I never aspired to win awards, to be considered a chef or to open a restaurant; all I wanted to do was learn, grow, and cook for the people I love.
I read a lot, found out how ingredients unknown to me are used in various different countries, and studied not only the anthropology of how food has influenced our history and culture, but the effects of food on the human body.
After years of experiences, having concluded a chapter in my life, I decided that what really made me happy and inspired me was going back to simple home cooking like my grandmother’s. While maintaining an absolutely sacred pact with the ingredients. In short, simple but excellent.
What does the kitchen mean to you, as a place and as an experience?
It’s where your heart takes you. Where you smell the aromas of your childhood, where you find yourself even when everything seems to be falling apart, when you feel lost; a place where you experience love in the form of a stove, time and good ingredients. A place in which to remember the true meaning of the word “home”, the source of all those scents which will stay with you forever and will always take you to the most tender, delicate place in your memories. Where you can create a family, or just spend a unique evening over a glass of wine and a dish of pasta. And, by simply offering someone a meal or a recipe, with great care and simplicity, you can offer a little warmth to anyone who needs it.
The kitchen is more than a place to cook: it’s a place for love, from start to finish.
What sensations do you feel around a SapienStone countertop?
The first is a sensation of lightness. It’s not a rough surface, and it won’t steal the show from any kind of kitchen or style. It’s perfect for either a rustic country kitchen or an ultra-modern urban one. I like the consistency of the material, simple but elegant, bright and clean, easy to maintain, resistant and perfect for setting off any kind of space. Then, by choosing Bright Onyx, a white that is never really white, I have brought incredible light and brightness into my kitchen.
Which of the five senses is most important in the kitchen?
Sight is, of course, one of the most important senses in the kitchen. And so is touch. When you touch it, this material feels like velvet, though it does not feel fragile, but consistent and robust. For someone like me who likes to cook the old-fashioned way, without gadgets, using a knife to chop up the ingredients right on the worktop, handling food with my hands and working with it the way people used to do, it may seem like a voyage into the past, but with all the advantages offered by the technology of a brand that believes in innovation and top quality.
Which is your favourite sense?
Smell, definitely. No other sense is so wild and uncontrollable. It goes straight to the heart, without passing through the rational apparatus of the brain. Once again, it takes us on a voyage into the past or the future, through the purest emotion.
What do you like most about the Sapienstone kitchen countertop?
Its colours, resistance, and simplicity, the way it adapts to any style, and of course the tradition of all-Italian hand craftsmanship that it represents, despite the great performance and benefits of technology.
If you were asked to describe Sapienstone countertops in one word, what would it be?
Basically, perfect for Federica & Co.
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