“Why settle for imitation “Italian” design furniture and accessories which are not produced in Italy, when the original, authentic products are within reach?” This is a question that Chiara Boffo and Martin van Noord ask their customers almost every day. As her name suggests, Chiara was born and raised in Italy; Martin is a Dutchman.
Their partnership bears the apt, encompassing name ‘Be Different’. According to the duo, there is no more reason to furnish your interior with fake design. Be Different advises on, designs and delivers the most beautiful interiors made with pure, natural materials.
From ‘Goodbye’ to ‘Hello again’
Be Different has ample expertise and operates with a strong sense of quality and design. The partnership has been long in the making. Chiara and Martin first got to know each other about 14 years ago. At the time, Martin was hotel manager in a hotel in Amsterdam and Chiara was a jewellery sales manager. Suitcases in hand, she was helped by Martin at the reception of the hotel.
The two hit it off and stayed in contact for some time. Unfortunately, as is often the case, they lost touch after their paths diverged. They met again in September 2019 by coincidence and had many stories to tell each other. Both careers had taken surprising turns and they appeared to have a shared passion for high-quality design and high-end interiors.
When soulmates cross paths, something beautiful is created
“I enjoyed my time working in the hospitality sector,” Martin explains. “Over the years, my responsibilities shifted more towards construction management. This is how I discovered that I get a kick out of advising people on interior design. When I met Chiara again after all those years, I was in the midst of developing a new hotel. Our conversations soon turned to the topics of stoneware, plaster, toilet bowls and taps. We discovered that our paths which had diverged before, had found a way to cross again.”
In the years in between their encounters, Chiara had specialised in interior design sales and had held an executive position at an Italian design company in New York. In addition to selling interiors, Chiara discovered she had a talent for designing interiors, a passion that proved unstoppable. However, circumstances forced her to go back to Italy.
Chiara explains: “I returned to Italy from New York to handle sales management for a large contracting company. However, the economic crisis put the construction company I worked for under such pressure that it eventually went under. In that I saw an excellent chance to follow my heart.”
“I realised that as an employee, I always worked as if I was working for my own company, but without my team and I getting credits for that. That”s where the ambition originates to do things different. Together with two talented and experienced collegues I managed to get hold of the company and start all over, under the name of Maribo Srl, situated in Padova, near Venice. A construction company with a strong focus on people, regarding our employees as well as our customers.”
Chiara is a real a people’s manager; her staff is everything to her. For the first year, she turned down her salary to make sure the company would survive. And it did. “My passion for interiors and design was still as important to me as the company. When I spoke to Martin again in September 2019, we both came to the same conclusion: sadly, a lot of fake products are sold in today’s interior design industry.”
“In practice, what starts out as a beautiful design often ends as a poor imitation of the original idea. You can blame mass production for that, along with companies that think it”s okay to introduce such soulless products into a high-end interior. Martin and I decided to show the world that things can really be done differently, starting in the Netherlands.”
Attention to craft, pureness and aesthetics is the only way to go
Martin and Chiara decided that only pure, natural materials deserve to be used in a design interior. Martin says: “I was an interior designer myself and often collaborated with furniture makers. Sometimes, I worked together with architects. In Italy, Chiara introduced me to its passionate furniture makers. I was astonished! They had so much expertise in specific areas, their craft was so pure, and they had such a passion for the work they did. The products they make have a soul. You don’t just put them somewhere and treat them like any other household item… you experience them.”
Chiara adds: “Martin and I see it as our duty to point this out to people. We show them that there is a big difference between coming home to an interior decorated with cold, unemotional products, and coming home to an inviting interior in which every piece of furniture, every accessory tells its own story. You can see it, feel it, and smell it. Everything is authentic and unique. We always provide our customers with advice based on unique designs. We stand for craftsmanship in every aspect, whether that be furniture, flooring or walls. And do you know what the best thing about that is? Genuine Italian design doesn’t need to be more expensive. But it is of much higher quality, that’s for sure.”
Beautiful products and fast delivery times
Chiara and Martin’s partnership came about very naturally. “Chiara’s contacts in Italy’s craft furniture industry are invaluable,” Martin continues. “Without her, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now. Another remarkable thing ”“ in addition to the authenticity and quality of the goods produced in Italy ”“ is the delivery time. It”s phenomenally fast for items that are tailor-made. This makes our customers particularly happy.”
The powerful collaboration between Chiara and Martin is emphasised by their shared core values: ‘quality’, ‘aesthetics’ and ‘the person themselves’. “We have such a good feel for people, it doesn’t take us long to know exactly what it is they want. The designs that we then create for them will suit them perfectly,” Martin explains.
“Our job is to understand someone’s personality,” Chiara adds. “We create exclusive interiors that fit the owner like a glove. People feel safe in the interiors that we design. One feels surrounded by beautiful, positive elements, which will create beautiful memories. A house must give off a sense of peace, I always say.”
Italy is not as far away as you think
Be Different brings together colours and materials that are exceptional. To do this, they have a large network of high-end suppliers at their disposal. “For a current project, we are furnishing villas,” Martin reveals. “It’s all about marble. Chiara is working on it around the clock, the customer only wants the finest products. That is why she teamed up with the world’s leading marble specialist.”
“We go to the quarry in Italy to select the right marble ourselves, which is then completely made to order. This process goes beyond what you know of tailor-made services: the supplier will cut, drill, sand and polish the marble themselves. And to top it all off, an in-house assembly team will fly in from Italy to install everything properly. Pure craftsmanship.”
Martin and Chiara count both private individuals and companies among their customers. “Would you like to design your own rug? No problem. We will select the wool for your rug, in the right colours. After that, the rug will be woven according to your design. Woven ”“ not printed, because we like things to be genuine,” Chiara explains. “Did you design your own chair? We will manufacture it for you without any problems and it will have a fast delivery time. Be Different distinguishes itself in every aspect and is a perfect partner for private individuals, contractors, subcontractors and architects.”
Text: Draeckensteijn Media | Photos: Chiara Boffo/Martin van Noord.
Thanks to Be Different Interior.