Shopping Cart

Making Beauty in Our Homes Indispensable

Posted by Theology of Home on
Making Beauty in Our Homes Indispensable

By Carrie Gress

I recently met Lucia Bertaggia and Margherita Vezzani, the masterminds behind Barefoot Home. Both women were raised in Italy and have brought the bounty of their culture to the U.S. in their stunning linen products. Their goal is to “make beauty indispensable.” 

The duo has adapted medieval design to create their unique and beautiful patterns. Their fabric is ordered from Milan, and then stitched with care in the midwest. Barefoot Home’s thoughtful designs, carefully sourced fabric, and attention to detail all create an incredible finished product. 

TOH: How did Barefoot Home come about?

Margherita: I was born in Reggio Emilia, Italy, on the feast day of St. Margherita to a family of simple and creative people, two attributes that live on in me to this day. I now live in Cincinnati, Ohio, with my husband and our five children. 

Before making the move to the United States, I studied medicine and practiced as an ENT physician. I truly loved surgery, perhaps because it involves a lot of cutting and sewing. In 2015, my husband’s company proposed to transfer him to the great Midwest. 

I was introduced to the art of sewing by a group of talented and creative women who all had some sort of beautiful crafty side hustle. This network of friends bolstered me when I needed it most, helped me tap into my taste for beauty, and kindled what are now two great loves of mine—sewing and embroidering. 

The idea behind Barefoot Home had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while, but it really took shape after the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were appointed. Since I was now confined inside with all my children home from school, I began fostering a desire to express myself in a way that strayed from my usual roles as mom, teacher, babysitter, housekeeper, and cook. 

During those weeks of self-isolation, I picked it up again to craft a fabric bread/bagel basket for my friend’s birthday. It was a simple project; as soon as I embarked on it, I knew that I wanted it to continue and become something bigger. I called it “my inspiration.” This is when I decided I’d start selling my handcrafted items under the name “barefoot”-- because when I sew I do it barefoot, so I can get a better feel of the machine’s pedal. From then on, my greatest desire has been to create a network of creative women to collaborate with, and create. God’s providence sent me Lucia, and with her uniquely artistic designs, Barefoot has taken flight, and I'm incredibly grateful for all this story. 

TOH: Tell us about the art work/design that you have adapted for your tablecloths and why? 

Lucia: Over the past year, we have embarked on designing the patterns for our linens. As an Italian architect, I was naturally drawn to the Italian Medieval Sacred Art, which surrounded us during our upbringing. My aim was to bring something both beautiful and meaningful to American households – a reflection of the rich history we cherish. 

Our first capsule collection, named 'Matilda,' pays homage to Matilda, Countess of Canossa. She was an incredibly devout and influential noblewoman, who governed the Northern regions of Italy during the tumultuous period between 1000 and 1100 A.D. Her profound dedication to the arts is evident in the castles, churches, paintings, sculptures, and bas-reliefs that flourished in the Romanesque style. Matilda's legacy serves as inspiration for us, as we share her belief (and vocation as women) in the co-creation of art and the pursuit of genuine beauty as integral aspects of daily life. In our designs, we reinterpreted some of the bas-reliefs found in Canossa's territory.

Our two designs, 'Gratiae' (Latin for 'grateful') and 'Canossa' are complementary patterns, featuring simple, sculptural floral motifs inspired by the Romanesque style, rich in symbolism. The prominent daisy symbolizes the joy of new life found in Christ. Conversely, the 'Erbe' pattern showcases a scalloped motif accented with herbs commonly used in Italian cuisine, offering a modern twist on tradition. 

TOH: What is it that you want to cultivate in homes and families with your products? 

Lucia: Growing up deeply immersed in a place where art is deeply entwined in the fabric of everyday life (everyday objects, architecture, sacred buildings, urbanism etc), you develop the need for art to remain constant. It's through art that we are reminded of the essential role beauty plays in our lives. 

Why does art and beauty become fundamental even though it's seemingly “useless?" As William Blake said, “Beauty is the quality of things seen for what they really are.” Visual art, like photography, prompts us to pause on a particular aspect of reality, without ulterior motives, in a moment of contemplation. The object is appreciated for what it is, not for its functional utility. This pause educates us to look at and appreciate the rest with newer, deeper eyes, less focused on functionality, consumerism, and agendas. It is easier to spot in nature, but it's true for everything: everything is “mystery and sign,” constantly “kept alive,” and every detail is a hint of the Divine Maker, the ultimate Creator.

With Barefoot tablecloths, we aim to infuse this beauty with both aesthetic allure and profound historical meaning behind a design, into everyday life. Our goal is to elevate the ordinary to a state of true and ultimately divine beauty. It's not just about creating a "pretty table with pretty colors," but rather about crafting a table setting that enriches the experience of a meal, offering a new perspective on an everyday action.

A prime illustration of this is a partnership we're finalizing with a diocese, here in the Midwest. They've requested our tablecloths inspired by their magnificent cathedral to be made available for their community with the aim of allowing a part of the sacredness of the Mass (pinnacle of divine beauty) to enter their houses and become an everyday experience.

TOH: As Italians, what do you think your own country, faith, community can be shared with Americans?

Margherita: Loved this question, and next time I’d like to answer the other way around: How can America enrich Italian but overall European culture? I would have a lot to say on this topic, too. I would say it is three things: family, hospitality, elegance, and the value of hard work.

Foremost among what I consider fundamental values of Italian culture, is a profound reverence for family. I would summarize this like this: if you love someone you share the meal with them. Passed down from our grandmothers and mothers, the tradition of gathering around the table for meals holds immense significance for us. While it may appear excessive to outsiders, for us, it is as essential as the air we breathe. Sharing stories, confiding in one another, and enjoying the pleasures of good food and wine are integral aspects of this cherished ritual. 

As for hospitality, at my parents' house, nobody was ever officially invited over for dinner; they just showed up, knocking at the door, at least twice a week. My mom, I remember, was not anxious or worried about it, but simply added more pasta to the boiling pot. And it was always a feast for us kids to have guests!

Then Italy has conveyed to me the simplicity of small things, carefully crafted, prepared with remarkable attention to detail. The result was a kind of elegance and care without ostentation. I come from a family of farmers; my grandmother raised two children in the immediate post-war period, widowed with a farm and fields to manage. Yet, every lunch and dinner, there was a tablecloth on the table, certainly handcrafted, and on Sundays, it was no doubt, delicately embroidered as well! We cannot lose all of this richness from our tradition!

Work as a value is also what I learned from my father and many other good men and women that were often guests at our table. I grew up in a Catholic-based environment, alive and fertile, where I had the opportunity to also meet many non-believers with whom, however, there was almost always a dialogue aimed at building the common good. The profession was seen not only as a means of livelihood but also as an opportunity to contribute to the Creation. I learned there that work is not enslaving, but a great chance to participate in the creation of Another by putting one's own talents at disposal for all. My dad would work 12 hours a day, and at night, he would dedicate time and energy to creating and supporting the local pro-life association or organizing cultural events for the city. He is still all of this at almost 70.

What I see is that while cultural shifts may threaten to diminish these values and the Christian tradition in Italy, the experience of rebuilding our lives in a new country has reinforced their significance for us. I am privileged to have the opportunity to perpetuate and share these foundations in my wonderful work here in America, where I believe they resonate universally, awaiting rediscovery by all who seek them. I am grateful to America for giving me back my tradition, especially by granting me the great discovery that if you have an idea and deeply believe it's good for you, your family, and the world around you, you must try to pursue and realize it. This is my story so far.

TOH: Your products are made with incredible quality and care. Why are these elements important to you?

Margherita: First of all, I want to express my gratitude for this wonderful question, as it allows me to honor those who taught me the love for detail. As a child, I often visited my father's studio, where there was a painting with a quote by Charles Péguy printed on it, discussing Van Gogh's chair: 

The leg of a chair had to be well made. It was natural, it was intended. It was first place. It did not need to be well made for the master, neither for the experts nor for the master’s clients. It had to be well made for no other reason other than for itself, for its very nature.

This quote has always stuck with me, and now when I sew or prepare an order, I carry it with me, down to the detail of the care label or tag. I am extremely demanding, sometimes even excessively so. Then I need to say that having grown up surrounded by beauty in the cradle of culture, if you think about how almost every corner of Italy is a work of art... it's difficult to live without a constant, innate pursuit of beauty. It's as if my eyes have become accustomed to certain forms, colors, and attention to detail, that what comes most naturally to me is seeking and recreating this heritage in the products I create. 

Beauty is the splendor of truth, isn't it? We are made to recognize True Beauty, through the small beauties of which Barefoot Home wants to be a humble ambassador and creator.

All images courtesy of Barefoot Home

Older Post Newer Post