The small town of Meda, located in the Lombardy region of Italy about 20 km from Milan, means a whole lot to Solana Beach resident Paola Bonacina Benzoni. It’s not just her hometown, where she was born and grew up; it permeated her spirit. This small industrial city nestled amid rolling foothills prepared her to express her passion through the design of interiors and architecture. “Meda is a very productive area,” Paola says, “it’s the capital of interior design and contemporary furniture. These ideas are in the very air I’ve always breathed, ever since I was a little girl. Everyone in town does something that is somehow related to the design and manufacturing of furniture.” The Bonacina family is still in that business, and when Paola was a child she would attend trade fairs with her parents, meeting famous designers who were family friends and all the while imagining her own future. “I have always known that I wanted to become an architect. As a small child I would build models of room settings and homes with paper. It was my passion,” she says. Now, Paola applies her passion to permanent structures: she works at designing and transforming both commercial and residential spaces. “Paola is a professional who loves her work, and she’s creative and innovative. She manages the design process with spirit and enthusiasm, and brings wonderful creativity to the project,” said Duncan Beniston, who is currently working with Paola Benzoni on the renovation of his family’s home in Solana Beach. “She comes well prepared, listens carefully, and delivers designs that clearly address the client’s ideas and concerns.” Paola Benzoni began studying architecture when she was still at high school, the Liceo Artistico in Monza, where she received her diploma in 1976 with the highest score possible. She earned her degree in architecture in 1982 from the Polytechnic University of Milan, graduating with a perfect 100/100 score with honours. During summer vacations, Paola would work in the design office of her father’s furniture business. Then, for six years following her graduation, she taught interior design and technical drawing at the Accademia Arti Applicate in Milan while also working as an associate architect at Mercandino and Associated in Milan. Later, she became the Art Director of ARKA, her family business, overseeing the production and design of new furniture and working closely with some notable Italian designers like Achille Castiglioni, Lomazzi, Ettore Sottsass Jr. and De Pas. When she was 18, Paola met her husband, Gianmario Benzoni, an engineer, who was also a student at the Milan Polytechnic. They’ve now been married for 25 years and have two children. Past projects undertaken by Paola in Italy include designing a soccer stadium in Turin and a commercial showroom in Milan. In the San Diego area, she worked on the Via Italia restaurant in Clairemont and the renovation of the Montbleau and Associates’ commercial building in San Diego. Her residential projects include complete home and kitchen renovations and room additions. Elaine Dodge came to Paola Benzoni when she wanted to remodel and add on to her Solana Beach home.