WILD AT HEART

In­te­rior de­signer Olimpia Orsini has cre­ated a mag­i­cally sur­real lair in her home away from home in Rome’s bo­hemian Campo Marzio.

VOGUE Living Australia - - Art & Design -

CLIMB­ING THE 70 STAIRS to in­te­rior de­signer Olimpia Orsini’s top-floor apart­ment in the arty Rome quar­ter of Campo Marzio, where the film direc­tor Fed­erico Fellini also once lived, is no mean feat. Yet, once in­side, it’s an ex­pe­ri­ence al­to­gether trans­port­ing and mag­i­cal, as if step­ping into the oth­er­worldly lair in­hab­ited by Ti­ta­nia, Shake­speare’s Fairy Queen in A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream. Orsini her­self is rather sprite-like, too. As she comes to the door with Gi­a­como, one of her two West High­land White Ter­ri­ers, cra­dled in her arms, and a wreath of fab­ric flow­ers crown­ing her long blonde hair, a glint of mis­chief sparks across her fe­line aqua­ma­rine eyes. For the past 30 years, since first grad­u­at­ing in Jun­gian psy­chol­ogy and then tak­ing a side­step into the­atre de­sign in New York in the mid-1980s, Orsini has forged a rep­u­ta­tion for team­ing the dis­tressed beauty of 18th-cen­tury pieces with some dar­ing (and of­ten chal­leng­ing) con­tem­po­rary art. Her home is at once breath­tak­ingly dreamy and Dalíesque — de­scribed in the Ital­ian press as a“wun­derkam­mer [cab­i­net of cu­riosi­ties] for the soul”. A taxi­dermy swan sports a pearly Chanel neck­lace, while a faded Gus­ta­vian chaise longue jux­ta­poses with an African fer­til­ity god­dess and moody mono­chrome nudes by French-Ro­ma­nian photographer Irina Ionesco. A dark cloud by Ital­ian de­signer Denis San­tachiara hangs poignantly over Orsini’s bed, yet her bed­room cup­boards are scrawled in red lip­stick with child­like ex­pres­sions of love and joy. With its mez­za­nine de­sign and high-pitched ceil­ing, the apart­ment has proved the per­fect place to show­case her trea­sure-trove of old and new finds — some col­lected on her trav­els to such ex­otic places as Tur­key and In­dia, and oth­ers from reg­u­lar rum­mages through flea mar­kets in France and Bel­gium. “Ev­ery­where I go, I find some­thing — ob­jects seem to call to me, espe­cially plas­ter busts, which some­how I feel need me,” Orsini says. The de­signer’s projects have taken her from Paris and Mi­lan to Kenya, and she buys pieces ac­cord­ing to her own taste. “Not for the client but for me — then if they like it, that’s okay!” She sources the very best fab­rics from Florence and draws on a team of ar­ti­san plas­ter­ers, car­pen­ters and painters for her pro­ject work. For each in­te­rior de­sign com­mis­sion, “I want to make each house feel unique — a home must mir­ror the per­son who lives there”. Yet, once Orsini has agreed to do a house, “I change ev­ery­thing,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t just put in the fur­ni­ture. I change the walls, the floors, the ceil­ing.” In al­most all projects, she works with a sig­na­ture back­drop of white and gold, as here in her own apart­ment, be­cause “it al­lows ob­jects to shine”. ››

this page: in the LIV­ING ROOM of her Rome apart­ment, Olimpia Orsini sits in front of a hand­painted 17th-cen­tury can­vas screen; side ta­ble is a piece of a 16th-cen­tury wooden church al­tar. op­po­site page: in an­other cor­ner of the LIV­ING ROOM, the­atre cur­tain is part of an 1870 French the­atri­cal arazzo; carved grotto chair from 1700s Venice; 1870 painted wooden root; an­tique Han­del lamp from the US; glass bub­ble sculp­ture by An­to­nio Ca­gianelli; 17th-cen­tury fish sculp­tures; paint­ing by un­known artist. De­tails, last pages.

this page, from top: in the LIV­ING ROOM, taxi­dermy swan with Chanel neck­lace. In an­other cor­ner, 1870s Napoleon III lamp on the man­tel­piece; small mono­chrome pho­to­graph by Irina Ionesco; Rus­sian crown atop an 18th-cen­tury plas­ter bust. op­po­site page: also in the LIV­ING ROOM, chan­de­lier from Paris flea mar­ket; eye­ball lamp by Marco Con­solino; Anselm Kiefer ‘Sap­pho’ pho­to­graph by Clau­dio Abate; Paolo Maione Papa sculp­ture (far right).

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