GOLDEN TOUCH

Jewellery de­signer Cyn­thia Vilchez Castiglioni found a home in the heart of Mi­lan that couldn’t have been more ap­pro­pri­ate — a me­dieval-era for­mer con­vent in a district his­tor­i­cally in­hab­ited by gold­smiths.

VOGUE Living Australia - - CONTENTS - By An­drew Fer­ren Pho­tographed by He­le­nio Bar­betta Pro­duced by Chiara dal Canto

Jewellery de­signer Cyn­thia Vilchez Castiglioni found a home in the heart of Mi­lan that couldn’t have been more ap­pro­pri­ate — a me­dieval-era for­mer con­vent in a district his­tor­i­cally in­hab­ited by gold­smiths

Cyn­thia Vilchez Castiglioni traded her na­tive Venezuela for Italy when she ar­rived in Mi­lan in 2008 as a stu­dent of fash­ion mar­ket­ing. A decade later she has grad­u­ated, mar­ried a dash­ing Ital­ian — Gio­vanni Castiglioni, with whom she has two chil­dren — and dec­o­rated their fam­ily home with youth­ful fresh­ness and fi­nesse. Along the way she also found time to launch her own ar­ti­sanal jewellery brand, Ali­ita, which is cel­e­brat­ing its third year as well as the open­ing of its first re­tail lo­ca­tion in Tokyo, where the del­i­cate, un­fussy neck­laces, ear­rings and other pieces are pop­u­lar. The jewellery is hand­crafted in Italy us­ing 9-karat gold and nat­u­ral stones, and each col­lec­tion has been de­vel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with in­te­rior de­signer Hai­dyne Azevedo. Coin­ci­den­tally, the very first Ali­ita piece they cre­ated was a charm­ingly sim­ple gold pen­dant in the shape of a house. Cyn­thia and Gio­vanni found their own home, lo­cated not far from the iconic Duomo cathe­dral in the heart of Mi­lan, four years ago. Over time, she dis­cov­ered that the nearby streets had his­tor­i­cally been the gold­smiths’ district of Mi­lan, and to this day the area re­tains a sur­pris­ingly high den­sity of me­tal­work­ers and jewellers ply­ing their trade. “I’ll go out for a meet­ing with one crafts­man and along the way I’ll dis­cover three more jewellery mak­ers,” Cyn­thia notes. “It seemed like a sign that we’d landed in the right place.”

“I’ll be hon­est, we first fell in love with the build­ing — a for­mer con­vent from the 1500s with a very sim­ple and beau­ti­ful colon­naded pa­tio at its heart — be­cause the neigh­bour­hood was not ex­actly our usual area”

The build­ing had been com­pletely over­hauled a few years ear­lier by ar­chi­tect Piero Castellini, whose orig­i­nal brief was to create a lux­ury ho­tel, but along the way the pro­ject switched to res­i­den­tial apart­ments. When the cou­ple bought their 280-square-me­tre space, they had some big ideas about how to im­prove its lay­out and change some fin­ishes, but they quickly learned that the per­mit process in Italy can stall even the most en­thu­si­as­tic plans. “We waited and waited for li­censes that never came and fi­nally just started liv­ing in the house as it was,” Cyn­thia re­mem­bers. “Even­tu­ally we re­alised that some of our pro­posed changes were com­pletely un­nec­es­sary, so in the end all that paperwork and bu­reau­cracy saved us.”

With no ma­jor ren­o­va­tion to wran­gle over, the task of mak­ing the apart­ment their home be­came a process of pure dec­o­ra­tion — wall colours, fab­rics, fur­ni­ture, art and light­ing. In this en­deav­our, the cou­ple let their nat­u­ral affini­ties guide them.

“Gio­vanni has such a pas­sion for fur­ni­ture and ob­jects that we spend part of prac­ti­cally ev­ery week­end at vin­tage fur­ni­ture mar­kets and an­tiques fairs,” says Cyn­thia, not­ing that her own dec­o­rat­ing pas­sions tilt more to­ward colour and tex­tiles. “We’ve been all over Italy and Europe seek­ing out the ex­act pieces he has in mind.” Both of their tal­ents are abun­dantly dis­played in the liv­ing room, where stand­out 1960s de­signs like the fu­tur­is­tic Egg chairs by Mario Sabot take cen­tre stage while two slen­der white LT8 lamps by Os­valdo Bor­sani sug­gest a vis­ual di­vi­sion between the liv­ing and din­ing ar­eas. Gio­vanni’s fam­ily has been in­volved in fash­ion for gen­er­a­tions (his par­ents, Gianni and Con­suelo Castiglioni, founded Marni in 1994), so it’s no sur­prise that the chic vin­tage Knoll din­ing ta­ble came from his grand­mother’s house, as did a mas­sive mir­ror with a curvy bev­elled top that had pre­vi­ously been in her dress­ing room. The space’s bold jux­ta­po­si­tion of creamy white and in­tense grey walls and the lux­u­ri­ous mus­tard-coloured vel­vet cur­tains were Cyn­thia’s do­ing.

For the last three years, the apart­ment has also housed Ali­ita’s show­room — although that will change when the grow­ing busi­ness soon moves into nearby of­fices. The cou­ple cob­bled to­gether the jewellery gallery’s al­tar-like cen­tre ta­ble by putting a lus­trous new mar­ble top on a curvy bronze base they found at an an­tiques shop. Pro­vid­ing a vivid coun­ter­point to the room’s cool Prus­sian blue walls is a lu­mi­nous pome­gran­ate-red Chi­nese silk car­pet, an­other Castiglioni fam­ily heir­loom. And the well-cu­rated mix of ob­jects on the shelves is just a sam­pling of Gio­vanni’s flea mar­ket shop­ping prow­ess. The de­signer saw work­ing from home as a win/win sit­u­a­tion. “It gave me a chance to be with my chil­dren when they were young and re­ally needed me and, as it turned out, clients ac­tu­ally liked com­ing off the streets into the warmth of a home,” she says. “I had qual­ity time for both my fam­ily and my busi­ness.”

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