A cor­ner in the liv­ing area of in­te­rior de­signer Francesca Orsi’s re­stored palace.

With clear ideas, com­plete au­ton­omy and stead­fast de­ter­mi­na­tion, in­te­rior de­signer Francesca Orsi spent more than three years ren­o­vat­ing her FOR­MER CAS­TLE. But for her, it will al­ways be a “work in progress”.

VOGUE Living Australia - - Contents - Writ­ten & styled by Francesca Davoli Pho­tographed by Fabrizio Cic­coni

In Guastalla, a town in the prov­ince of Reg­gio Emilia, Italy, the streets of the city cen­tre are small path­ways cross­ing each other while meet­ing a suc­ces­sion of gates; they speak of a time that ap­pears to stand still. Here, a Ne­o­re­al­ist at­mos­phere blends into a no­ble world with in­ter­na­tional flair, one that’s home to eclec­tic in­te­rior de­signer Francesca Orsi — the soul of ate­lier L’Orangerie.

Her home, an op­u­lent, three-storey Baroque for­mer palace, dates back to 1600, its dec­o­ra­tive wall lay­ers re­veal­ing a suc­ces­sion of changes over time. It was pure chance that led Orsi to this mag­nif­i­cent build­ing: she had an op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire it 12 years ago when she was search­ing for a new liv­ing/re­tail space, but de­cided to go with an­other op­tion in the nearby vil­lage of Novel­lara — a charm­ing 19th-cen­tury villa that still houses L’Orangerie. Then in 2013, she started long­ing for a new home with a gar­den, and the palace was once again on of­fer. “In that mo­ment, with­out any hes­i­ta­tion, I un­der­stood that it had been wait­ing for me all along,” she re­calls.

Fol­low­ing the death of its pre­vi­ous owner, the palace had been aban­doned for sev­eral years. Orsi’s first post-pur­chase in­spec­tion was un­set­tling: the build­ing was in a se­ri­ous state of dis­re­pair, and she was fac­ing sev­eral struc­tural is­sues that would re­quire la­bo­ri­ous re­con­struc­tion.

For­tu­nately, the de­signer’s taste for a cre­ative new chal­lenge grew in pro­por­tion to the is­sues she faced. “My job — and the pas­sion I feel for it — helped me so much in devel­op­ing a long-term vi­sion for gravely dam­aged spa­ces,” she notes. It was her con­vic­tion to trans­form these spa­ces that bol­stered her dur­ing the long and ar­du­ous ren­o­va­tion pe­riod, which lasted more than three years. “Dur­ing this time, I was de­ter­mined to pro­ceed au­tonomously, with­out an ar­chi­tect’s as­sis­tance,” Orsi de­clares. “My ideas were very clear; I knew my goals, and I wanted to reach them on my own.” ››

“My job — and the pas­sion I feel for it — helped me so much in devel­op­ing a long-term vi­sion for gravely dam­aged spa­ces” francesca orsi

“I wanted to cre­ate an at­mos­phere with evoca­tive taste — a wun­derkam­mer that kid­naps the gaze, re­gard­less of the taste of those who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it” francesca orsi

‹‹ Dur­ing the restora­tion, Orsi adopted one ba­sic prin­ci­ple: to pre­serve the blue­print as well as the orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als, such as the plas­ter and the floors, as much as pos­si­ble. She re-cov­ered all of the build­ing’s floors and re­tained most of the orig­i­nal fix­tures. Large win­dows al­low the gar­den to be­come an in­te­gral part of the home, cre­at­ing a per­fect syn­ergy between the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior. Orsi en­listed her long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor, in­te­rior de­signer Eva Ger­mani, to help re­alise her vi­sion of a home gar­den. “We dis­cussed the theme for hours,” she says. “I talked about my love for pop­pies, and dur­ing this long plan­ning chat, we had al­ready es­tab­lished di­men­sions and colours of the gar­den wall, where we now have a kitchen with an ex­tremely min­i­mal style — one of the fo­cal points of the house. In per­fect syn­ergy with my feel­ings, Eva man­aged to paint my dream.” Sum­ming up her over­ar­ch­ing in­te­rior de­sign ap­proach, Orsi says, “I wanted to cre­ate an at­mos­phere with evoca­tive taste — a wun­derkam­mer [cham­ber of won­ders] that kid­naps the gaze, re­gard­less of the taste of those who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it.” Once the restora­tion was com­plete, Orsi moved on to the fur­nish­ings. She chose a mix of styles — vin­tage, con­tem­po­rary, Baroque, Nordic and 1940s — re­flec­tive of the trea­sures she cu­rates at L’Orangerie. “Hang­ing out in the most in­ter­est­ing mar­kets and Euro­pean débal­lages [events re­served for an­tiques deal­ers, fea­tur­ing old fur­ni­ture and ob­jects], I gath­ered myr­iad fur­nish­ings, some of which were not the fi­nal prod­ucts but the start­ing point for cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment,” she says. “Of course, my work leads me to con­tin­u­ally eval­u­ate new ideas and new sources of in­spi­ra­tion. As such, my house will never be fin­ished but a work in progress — a can­vas on which to sketch dreams and vi­sions tied to my life­style.”

In an­other view of the liv­ing room, Flavia Morri brass ta­bles; Renzo Ser­afini ta­ble lamp; Noe sofa by Verzel­loni; 1950s side­board from Bologna; vel­vet-and-linen cush­ions by C & C Mi­lano; large early-20th-cen­tury golden mir­ror (on side­board), along with a se­ries of bar­ber mir­rors col­lected across Europe.

In the main bed­room, Art Deco arm­chair; washed silk-and-vel­vet bed linen by Eva Ger­mani; crowns of iron leaves (on wall) pur­chased in Paris.

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