Rome wasn’t built in a day

An Ital­ian ar­chi­tect mixes an­cient and modern

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENTS - Achille Sal­vagni’s lat­est show, Ky­oto, is at Achille Sal­vagni Ate­lier, 12 Grafton Street, Lon­don W1 (achille­sal­

IF YOU’RE AN ART-LOV­ING bil­lion­aire with a cou­ple of homes and maybe a su­per-yacht to fur­nish, Ro­man ar­chi­tect and de­signer Achille Sal­vagni is the per­son to call. For dis­cern­ing in­di­vid­u­als of wealth, his taste, flair with colour and eye for rare col­lecta­bles have made him the in­te­rior de­signer of choice.

Sal­vagni now pro­duces his own limited-edi­tion light­ing and fur­ni­ture, too. Made by Ro­man ar­ti­sans in mar­ble, ony x , lac­quered wood and bronze, these beau­ti­fully crafted pieces are sold by de­sign gallery Mai­son Ger­ard in New York and, since 2015, in his own show­room in Lon­don’s May­fair.

Not that his home in Rome’s Quartiere Coppedè, which he shares with his

wife, Valentina, a univer­sity pro­fes­sor, and two chil­dren, Gae­tano, seven, and Vic­to­ria, four, is decked out solely in Sal­vagni. That’s not his style. Like the sur­round­ing neigh­bour­hood, renowned for its mix of ar­chi­tec­tural gen­res, Salv ag nib rings to­gether dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods, sourc­ing pieces from auc­tions, flea mar­kets, gal­leries and an­tique shops, with a few of his own de­signs sprin­kled in.

There’ s a strong Ital­ian thread through­out, with no­table ap­pear­ances from his per­sonal favourites, 20th-cen­tury de­sign greats Paolo Buffa and Gio Ponti. But, he says, ‘I pre­fer to cre­ate a stage for many souls to find their own space. I love many styles; it ’s a mis­match.’ Al­beit a fab­u­lous one, where a 1930s Buffa card ta­ble stands in front of a Bie­der­meier cab­i­net, Gio Ponti ves­sels line up next to Etr­uscan vases, and a Louis XV con­sole sits be­neath a can­vas by con­tem­po­rary artist Et­tore Spal­letti.

In­her­ited gems in­clude Tang vases and an early-20th-cen­tury self-por­trait by Gior­gio de Chirico, a gift from Sal­vag-

‘I seek out old-mas­ter colours be­cause they’re time­less… not ag­gres­sive, but calm­ing’

ni’s fa­ther, as well as an early-19th-cen­tury plas­ter bust from his mother’s side of the fam­ily. ‘He was so se­ri­ous I put a pair of swim­ming gog­gles on him,’ Sal­vagni says. ‘I like to be a lit­tle ironic some­times to de­mol­ish the se­ri­ous­ness.’

The colour scheme is clas­si­cal, com­plete with soft ul­tra­ma­rine, si­enna, ochre and um­ber, nat­u­ral pig­ments that date back to the Re­nais­sance. ‘I seek out old-mas­ter colours be­cause they ’re time­less,’ Sal­vagni ex­plains. ‘I’m con­vinced that how you feel in a space is con­nected to the colours. If they come from the past they are not ag­gres­sive or over­pow­er­ing, but calm­ing.’

De­spite his pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise, most de ci sions were taken jointly, though Sal­vagni had the fi­nal word, ‘ be­cause my wife trusts me’. She ev­i­dently shares his at­ten­tion to de­tail as the pair spent an en­tire af­ter­noon with a dec­o­ra­tor test­ing dif­fer­ent white paints for the liv­ing-room walls. ‘It faces west and be­cause of the art it was re­ally im­por­tant to get the right white. We didn’t want the wall to turn a strange yel­low when the sun sets, so we had to add some grey tones to avoid that.’

The abun­dance of light was one of the key fac­tors that prompted the fam­ily to move in. Sal­vagni had b e en search­ing for a cen­tral Rome prop­erty with a large ter­race for over a year when ten­ants va­cated this apart­ment, which had been a wed­ding gift to his wife from her par­ents. ‘We stepped in and it was full of light. We looked at the beau­ti­ful views and thought, “Why not?”’

It took a year to re con­fig ure the 3,500sq ft listed apart­ment, trans­form­ing it into a three-bed­room fam­ily home with quar­ters for a house­keeper and nanny. It was orig­i­nally com­posed of many smaller rooms, with two bath­rooms, but Sal­vagni con­nected spa­ces to cre­ate larger liv­ing ar­eas and in­stalled five bath­rooms, re­peat­ing ar­chi­traves and restor­ing 19th-cen­tury el­e­ments. He avoids generic sup­pli­ers right down to hard­ware, pre­fer­ring to de­sign his own bronze door han­dles and hinges.

And how do two young chil­dren fit into such an im­pec­ca­ble space? ‘I need this bal­ance and pu­rity, oth­er­wise I can­not breathe; for me it’s a sense of daily in­spi­ra­tion,’ says Sal­vagni. ‘The chil­dren’s bed­rooms are in the same style, but of course it’s their space, be­cause chil­dren need their free­dom. How­ever, they will grow up ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this and you can’t un­der­es­ti­mate the power of beauty in shap­ing your fu­ture.’

‘I need this bal­ance and pu­rity, oth­er­wise I can­not breathe… it’s a sense of daily in­spi­ra­tion’

Achille Sal­vagni with his wife, Valentina, and chil­dren, Vic­to­ria and Gae­tano, in their apart­ment

Right Sal­vagni’s bronze­and-onyx Spi­der chan­de­lier hangs above a ta­ble also of his own de­sign in the din­ing room. The chairs, by To­maso Buzzi, were re­uphol­stered by Sal­vagni.

Far right Above a Paolo Buffa bar cab­i­net hangs an art­work by Giuseppe Uncini. The Venini glass sculp­ture dates back to the 1920s

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