Classical inspirations and Scandinavian design icons take each other on in the Italian capital, in a home overlooking the Forum of Augustus
By Chiara Dal Canto - Photos Helenio Barbetta Text Danilo Ascani
Just a few metres away is the Baroque façade of the church of Santi Quirico e Giulitta, a widow from a noble family who was martyred together with her young son during the reign of Diocletian. A little beyond that is the wonderful Forum of Augustus, bearing witness to the splendours and debauchery of Imperial Rome. Amidst the alleyways of Monti, sacred and profane are two sides of the same coin, in a surprising paradox that also seems to be reflected in this apartment, where traces of coarse history and modern icons of Scandinavian design perform an exemplary duet. This is the dream home of Stefania Aristei, a banking and financial law consultant, now working on a fashion line developed in partnership with Eugenia, a young local crea- tive to whom she entrusts her designs. It was impossible not to be captivated by these spaces. Madly in love with this neighbourhood just a step away from the Coliseum, Stefania gave in completely to the Bohemian charm of the area, packed with workshops, artists and artisans, and right next to the symbol of ancient Rome. “The apartment benefits from extraordinary views. It has more than ten French windows and is beautifully lit at every hour of the day, especially at sunset”, says its elegant occupant, who has lived within its walls for barely a year with her partner Daniele Dolci. After restoring the 19th-century cement tiles, made by the great-grandfather of the previous owner (who also made them for churches) and preserving the bare beams, the couple furnished the third floor of the historical building with the expert assistance of Dispensabile Studio, a workshop and store specialising in furniture from northern Europe, first and foremost Denmark. Large expanses ranging from white to grey − the favourite colour of Ms Aristei because it represents order, harmony and balance − act as a backdrop to Gamfratesi chairs and stools, as well as to bestsellers by Mathias Hahn, Alvar Aalto and Wim Rietveld. Meanwhile, timid brushstrokes of colour in the accessories insinuate themselves subtly amidst the colourless areas and proudly understated hues. A love of art, particularly early 20th-century pieces, is apparent wherever you look. Stefania only surrounds herself with works that really stir her deep down. Her favourite painting is Axum, a portrait from 1928 by Thayaht (the pseudonym adopted by Ernesto Michahelles, the Futurist painter, goldsmith and sculptor, who designed for Madeleine Vionnet and invented the jumpsuit in 1919 with his brother Ram). But that’s not all. In the bedroom, the most embellished room in the home, a touch of classicism returns in a small 18th-century painting by Caterina De Julianis: it is entitled St Mary Magdalene in
Adoration of the Cross. “Like other canvases, I found it in the Galleria Carlo Virgilio & C., on Via della Lupa”, explains Aristei, who also has an expert eye for modern and contemporary artworks. This is the case of the mobile sculpture by the Danish artist Ole Flensted, an unusual presence floating amidst the beams in the living room, and the sparkling Mirror Sculptures, a set of 3D decorations hanging in the same room. Meanwhile, Idea Orbitale Com
posta, an abstract installation by Franco Cannilla, is equally noteworthy, ready to welcome visitors at the entrance, on the Royal System bookcase by Poul Cadovius. Her decisions are always determined by inspiration, a lightning strike when looking in the window of an antiques shop, and rarely by the mere value of a piece. “I prefer to follow my instincts, a bit like I do when I’m in London and I visit the auction houses and the shops in Chelsea, or I explore
the galleries taking part in the Mayfair Art Weekend, an event that takes place at the start of the summer and is growing in popularity. Even just flicking through coffee table books at Assouline, in Piccadilly, is a wonderful source of inspiration for giving a special twist to interiors. And it works even better if I’m looking for ideas for a new collection of outfits”, she clarifies. Her Instagram profile (#elettrasvevaromana) is a litmus paper of wide-reaching interests − rooted in art, fashion and design − through which she describes herself in images to her 18,000 followers. Equally impulsive, dictated solely by good taste, is the arrangement of the lights in a home with large windows, that allow the long rays of the sun to slide over the walls. Her instinctive preference for designer lights has prevailed over the need to orchestrate impeccable light design. As a result, Stefania has surrounded herself with designs packed with character: Marseille wall lamps by Le Corbusier, Panthella and Wire lamps by Verner Panton, AJ lamps by Arne Jacobsen and the more recent Mantis and Les acrobates de Gras lamps from French brand DCW Éditions. A collection of styles studied with apparent nonchalance and great effect. Because everything is lit up by passion.