PER­SONAL TAKE

A mod­ern no­mad who has lived in Stock­holm, Ma­jorca and London, worl­drenowned Dan­ish fashion de­signer and artist Ma­lene Birger has fi­nally put down her suit­cases in an im­pres­sive villa built in 1905 at Italy’s Lake Como

Elle Decoration (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Text & pro­duc­tion ERIK RIMMER Pho­to­graphs BIRGITTA WOLF­GANG/ SIS­TERS AGENCY

When Dan­ish fashion de­signer and artist Ma­lene Birger made a villa over­look­ing Italy’s Lake Como her home, she was sure to in­ject her max­i­mal­ist and ec­cen­tric style throughout the space

In 2016, Ma­lene Birger and her hus­band bought an old villa with a stun­ning view over­look­ing Lake Como on a hill­side near Tre­mezzo in Italy. Since then, they’ve ren­o­vated and cre­ated an amaz­ing home that ex­presses the essence of Birger’s well-known max­i­mal­ist and eclec­tic style, com­plete with a huge col­lec­tion of an­tiques and vin­tage fur­ni­ture, art and ob­jets bought at auc­tions, flea mar­kets and on her jour­neys around the world.

The re­fur­bish­ing has been quite ex­ten­sive, but, although the house has been al­tered from top to toe, Birger re­tained all of its orig­i­nal de­tails, as she al­ways does in her in­te­rior projects. That’s the charm of the count­less prop­er­ties she has ren­o­vated over the years – only a few walls have come down and the oc­ca­sional smarter con­tem­po­rary ideas care­fully added. ‘The house hadn’t been re­fur­bished for more than 40 years. It was a huge chal­lenge and it is my big­gest ren­o­va­tion to date,’ Birger says.

In­cluded in the re­design are the kitchen, the im­pres­sive 8m-high hall and the four bath­rooms, all of which have been dec­o­rated with black-and-white mar­ble stripes ac­cented with a chan­de­lier – Birger’s sig­na­ture style. What was once a damp ground floor has been trans­formed into a light and bright stu­dio over­look­ing the lake, while out­side, the swim­ming pool and gar­den full of old mag­no­lia and pine trees are next to be up­dated.

Birger’s home is nearly fin­ished and, for the first time, she has all her be­long­ings in one place. The villa is spa­cious enough to con­tain her grand per­sonal col­lec­tion, which in­cludes ob­jects from cul­tures around the world, as well as in­te­rior de­sign books from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Her love of Syr­ian in­lay fur­ni­ture, Ara­bian ar­chi­tec­ture, the works of Ital­ian de­signer Carlo Bu­gatti and 1970s de­signer fur­ni­ture is ev­i­dent in all the rooms, and a pair of In­dian columns bought in Delhi have fi­nally found a home di­vid­ing the din­ing room and liv­ing area, as well as the mas­ter bed­room and wardrobe on the first floor.

As for the colour pal­ette, dark brown, black and white cre­ate a calm, neu­tral back­drop for Birger’s ex­huber­ant way of styling, while strong ca­nary yel­low has been care­fully added in se­lect spa­ces, giv­ing her fur­ni­ture a new lease of life. It’s a fresh, mod­ern and sur­pris­ing el­e­ment for Birger that some­how merges seam­lessly with the ex­plo­sive amount of decor ideas and de­tails present, amongst which are the artist’s own works.

Throughout Birger’s ex­pres­sive home, moder­nity meets cul­ture and his­tory in a char­ac­ter­ful aes­thetic full of con­trast and her dis­tinct per­son­al­ity. It’s dif­fi­cult to se­lect your favourite room – you al­most feel as though you’re in a lux­ury bou­tique ho­tel.

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