BO­HEMIAN RHAP­SODY

Architectural Digest (UAE) - - Contents -

Ex­plor­ing Dan­ish fash­ion de­signer Mar­lene Birger's lake­side ren­o­va­tion

On ei­ther side of the main door, a small chairs sits, up­hol­stered in sassy, striped ze­bra-print. Two dark wood Syr­ian inlaid chairs stand fur­ther within the en­trance, and two Ro­man glass wall lamps like ripe red grapes hang in be­tween

and now, Dan­ish fash­ion de­signer and artist Ma­lene Birger joins that priv­i­leged pack. In Septem­ber 2016, she and her hus­band bought an old villa over­look­ing the lake, on a pic­turesque hill­side near the west­ern shore, which they’ve spent their time since ren­o­vat­ing. The villa houses their vast col­lec­tion of an­tiques, vin­tage furniture, art and ob­jets, all bought at auc­tions and at flea mar­kets around the world. “My home re­flects my many jour­neys around the globe, and ex­presses the ex­ten­sive num­ber of cre­ative cul­tures that we’ve been lucky enough to get to know,” ex­plains Birger. “I am and will al­ways be a nomad – trav­el­ling runs in my blood, and ev­ery trip in­spires me.” While she ex­plains that on av­er­age, they move ev­ery se­cond year, she says for now, Italy is home. “Com­ing from busy Lon­don, Lake Como’s like heaven,” she says. “The house is grand and has high ceil­ings, and that space adds free­dom to my ev­ery­day life – we’ve found peace.”

All the orig­i­nal de­tails in the house have been pre­served or re­fur­bished, which, Birger says, is some­thing she is unswerv­ingly com­mit­ted to on all of her projects. On this, her lat­est, some ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments have been up­dated to re­flect more mod­ern meth­ods and ad­vanced ideas, but the spirit of the house is un­com­pro­mised. “I am a max­i­mal­ist, and my style is def­i­nitely eclec­tic, but it’s con­trolled,” Birger de­clares. The black and white mar­ble-striped floors she’s in­stalled in the kitchen, the hall and the four bath­rooms could lend them­selves to a more stark sense of lux­ury, but her Turk­ish rugs, or­nate an­tique light fix­tures and an abun­dance of in­tri­cate Syr­ian inlaid furniture, el­e­vate it all to an ex­quis­ite bo­hemian chic. “I fi­nally have enough space for

Over the last ten years, North­ern Italy’s Lake Como has be­come a des­ti­na­tion for the stylish set. No­table folk in­clud­ing Ge­orge Clooney, Madonna and Donatella

Ver­sace have all owned houses on the largo,

ev­ery­thing – my furniture, my art and even my col­lec­tion of vin­tage cloth­ing and jew­ellery.”

Dis­parate in­flu­ences like Ara­bian ar­chi­tec­ture, Carlo Bu­gatti and her col­lec­tion of Seven­ties de­signer furniture are mixed and matched in ev­ery room, a col­lage of moder­nity and his­tory. The span of eclec­tic style and de­sign in­cludes Ital­ian icons Joe Colombo, Gabriella Crespi and Willy Rizzo, which are jux­ta­posed with an­tiques in­clud­ing carved In­dian col­umns from a palace in Rajasthan, bought in Delhi in 2014, that have been re­lo­cated from her show­room in Copen­hagen and are now ar­ranged as pairs, di­vid­ing the din­ing room and the liv­ing room, as well as the wardrobe and the mas­ter bed­room on the first floor.

The house, built in 1905, has only had one other owner - the Ital­ian sports­wear fam­ily FILA, who lived there dur­ing their sum­mer hol­i­days, so its ren­o­va­tion has been a big chal­lenge. “The house has not un­der­gone any ren­o­va­tion for over 40 years,” she ex­plains. “The ground floor, for in­stance, was like step­ping into a damp, dark cigar box, but that space has now be­come my beau­ti­ful, bright of­fice. And we still have to fin­ish the swim­ming pool and the gar­den, which is full of old, beau­ti­ful mag­no­lias and pine trees, but it needs struc­ture and a con­cept.”

Since the sale of her fash­ion brand in 2014, Birger has turned her at­ten­tion to her art and in­te­ri­ors. Al­though as yet un­re­al­ized, her dream is to own a group of bou­tique ho­tels fab­ri­cated in her sig­na­ture style. With her on­go­ing cre­ative con­sul­tancy projects and her nat­u­ral knack for in­te­ri­ors, this lat­est Lake Como project is a step to­ward those bou­tique bolt­hole am­bi­tions. They are cer­tain to be among the most stylish stays around.

RIGHT: A strik­ing black and white “Daz­zle” ta­ble by Willy Rizzo echoes the mar­ble floors that Birger has in­stalled in the kitchen and bath­rooms. Hang­ing

on the wall are two In­dian mas­sage benches, be­hind an Elda arm­chair by Joe Colombo

BE­LOW: Birger as­cends the orig­i­nal grey mar­ble stair­case

with in­tri­cate wrought iron ban­nis­ter. The palm tree is from the Fifties, the two Savonarola chairs are from An­dalu­sia, and

the wall is dec­o­rated with art­work in­clud­ing Birger's own

OP­PO­SITE PAGE: Around an eight­ies mar­ble ta­ble

stand six iconic Eero Saari­nen Tulip chairs. The ter­rine and vase were de­signed by Dan­ish artist Arje Griegst. The chan­de­lier is

from a palace in In­dia

“The ground floor was like step­ping into a damp, dark cigar box, but that space has be­come my beau­ti­ful, bright of­fice” LEFT: Birger's black desk, from the Seven­ties, faces a win­dow that looks out onto the gar­den. The dec­o­ra­tive paper bin and boxes be­neath are from Birger's 2018 Dé­cor Col­lec­tion. Ber­tel Bjerre's art, col­lages and mood boards stand op­po­site. The cabi­net is Mo­roc­can, hand­made in the Fifties BE­LOW: Paint­brush pots, in­clud­ing one by Louis Vuit­ton OP­PO­SITE PAGE: The steel kitchen is from Ikea but has a cus­tom mar­ble top that matches the mas­ter bath­room on the first floor. Above the fire­place hang a col­lec­tion of Flora Dan­ica plates, and be­low stand a pair of vin­tage Seven­ties lamps. A col­lec­tion of an­tique brass can­dle­sticks is ar­ranged on a tray. Six Bofin­ger chairs by Hel­mut Bätzner sur­round a French iron ta­ble.

The inlaid head­board for the bed is Birger's own de­sign from her 2014 Dé­cor Col­lec­tion. A Carlo Bu­gatti bench stands at the foot of the bed, and art deco metal lamps from Los An­ge­les stand on Bel­gian black lac­quer side ta­bles. The small pic­tures on the wall are by Dan­ish artist Tal R

RIGHT: The shower (big enough for two, Birger says) is wrapped in the black and

white mar­ble that runs through­out the house. Small

Syr­ian ta­bles set with dec­o­ra­tive crys­tal con­tain­ers stand next to the over­sized bath­tub BE­LOW: A Syr­ian

chair, bought in Bel­gium, stands next to a brass lamp by

Gabriele Crespi OP­PO­SITE PAGE: Floor-to-ceil­ing French

doors open to a bal­cony over­look­ing the lake. Swan chairs by Arne Ja­cob­sen sit on an an­tique Mo­roc­can rug, and on the wall is an 18th cen­tury paint­ing of a Mid­dle

East­ern man “I am a max­i­mal­ist, and my style is eclec­tic, but it’s con­trolled”

The ad­di­tion of ca­nary yel­low fea­ture walls in the liv­ing room en­richen thedark wood and brown leather sofa that di­videsthe room. The vel­vet arm­chairs are from the Seven­ties, the con­sole ta­ble is from Ma­lene Birger’s 2014 Dé­cor Col­lec­tion, and the lamps are from her 2018 Dé­cor Col­lec­tion. On the walls, Ma­lene’s own art ispre­sented

“I am, and al­ways will be a nomad - trav­el­ling runs in my blood. Ev­ery trip in­spires me”

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