Jewel in the dust
Caring for the period details of a time worn 19th century Art Nouveau building needn't mean living in a shrine to the past, as the owner of this apartment in northern Italy has shown
Caring for the period details of a 19th-century Art Nouveau building needn’t mean living in a shrine to the past, as the owner of this apartment in northern Italy has shown
With crumbling beauty Venice to the east and design metropolis Milan to the west, the aesthetic of fashion entrepreneur Carlo Zanuso’s home appears to be a tale of the two cities. When the founder of young Italian clothing brand Pomandère acquired a one-bedroom, first-floor apartment in this fin-de-siècle ‘palazzina’, built in the Liberty (Italy’s answer to Art Nouveau) style, it was the embodiment of faded grandeur. ‘ When I first laid eyes on it, I knew that this place was a treasure to be cherished,’ he says. And cherish it he has, but, by illuminating 18th-century oil paintings with warehouse-style lighting and mixing objects discovered at flea markets with 20th-century design classics, he has also rendered it a calm and entirely contemporary space.
After a little restoration – sanding and re-polishing the original parquet and terrazzo flooring and cleaning the interior frescoes – Carlo modernised the 120-square-metre space with a light touch. ‘Nothing radical. I did it all myself,’ he points out. There were three key jobs to be tackled: putting in a shower, giving the walls a coat of chalky matt paint and installing an industrial-style kitchen. ‘I wanted my kitchen to resemble a little, old café, so I mixed inox [short for inoxydable, the French for stainless steel] with antiques,’ he says. Carlo’s wall display, featuring a collection of antique pearly white plates, amassed over many years, faces shelves of equally milky, but modern, ceramic tableware from luxury French ceramics brand Astier de Villatte and local artisans. It’s a chic example of this homeowner’s expert eye for mixing old and new – something he says he has always been interested in.
Carlo has also subtly brought his home’s architectural opulence – marble stairs, hand-wrought iron banister, neoclassical cornicing, soaring ceilings – down to earth by introducing modest materials such as reclaimed wood, rough linen and Moroccan kilims. Indeed, it’s nature’s contribution to the apartment that he prizes the most: ‘Thanks to the tall windows, the light is the star of the show here. It makes for a very serene space.’ pomandere.com