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

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Contents - Words CHAR­LOTTE BROOK pho­tog­ra­phy MONICA SPEZIA/ LIVING IN­SIDE

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.’ po­man­

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