Ren­o­vat­ing this apart­ment re­vealed the lay­ers of history hid­den within its walls

Re­con­nect­ing with the city of Palermo, Dario Longo be­gan a restora­tion project that has un­cov­ered the lay­ers of history hid­den within his home’s walls

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Contents - Words AMY BRAD­FORD Pho­tog­ra­phy ALESSAN­DRA IANNIELLO/LIV­ING INSIDE

Hall­way The apart­ment still has its orig­i­nal tiled floors, while the in­tri­cate fresco was dis­cov­ered un­der­neath coats of paint Ex­te­rior This stun­ning palazzo dates back to the 17th cen­tury

Liv­ing room The floral de­sign on the wall may re­sem­ble wall­pa­per, but is ac­tu­ally an­other fresco. The vel­vet sofa is a vin­tage piece from the 1950s

and my fam­ily still live there, but af­ter I left for univer­sity, I rarely went back,’ says Dario Longo. Now a lawyer in Mi­lan, his re­con­nec­tion with his home city has been a grad­ual process. ‘About 10 years ago, I spent a week­end there with a group of friends,’ he re­mem­bers. ‘At first, I was sur­prised how much they liked it and that they kept want­ing to go back. I think it’s be­cause it’s still so au­then­tic, like step­ping back in time.’ The week­ends be­came an an­nual tra­di­tion, and soon Dario be­gan look­ing for a per­ma­nent base. But even though Palermo’s full of beau­ti­ful man­sions, his search wasn’t easy; much of the city’s old wealth has fallen away, so those grand build­ings have ei­ther sunk into dis­re­pair or been cheaply re­fur­bished.

Even­tu­ally, Dario dis­cov­ered this apart­ment, housed on two floors of a 17th-cen­tury palazzo. Much of its charm was hid­den un­der lay­ers of modern plas­ter and gar­ish or­ange paint, but there was one beau­ti­ful fres­coed ceil­ing still on show. ‘It was the rea­son I fell in love with the place,’ he says. The orig­i­nal lay­out was also com­pletely un­changed, with its huge, won­der­fully pro­por­tioned rooms.

This feel­ing of au­then­tic­ity was vi­tal to Dario. ‘I wanted to feel what it might have been like to live here two or three cen­turies ago.’ He added lit­tle ex­cept a cou­ple of new bath­rooms; the rest of the ren­o­va­tion process con­sisted of strip­ping away all that old, en­crusted plas­ter and paint. He en­listed the help of lo­cal ar­chi­tect Mario Vigneri and re­storer Da­vide San­sone, the curator of a ceram­ics mu­seum nearby, to uncover what lay be­neath. ‘To our sur­prise, we found many more fres­coes,’ he says. In the din­ing room, though, Dario has de­cided to leave parts of the modern plas­ter in­tact, re­paint­ing it a deep blue. ‘Be­cause it’s so thick, it stands out – it’s a re­minder of how the walls used to look and the work that’s been done.’

As for fur­ni­ture, Dario sought out pieces with a sense of history, mix­ing an­tiques with 1950s de­signs and just the oc­ca­sional con­tem­po­rary buy. He also in­dulged his love of asian art. ‘In old Palermo, it was fashionable to have one room ded­i­cated to chi­nois­erie, and I wanted to recre­ate some­thing sim­i­lar,’ he ex­plains.

The serene at­mos­phere of this place has worked on Dario in ways that are more than just vis­ual. ‘I’m the kind of per­son who al­ways has to be out and about do­ing some­thing, but when I’m here I’m much more re­laxed, and so are my friends,’ he says. ‘The place is so big that you can be on your own even among lots of peo­ple; we just chill out, drink wine, read a book or spend time on the ter­race. That’s some­thing I’ve never been used to be­fore.’ ar­chitet­tomar­i­ovi­gneri.it

‘ I WAS BORN IN PALERMO

Din­ing room Eero Saari­nen’s ‘Tulip’ table for Knoll is paired with brass chairs from Rock­ett St Ge­orge. The ‘Tube’ chan­de­lier is by Michael Anas­tas­si­ades. Lit­tle Greene’s ‘ Woad’ paint shade cov­ers the un­re­stored sec­tions of wall and ceil­ing. A col­lec­tion of an­tique soup tureens on small shelves serve as a dec­o­ra­tive con­trast Por­trait Home­owner Dario Longo sits on a vel­vet 18th-cen­tury sofa from Si­cily be­side in­laid Chi­nese ta­bles. The lamps are 1950s pieces by Ital­ian de­signer Luigi Cac­cia Do­min­ioni

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