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A Villa in Turin



I was asked to help make this exuberant, 1900 Turin villa more liveable. Its overabundance of (sometimes quite ugly) period detail had to work with my client's very fine collection of furniture, pictures and objects. Here, on a table covered with a Savonnerie carpet, I placed two marble emperors on simple bases, and covered the 1750 chair in grey pinstripe suiting.


The guest loo already had a central area with a vaulted ceiling, which prompted my architectural treatment of sketchy blockwork and vaulting, with a Doric frieze, all done in a crude faux bois inspired by some Swiss china I had seen in Lausanne.


This little breakfast room/pantry had a very pretty mosaic floor, which I revealed by raising the existing cupboards on tapered legs, making new doors of opal glass. Above them, within painted panels, I placed a collection of old bottles on deliberately simple brackets. The table was painted with faux marbre and Phoenician vases.


My client had an interesting collection of miniatures which she used to keep in a glass-topped coffee table: you couldn't see the miniatures which were hidden by the constant trays of coffee. I designed a pair of very architectural vitrines to hold them in the small sitting room, the miniatures hung in velvet interiors lit by fibre optics.


The enormous dining room had a heavy, ponderous Baroque-style ceiling, painted to look like dark wood, which was horribly depressing. I painted it white and gave the room energy with David Hicks-style shaped, bordered pelmets on the curtains and star-patterns of porcelain plates on apple-green papered walls, with thin red stripes on the fine Venetian chairs.


I stretched pink cotton on the walls of the main Salotta, and designed a 'parquet and marble' rug to add a modern focus to the collection of 18th century pictures and furniture. Through the doors is a smaller sitting room, with walls of cream paper banded in Madonna blue, to match the Della Robbia tondo hanging on the mirror.


This loggia had hideous 1950's double-glazing which I replaced with new aluminium windows in steel grey, decorated with rivets like fin-de-siecle engineering, with Soanesque yellow glass top-lights. To make it feel like an outside space, I replaced a parquet floor with typical Turin stone, painting the walls with a blockwork design, forming a coffered, cement-coloured ceiling.


This overwhelming space needed a very modern dash. Gloomy, massive and north-facing, it seemed to demand the singing, bright yellow walls with giant stars that I picked out of the original mosaic floor, and all its riotous mouldings ungilded and painted a buff stone colour. My big, star-shaped, steel lantern fitted with spotlights added a nightclub raffishness to the scene.


The house's original library was a fusty, gloomy, dark room. I replaced it with this dramatic construction of architectural elements, boldly detailed in deliberate contrast to all the original work. Above stone-coloured woodwork are panels of purple wool edged in scarlet, as is the seagrass carpet; the interiors of cupboards and shelves are lacquered midnight blue.