In Brianza, in the north of Italy, a fabric designer gives new life and colour to a 14th-century nobleman’s home
Meet & greet
Clio De Maria (fabric designer), husband Gabriel (IT consultant), Pietro Leon, five, and Galizia Lea, two.
I like a place if I trust its light,” says Clio De Maria, a fabric designer (currently working for Somma 1867) and founder of Lacomune, a design studio with an eclectic soul. “And I immediately trusted the light in this house”. The house she is referring to is located in Inverigo, 40km from Milan, within the summer estate of the Count Ripamonti, who moved to Argentina in the 1940s. The building dates from the 14th century: it became a convent for a while and was later divided into several residential areas.
“The first time I saw the house, it reminded me of Notre-Dame du Haut, the chapel designed by Le Corbusier in Ronchamp [France},” continues Clio. “With its slit niches and bizarre curvilinear shape.”
The designer landed in Brianza when she and her husband Gabriel, an IT consultant, were looking for a spacious solution halfway between the open countryside and the city, where they could move with their children, Pietro Leon, five, and Galizia Lea, two.
The house is on several levels and the walls are semi-circular. Apparently, when the property was used as a convent, the space where the living area is now located was used as a “singing room” and you still notice that the sound in the room is amplified.
“I thought it would be a good idea to keep the ethereal atmosphere, making only certain elements stand out. Like the ultramarine blue ceiling, inspired by Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in Padua,” Clio says. “I like to think of it as my own private sky.”
The original floors were retained: Lombardy terracotta tiles and strip wooden flooring.
The designer immediately had clear ideas about how to bring each room to life. Every corner is a story in and of itself, a medley of mementos, tales and quotations that intertwine and blend with one another.
The furnishings and decor are mixed, mainly from markets and journeys, with some pieces being inherited. All the furniture is in fact the result of years of research, which then turned into a profession. As well as designing fabrics and household linen, Clio also creates photographic sets and designs collections for the independent studio Lacomune, which she founded.
Her first capsule collection of objects and furniture in bamboo is a range that takes inspiration from the East, but at the same time is a tribute to the tradition of reed and wicker workmanship typical of this part of the country.
It is the colonial atmosphere of Indochina at the beginning of the 20th century that prevails in the house: lacquers, fans, kimonos and also woven lamps and large-leaved plants. In the study, the ceiling is divided into large blocks of colour, recalling an old vintage chest of poker chips.
The small banana tree room has a dual soul: during the summer it hosts friends, who have exclusive access from the outdoor area, and in autumn it becomes an exotic mini conservatory.
The kitchen, originally designed as an open space, is now separated from the living area by a satin curtain, which, in addition to dividing one space from another, decorates the wall. “I cannot stand curtains on windows, but I love them when they are placed in the most improbable positions, making the space dramatically different,” says Clio.
The granite staircase was left untouched, to highlight its plasticity. On the upper floor, the main bedroom was, among all the spaces, the one that Clio perceived as rather soulless. To make it more interesting, she painted the walls green and powder pink, with a decadent finish.
Art and creativity are in Clio’s blood. Her parents founded a commune (hence the name of her studio) and welcomed friends from all over the world. Most of them arrived with nothing, some carried unusual objects and others offered their works in return for the hospitality received.
“Everyone was doing their share, it was a very lively childhood, full of exciting things”, which in a way seems to be echoed today among the colourful walls of this unique family home.