In the heart of my hometown of Milan, the design firm Studio Peregalli has spent the last two years creating one of its most exquisite interiors. The studio—a collaboration between Roberto Peregalli, who is as much philosopher as interior designer, and the architect Laura Sartori Rimini—was ideally suited to renovate an apartment with such a rich history. These wonderfully layered rooms were originally decorated in the 1950s by Renzo Mongiardino, Studio Peregalli’s own maestro. Both Peregalli and Rimini worked under the tutelage of the legendary Italian decorator until his death in 1998.
A 19th-century Italian library table in the living room is framed by custom benches in a hand-printed leather; the bookcases are Neapolitan, the 17th-century stool is in a green silk velvet, the chandeliers and English rug are from the 19th century, and the 18th-century Imari vase is Japanese.
After six decades, the rooms were still intact, largely thanks to benign neglect. Unfortunately, there was a bit too much neglect, and the interiors had slipped badly into disrepair. When an Italian couple was looking for a new home, they turned to Peregalli, who remembered the once glorious apartment. The couple bought it on his advice and commissioned his firm to bring back the magic of the Mongiardino interiors. The restoration began with a complete rethinking of the home’s layout to make it more livable for a family with two children. “It needed to be more functional,” says Rimini, who updated everything, from the kitchen to bathrooms to the children’s bedrooms.
The tablecloth and 19th-century English mahogany chairs in the dining room are in custom hand-painted fabrics, the grapevine chandelier and Japanese cloisonné vases are from the 19th century, the door has been hand-painted with a floral motif, and the artworks (left) are by Lila de Nobili.
She and Peregalli salvaged every single Mongiardino detail that could be saved, from antique wallpapers to the Charles X–inspired bookcases that encircle a library designed in the turquerie style. “The other rooms have been completely reinvented,” says Peregalli, “with the spirit of creating harmony between them and the original designs.”
In the dining room, a Louis XVI console is topped with an 18th-century vase; the gilt-bronze candelabra and silver tray are both from the 19th century.
The moment one enters the home, one is struck by the impact of the trompe l’oeil decoration that fills the entry hall—the most expressive vestige of Mongiardino’s vision. An imagined landscape framed with trellises, the 18th-century mural once hung in a French château. Studio Peregalli preserved the original, then expanded the pastoral imagery to extend alongside the balustrades that frame the curving staircase. To further embellish the space, some 50 artisans ranging from carpenters to bronzesmiths contributed flourishes with masterful workmanship—from an intricately hand-painted door to a newly laid parquet floor in a geometric pattern of dark walnut and oak.
The claw-foot Empire bed in the master bedroom has gilt pine cone and putti details. The antique chandelier is Russian, and the scenic wallpaper is from the 19th century.
The trompe l’oeil continues in the master bedroom, where a hand-painted grisaille scenic wallpaper from the 19th century transforms the low-ceilinged space into a whimsical and charming haven. The wallcovering was purchased at auction in France and adapted to the room. “We created the missing parts, the plinth and the ceiling frame, to depict an Italian capriccio, a fantastical and bucolic landscape with architectural features,” Rimini says.
The master bath’s custom mirror and Carrara marble–topped vanity are based on early-20th-century English furniture designs; the opaline glass pendant is vintage, and the artworks are by Lila de Nobili.
The deft layering of different styles is a Studio Peregalli trademark. In the living room, the sofa is upholstered in a Turkish rug, draped with a red silk velvet throw, and topped with cushions in a diamond motif (a typical Mongiardino accent).
In a hallway leading to the kitchen, an 18th-century Italian bust rests on a column painted to resemble marble, and the kitchen’s antique table and chairs are French.
The effect, especially when set against the backdrop of elaborately decorated walls, is one of controlled exuberance and welcoming luxury. Meanwhile, the sofa—along with others in the apartment—is trimmed with bullion fringe, creating a sense of old-world comfort while adding another allusion to the work of Mongiardino, since he often fringed his upholstery.
The library is reached through a jib door in the living room, where the custom sofa is covered in a Turkish rug and the walnut armchair is from the 18th century.
The owners have a large collection of European artworks that range from the 17th century through the early 20th. For Peregalli, this required a delicate balancing act in designing spaces that would accommodate such a wide range of subjects and styles.
In the guest bedroom, the neo-Gothic headboard is brass, the desk and chair are Napoleon III, and the wallpaper is from the 19th century.
The end result is interiors that revel in maximalism and sheer variety yet coalesce into a harmonious and unified whole. This celebration of pattern and craft is something of a mission for Studio Peregalli, whose endlessly inventive work is documented in its upcoming book, The Grand Tour (Rizzoli),which illustrates a range of the firm’s projects from New York to Tangier. “The intention is to show how, in a world where everything is homogenized and flattened, the aesthetic influences of individual places need to count,” Peregalli says.
The library is framed with bookcases designed in the 1950s by Mongiardino; the walnut desk and chair are Biedermeier, and the velvet sofas are custom.
Indeed, with its trompe l’oeil murals, couture passementerie, and rich fabrics, this magisterial apartment is as much a tribute to its Milanese setting as to the master decorator Mongiardino. “The traditions and civilizations that characterize a place are what inspire us,” Rimini says. “They are the very essence of atmosphere.”
On a balcony planted with papyrus, wisteria, and ferns, a small breakfast area is furnished with a vintage iron table and chairs.
This story originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Siweb.