Our new favourite apartment in Rome doesn’t belong to the kind of pedigreed aristocrat that typically holds the keys to high-end real estate in this ancient city. Instead, it belongs to Fendi

Designed by Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran, of Dimore Studio, the apartment unfolds on the second floor of Palazzo Fendi, a 17th-century pile located on Largo Carlo Goldoni in the heart of Rome, just down the street from the Spanish Steps. Previously a ho-hum Fendi store and anonymous office space, it has been ambitiously reconceived and refurbished as a five-storey cultural, retail, hospitality and entertaining complex for the brand and its clients. 

Following the opening of Fendi’s new headquarters in the refurbished fascist-era Palazzo della Civiltà in Rome’s outer EUR district, Palazzo Fendi now houses a two-floor store designed by Gwenaël Nicolas and a seven-suite hotel, Fendi Private Suites, while the top two floors will soon welcome an incarnation of Rainer Becker’s contemporary Japanese restaurant Zuma, as well as a rooftop bar. 

‘Each maison at LVMH has a store which is much more than the store,’ says Fendi CEO Pietro Beccari, who has overseen the brand’s recent empire building in Rome. ‘It’s the living incarnation of the brand. Dior has Avenue Montaigne, Louis Vuitton has the Champs-Élysées, we have Rome. There is no other place where you can so precisely understand our very personal vision of luxury.’

As for the Fendi apartment, which sits above the shop but below the hotel, it is the crown jewel of this new project. Salci and Moran were picked for the project nearly two years ago by Beccari and Silvia Venturini Fendi, creative director of Fendi’s accessories and menswear. ‘We love their work, their artistic approach, their aesthetics and their attention to detail,’ says Beccari, who together with Venturini Fendi commissioned the duo to create a collection of design pieces for Design Miami in 2014 in the lead up to the Palazzo’s refurbishment. Entitled ‘Roman Lounge’, the well-received display featured two light sculptures, a black iron and smoked glass bookcase, a square dining table, two crocodile and leather armchairs, and a sheared mink-covered chaise longue, all of which were originally conceived for this apartment. ‘Seeing these pieces in their ultimate destination is very exciting,’ says Venturini Fendi.

Known for their skilfully curated interiors, Salci and Moran have the eye of seasoned, finicky collectors, but also understand the joys of flopping on the couch. The combination of museum-worthy art and design pieces assembled in rooms that look holiday-home welcoming is spellbinding. ‘The space was already beautiful,’ says Moran. With lofty 4.2m-high ceilings, double doors, classic windows and massive piles of decorative stucco, there was plenty there for the duo to work with. ‘We wanted to just furnish it and put some colours in.’

Moran is being modest, of course. This was more than a quick paint job, and involved faithfully refurbishing all the historical details, right down to the brass doorknobs and the iron lattice entry way, in-depth research into rare vintage furniture and objects, and an injection of contemporary punch. 

Salci and Moran washed the walls and ceilings with a blue-grey shade of sage that they mixed themselves, resulting in a dramatic Ladurée box-effect. Vintage-looking matt brass touches, all custom-designed by Dimore, are everywhere – from doorway linings to the sculptural cages designed to cover unsightly radiators, air-conditioning units and lighting systems, and which glow like golden bamboo rods.

Even the lift has been caged in brass rods and capped with a huge sculptural dome that resembles an art deco perfume bottle. The designers added Kentia palms throughout the space and a 19th-century wood-bark carpet in the living room (‘It cost a fortune,’ admits Salci, slightly guiltily), which create an exotic, almost colonial feel to the space. ‘It’s not Roman,’ remarks Moran. ‘But it’s very Italian.’

‘It had to have a very warm feeling, not like a store, but a home to relax in, a place to drink a glass of wine or a cup of tea,’ says Salci. ‘So the lights were very important. There are no technical lights anywhere.’

Instead, every soft-glowing lamp is either a midcentury masterpiece, such as Ignazio Gardella’s table lamps for Azucena or Stilnovo appliques, or a custom-made piece by Dimore, like the sculptural brass and glass tube installation in the foyer, the wall sconce in the living room crafted from Fendi Selleria leather, or the monumental Pergamena leather and brass chandeliers hanging over the dining room table.

Just as homey are Axel Vervoordt’s upholstered armchairs, which Dimore paired with its own custom-made, gold silk-fringed, pine green velvet day beds in the living room. A cosy chaise longue, covered in Fendi’s plush sheared pink mink, paired with Meret Oppenheim’s 1949 ‘Traccia’ table, invites visitors to take a nap in the fitting room, where the walls are lined with midnight blue silk fabric. In the dining room, a giant square table with a geometric iron base, surrounded by chairs that Dimore sourced from the Fratelli Levaggi chair workshop in Liguria and covered with 1920s fabric, is large enough to host 16 people at a seated dinner. Meanwhile, the apartment’s exceptional collection of modern art includes pieces by Agostino Bonalumi, Lucio Fontana and Nunzio, on loan from the Mazzoleni gallery in Turin.

The apartment is intended to be used exclusively for entertaining Fendi’s top VIP and celebrity customers. ‘It will allow us to have some friends over for a meal or for drinks in the heart of the city,’ says Beccari. ‘It will be an experience money can’t buy.’  In fact, the only thing missing here is a bedroom. But with Fendi’s new hotel upstairs, beautiful sleeping arrangements are just a flight of stairs away.

As originally featured in the March 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*204)