Luca Guadagnino’s Milan apartment design is an ode to timelessness
A nostalgia-infused Milanese pad by Studio Luca Guadagnino has real screen presence
Entering a Milan apartment living room one flight up from a narrow cobbled street, Luca Guadagnino settles into a Carlo Mollino theatre seat he had reupholstered in a thick, chocolate-coloured Dedar bouclé. Outside, the midday traffic rumbles and roars. But in this yesteryear-inspired apartment interior design he created with wadded silk walls and the antiquatedly discreet charm of the Milanese bourgeoisie, the urban world beyond is hushed and invisible as Guadagnino begins to deliver his thoughts in the rapid-fire clip of a man with two full-time jobs: renowned movie director and upstart interior architect.
‘Nostalgia plays a fundamental role for all of us,’ he says, dressed in well-worn layers of black, so nostalgic himself that he carries a Nokia dumbphone. ‘To be alive means paying the emotional price of always yearning for a return to something lost.’ As a filmmaker, Guadagnino has treated his audiences to minutely detailed settings in retro saturated colours, their grandeur belonging to no particular era, but with a poignant sense of wistful Italianate beauty. As a designer, or rather, as the creative director of the nine-person Studio Luca Guadagnino, he and his team of architects have found a way to turn that backward-longing gaze into contemporary interiors. He considers his output completely diverse. ‘In cinema, the spaces you create are flat and narrate a character,’ he explains. ‘In design, spaces are three-dimensional and in the service of their owners – a different relationship completely.’ Yet a Guadagnino space, in film or in real life, communicates in the same poetry of emotion.
‘It’s not a matter of “vintage” but of timelessness,’ says Stefano Baisi, an architect in Guadagnino’s studio who designed this Milan apartment together with the director. Timelessness can also be new: the Svenskt Tenn couch Baisi sits on is covered in a modern Dedar fabric, the globe lights above him are by Michael Anastassiades, the tile-cut mirror is by Studio Luca Guadagnino itself.
The apartment – actually two small apartments now joined internally by an oak staircase, in a casa di ringhiera, a classic Milanese building with long balustraded open-air corridors – belongs to Federico Marchetti, the fashion technology mogul and founder of Yoox, and a two-decade-long friend of Guadagnino. Though Marchetti and his wife, the journalist Kerry Olsen, moved to much larger Milan digs nine years ago, he held onto this apartment (‘a very dear part of my biography’, as he calls it, where he first lived as a student) as a pied-à-terre for guests, and handed its redesign over to his friend.
It was Marchetti, in fact, who first convinced Guadagnino to design interiors. The director, whom Marchetti knew had harboured dreams since childhood of being an architect as well as a filmmaker (‘I’m an eclectic person,’ says Guadagnino), overhauled his own home in Crema, then agreed to take on Marchetti’s 1,500 sq m Lake Como home – a sizable commission for a beginner – and founded Studio Luca Guadagnino at the same time.
‘There’s an incredible sense of trust between us,’ says Marchetti. ‘It’s a trust derived not just from a great friendship, but from faith in Luca’s taste, and a dedication to work we share that I’d label “Calvinist”. When Luca was at the Oscars for Call Me by Your Name, he was still sending me pictures of couches from the audience.’
The studio harmonised the two floors of Marchetti’s apartment with repeating choruses of materials: the walls’ nubby raw silks in gentle shades of rose and wheat, coarse lime plaster, a surprising bondage-inspired black leather for handrails and curtain holdbacks. Mirrored upstairs doors enlarge the compact space, which has been repartitioned to accommodate two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Twentieth-century designs, such as a George Nakashima dining chair set, mix with the studio’s bespoke steel-frame bookshelves, leather-fronted cabinets, and striking cream and plum kitchen, inspired by the convex curves of the 1950s – ‘a one-of-a-kind kitchen for Federico, since he was such a good sport about letting us do whatever we wanted’, says Guadagnino.
For his films, the director refuses to use anything ‘out of the box’, he says, forgoing prop rental warehouses to instead custom-fabricate what he envisions. Interiors by Studio Luca Guadagnino hedge to the same high-craft originality – ‘the use of the most extreme artisanship’, as he calls it, working with master Italian craftspeople to upholster furniture or wrap steel posts in leather.
A new studio project has an artisan swathing an entire room in woven wicker. ‘There’s a truly rarefied satisfaction when you manage to fuse architectonic design work with the most authentic and specialised artisanship – a union of so many elements and so many personalities creating something together,’ says Guadagnino, heading out by the ribbed glass door for an appointment with an actress.
‘In cinema, you only get this feeling when you see the final performance, but it’s a different world from design.’ Different, perhaps, but to any viewer’s eyes, both the film sets and interiors bear a remarkable kinship of nostalgia. §