The northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna’s picturesque landscape has, in recent years, attracted people to build modern villas with vast windows designed to drink in the views. For Christian Benini, founder and creative director of wallpaper brand Wall & Decò, however, the inspiration for his new home was more traditional.
‘I wanted something like the typical thatched houses that originally dotted the area,’ he explains. ‘Something warm and intimate.’
Christian grew up in the coastal village of Cervia and it was his close connection to this place that saw him return two years ago with his wife, Federica, and their two children.
When the time came to create his dream property, he turned to Fabrizio Bertero and Simona Marzoli, the duo behind Milan-based architecture practice BerteroProjects, who have also designed patterns for Wall & Decò. It’s the first hint that this home is heavily influenced by Christian’s work for the company he set up back in 2005, when he was inspired by the backgrounds – blown-up details of green leaves – that he created for his sets as a photographer.
Today, the driving force behind the brand’s collections is still an appreciation of nature. Just look at the palm leaves in his dining room’s ‘Elisir’ pattern or ‘Midsummer Night’, the illustrative canopy in the bedroom.
‘I have used many, many rolls of wallpaper in my home,’ admits Christian, ‘perhaps 150 or 200 square metres.’ The magic, though, he says, is that ‘you don’t notice it’. The patterns are not intended to be the protagonists of the interior. Instead, there is a carefully orchestrated balance between decorative elements, the furniture and what Christian calls the ‘grammar of the building’ – wood and raw concrete.
‘Friends have asked me why I didn’t choose all of my own designs,’ he adds, ‘but I tell them it’s because I consider every Wall & Decò collection part of my world. It was more important to find the optimum blend.’
It is for this same reason of maintaining visual equilibrium that much of the furniture in this house is custom-made, but there are some key items that have been with the family for years. One of these is the ‘William’ sofa by Damian Williamson for Zanotta. ‘My wife and I forced the architects to fit it in,’ recalls Christian. ‘We actually requested they construct the living room around its dimensions. They couldn’t believe it.’
Another beloved item, and the butt of many family jokes, is the ‘Incas’ dining table by Angelo Mangiarotti. ‘It’s very delicate, despite being made of stone,’ says Christian, ‘but my kids are still young, so they don’t take much care. Almost every day they hear me shouting, ‘Oh my God, the Mangiarotti!’
He may be amusingly protective of it, but, ultimately, the table is no more important than any other design in Christian’s home – a place that values subtlety over star pieces. wallanddeco.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration August 2020
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