Last year, while the whole world was closing down and the streets were emptying, Emiliano Salci found himself temporarily stranded. The creative force behind the legendary Dimorestudio had just completed the sale of the Milan apartment he shared with the other half of this renowned duo, Britt Moran.
Having both agreed to live apart for the first time since becoming roommates in the mid-1990s, the pair, who together set up their ground-breaking architecture and design studio in 2013, were home-hunting when the pandemic struck.
In May, as restrictions briefly eased, Emiliano ventured out of his rented accommodation to view this flat, situated in a beautiful 1940s building on a quiet street near the artistic surroundings of the Piazza Risorgimento. ‘I decided on it on a whim,’ he says, having been drawn to its ‘bourgeois feeling and garden planted with palm trees’.
The apartment didn’t require any structural changes, but a lot needed to be done to the rooms for them to meet the exacting aesthetic demands of their new owner. For Emiliano, this was to be his most personal project yet.
Comparisons will be made to previous work, which includes some of the most exciting interiors to have graced the design world in recent years, from the invitingly decadent French Riviera style of Leo’s, a bar hidden in the basement of London members’ haunt The Arts Club, completed back in 2017, to the memorable opulence of Palazzo Fendi, a VIP apartment in the heart of Rome.
Alongside residential projects, hotels and restaurants, the brand has also put its stamp on luxury shopping, devising stores for the likes of Dior, Hermès, Cire Trudon and Aesop.
For dedicated design followers though, perhaps the most lasting impression of Emiliano’s ability to wow was the queues of people waiting to get a glimpse of the brand’s exhibition at the last Salone del Mobile in Milan. In scenes that seem almost unthinkable now, insiders crammed in to view ‘Interstellar’, which launched the furniture, fabric and accessories collections created under the studio’s newly created arm, Dimoremilano.
With 2020’s design week cancelled and 2021 moved to September to hopefully avoid a second no-show, it’s this that has lingered in the minds of many fans.
Theatrically arranged with heavy velvet curtains, and dominated by a rich, unapologetically maximalist colour palette, it was true to the look that Emiliano has been championing since the very start when, he recalls, ‘the design culture in Milan was dominated by minimalism’.
The word ‘Dimore’ translates as dwelling in Italian, but it means more than that. Britt has remarked that it ‘conjures up images of old villas clinging to their aristocratic origins’. Fitting, as there’s a nostalgia to everything the studio does. A time-worn, well-loved type of luxury. Contemporary yet tied to the past.
It is this same ambience, ‘a dusky, nocturnal atmosphere’, as Emiliano puts it, that he has perfected in his new home. Enter and you are greeted by walls painted a deep, seductive shade of orange; elsewhere you find deep maroon and earthy browns that bring to mind images of smoke-filled clubs in the 1970s.
Underfoot, a custom-designed leopard-print carpet by Dimorestudio hints to a playful kind of debauchery, while a walk-in wardrobe cloaked in aubergine-hued satin resembles the stage set for a magician’s big trick – a suitably stylish addition for Emiliano, who was recently included on GQ Italia’s list of best-dressed men.
It’s a colour palette shared by the collections Emiliano had been working on for Dimoremilano – ‘bourgeois and classic, but with a Dimore twist’.
Despite it being a strange time to embark on a renovation, the designer adopted a very hands-on approach to transforming his apartment, working with the artisans – carpenters, painters and blacksmiths – who had collaborated with him on past Dimorestudio projects. ‘They were delighted to be working on something after the lockdown,’ he adds, ‘so everything happened very quickly.’
Everywhere you look, there’s a mix of the brand’s contemporary pieces and vintage gems. It’s a combination that will be familiar to anyone who has visited Dimoregallery, opened on the second floor of a grand Milanese palazzo back in 2014. The third string in this prolific studio’s bow, the space consists of six rooms where historical pieces, selected by Emiliano for their impact on the path of design, rub shoulders with modern creations by Dimoremilano and other big names on the contemporary international scene.
In fact, Emiliano sourced much of the furniture and lighting for his own apartment from the gallery. Some items, though, have been with him much longer, such as the ‘Arenzano Tre Fiamme’ table lamp by Italian architect and designer Ignazio Gardella, displayed in the entrance hall, that has travelled with him on many moves.
Designing a home during a pandemic has been an odd, sometimes sombre, experience for Emiliano but, in a year that has seen all of the studio’s work put on hold, it has at least been a positive outlet for his creativity.
‘Most of all,’ he says, ‘it made me realise the importance of creating a home that was not only interesting from an aesthetic point of view but also liveable. A place in which I could just be myself: comfortable, grounded, uncompromising.’
Those are all qualities that will undoubtedly prove helpful in the months to come as, with a bit of luck (and some help from vaccines), Dimorestudio plans to swing back into action. Langosteria Cucina opens soon, sporting an intimate dinner party vibe, and there's the stunning Arts Club Dubai, while also pencilled in for 2021 is the new Browns fashion boutique in Mayfair and a myriad of exciting residential projects.
Bored of the monotony of lockdown life, much of the design world is deepening its love affair with maximalist interiors. As a pioneer of devising schemes that delight the senses, few are better placed than Emiliano to meet that need. dimorestudio.eu; dimoremilano.com; dimoregallery.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration April 2021
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