Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Decorating Enhanced by Personality

Nancy Lancaster once said, "I can't bear anything that looks like it's been decorated."  I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I prefer interiors where the decorating plays the supporting, although significant, role of creating a cohesive foundation for a room, while intriguing objects, collections, and personal effects bring the room to life.  If a room lacks this layer of all-important personality, the decorating becomes too prominent, something which renders a room- no matter how beautiful it might be- sterile and uninviting.

An example of decorating enhanced by personality can be seen in Casa degli Atellani, the Milan home of architect Piero Catellini Baldissera.  The 15th-century palazzo was purchased by Baldissera's grandfather, who was also an architect, in 1920.  Having spent much of his childhood visiting his grandfather's apartment in Atellani, Baldissera eventually had the opportunity to inhabit it.  As you can see in these 1999 photos, the rooms possessed a sense of order and calm that was a result of Baldissera's well-tuned decorating.  And yet, a lively tempo resonated throughout the home thanks to the homeowner's pleasing mix of antiques, books, and collections.

It's certainly a home that I can bear, and I assume that Nancy Lancaster would have agreed with me.

Image at top:  The home's trompe l'oeil winter-garden foyer.  The Directoire settee came from Napoleon's sister's house in Parma.

The Salon is richly appointed with curious objects and fabrics from C&C Milano, the textile company which was co-founded by Baldissera.

The dining room is outfitted with grand and humble antiques alike.

Baldissera's collection of historic marble samples.

The homeowner's bedroom.

A guest bath.

The courtyard garden of Atellani.

All photos from House Beautiful, December 1999, Jacques Dirand photographer.


  1. stunning + great photos.

  2. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Nancy Lancaster would certainly have shared your approval of this wonderfully "non-decorated" home. The likes of Miles Redd, with his overdone attempts at contemporary classical, on the other hand, she would undoubtedly have consigned to the American suburbs (if she were feeling generous). Thank you for another wonderful post.

    1. Anon, are you the commenter who recently recommended that I investigate the work of Alvise Orsini? If so, I want to let you know that I visited his website, and I like his work very much.


    2. Anonymous11:41 PM

      It is indeed the same anonymous poster. I am delighted that you liked Orsini's work. That is some small recompense for the all the wonderful rooms that I have discovered on thepeakofchic. Incidentally, on the topic of "non-decorated" rooms, Alvise Orsini actually offers his little pied-à-terre in Venice for rent on airbnb (believe it or not). It is delightfully non-styled and really shows how little is needed to make a room come alive. A Google search for "Alvise Orsini airbnb" should pull it right up. The virtual definition of shabby chic.

  3. This is what timeless design looks like. Never trendy, just beautiful.

  4. Nice to have affirmation that my own home might actually pass muster! 1. I must have some kind of curtain at a window. Can't do sterile, and I love the muffled sounds over the reverberations. 2. Need to surround myself with loved belongings. If the color is right, great. If not, oh well. It's cherished anyway. 3. Now that we have grandchildren, I am trying to incorporate (willingly??) THEIR toys and belongings too. I know it's going to be for such a short period of time and I wouldn't miss it for the world. Thanks for your insights!

  5. What a sophisticated way to play with perspective especially in the bathroom. It is nice to see a high bed with a real mattress as opposed to contemporary “sleeping marshmallows”.

  6. The Baldissera estate is glorious Jennifer. I love all of the yellow in the decor and it is indeed a wonderful mix of layered finds throughout the palazzo.

    The Arts by Karena
    Stems Soiree!

  7. These extraordinary rooms continue to evolve, as shown last month in the blog known as The Art of the Room.