How would you describe your interior style? Eclectic, without a doubt. I like to use bright colour schemes and mix modern and antique pieces. My great-grandfather, Piero Portaluppi, was a modernist designer, but he filled his own home with a mix of antiques from around the world. From the age of six to ten, I used to go to his house for lunch every Thursday and I breathed in a lot of Portaluppi eclecticism.
What do rugs add to your designs? Rugs bring a room together. I know of decorators who build the room around the rug, but I’m the opposite. For me, the rug comes last. I find it easier to put the room together first and then design a rug that brings it all together.
How do you source the rugs for your interiors? I normally design my contemporary rugs with my dear friend Federica Tondato, the founder and designer of Fedora Design. My antique rugs are sourced from Turkey or Morocco.
The first contemporary rug I ever bought was by Luke Irwin, during one of his sales. My decorator friend took me to his Notting Hill shop and it was mayhem. Chelsea ladies were pulling rugs out of each other’s hands because they were half price! I saw a sky-inspired rug with a cloud design that was perfect for my then-home in London, and I literally threw myself over it. I’ve kept that rug ever since and it has moved with me from London to Tangier and, now, to Milan.
What is your process for designing a new rug with Fedora Design? Federica and I pick the colours together from her many hundreds of wool samples, then she creates the design. My idea behind the big rug in my Milan living room came from a Samarkand suzani textile in the room, while the shapes were inspired by a pair of small console tables by my great-grandfather.
For the rugs in my old Paris apartment—which I call my ‘Tanguy’ rugs, because the colours remind me of an Yves Tanguy painting from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice—I asked Federica to add some purple and change the shade of yellow, but otherwise they are entirely her designs. My choice of wool depends on the project, but I like hand-knotted and chain-stitched rugs. The chainstitched rug with the coral branches in my Milan guest bedroom is a wedding present that Federica gave me over twenty years ago, because I love coral.
How do you think the pandemic will change interior design trends—and has it changed the way you work? I’m currently working with Federica to design a new rug for a project in Milan. Due to social distancing, the client and I had to meet in a public garden, sitting two metres apart on a bench while we went through samples! Fortunately, it was a sunny day.
More people are spending time at home like never before and they’ll want to renovate and change their space. But, for a decorator, not being able to travel to find items or visit sites is a problem. I recently had to turn down a potential project because it would be impossible to go there right now. If I can’t visit the project, I find the process totally uninspiring—I like to breathe in a space and touch the fabrics. But I’m optimistic that the lockdown will eventually come to an end. Last year I founded a new brand called Casa Tosca, and our first collection was a line of rattan furniture produced in Morocco. So I’m working on that right now.