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The Timeless Designs of Renzo Mongiardino

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Architect, set and interior designer, Renzo Mongiardino, the Merlin of decoration, would have been 100 years old this month.  Known as “The Architect of Illusion” and “creator of ambiance,” he had the unique ability to play with proportion and blend the past and present. In honor of his birthday, we are taking a look back at some of his iconic projects and rarely seen spaces that are a testament to his legacy – and timeless designs.

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Mongiardino was a true scholar that loved history.  In his book, Roomscapes, he wrote, “I think it is a mistake to treat ancient and modern as if a barrier divided them…” His imagination and vision gained him a client list that included Lee Radziwill, Marella Agnelli and the de Rothschild’s. His work resonated with people from all walks of life and different design aesthetics.  The Italian decorator was a master when it came to transforming spaces and making them warm, comfortable and mysterious.  Above Right: Mongiardino’s dressing room full of Turkish influence, faux finishes, rich colors and patterns.

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“Every voyage into the past is an opportunity to study the rules that guide our present work. Infinite variations alternate in place and time. The assertion that dimensions of four walls, a floor, and a ceiling can suggest innumerable rooms leads us to observe, with curiosity, some of these possible variations and many unexpected resemblances.” - Renzo Mongiardino, Roomscapes (Above, a grand room in a Paris Villa where he crated Faux inlaid marble in a damask pattern.)

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Inspired by Villa Falconieri, this London garage was transformed into a Woodland Room. Columns replicated in the painting create a deep perspective view while lush greenery, flowers and plants envelope the space.

The Garani Villa

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"...beauty is objective..." - Renzo Mongiardino

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One of Mongiardino’s first projects was the Garani Villa in 1953.  Located in Fiesole, he collaborated with Lila de Nobili, who created small paintings in the center of the walls throughout the villa. Trompe l’oeil vines and latticework remain untouched to this day.

The Carraro Residence

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Franco and Sandra Carraro asked Mongiardino to transform their 17th Century house in Trastevere, Rome, in 1975.  The Living Room showcases his talent, the trompe l’oeil coffered dome. Throughout the house you will find faux marble pedestals, trompe l’oeil painting, walls of atmospheric landscapes, unpretentious wicker, and layer upon layer of juxtaposition.

The Zanussi Apartment

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The Zanussi Apartment located in Milan was completed in 1978. Complete with panels of painted fabrics, faux bois patterned velvet with painted wicker and not a white lampshade in sight.

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Above: The Library/Hallway is rich with layering, texture and color.

Robert Peregalli, who worked with Mongiardino and now carries on his aesthetic through Studio Peregalli with his partner Laura Sartori Rimini, said “He understood the real challenge was to work with difficult spaces, to completely transform them, make them livable, while at the same time shockingly beautiful. He was a scholar of history, but he wasn’t constrained by it. He used it.”

“The goal, the miracle of beauty in art, lies in the rules, but goes beyond the rules. It holds its own mystery, contained within itself. The belief that beauty is objective (absolute) and not subjective (relative) is the only way one can believe in beauty at all.” – Renzo Mongiardino, Roomscapes

Happy Birthday, Mongiardino!

Photos from, Roomscapes, Rizzoli, 1993. T-Magazine, Oberto Gili and Simon Upton.