On Italy’s Adriatic Coast, an Ancestral Home on the Verge of a Second Act

The avant-garde curator Giorgio Pace has commissioned the architect Kengo Kuma to help him transform the 19th-century house into a museum.

Article by Nancy Hass

Giorgio Pace’s great-grandfather’s bedroom, with a hand-carved 19th-century bed and a lamp by Barovier from the 1920s. Photography by François Halard.Giorgio Pace’s great-grandfather’s bedroom, with a hand-carved 19th-century bed and a lamp by Barovier from the 1920s. Photography by François Halard.

Giorgio Pace, a St. Moritz, Switzerland-based Italian art curator, is known for conceiving and executing unorthodox ideas that others might dismiss as undoable or absurd. Among his successes: a 2015 collaboration with the Parisian conceptual artist Pierre Huyghe and the self-described anarchitect François Roche, titled “What Could Happen,” for which Pace convinced Swiss Rail to run a 1910 private train with 300 hand-selected passengers — including the British architect Norman Foster, the collector Maja Hoffmann and the fashion designer Rick Owens — to a frozen Alpine lake for a performance with a naked actor crawling into an igloo to a soundtrack of recorded screams. For his 2011 show at the Chesa Planta museum near St. Moritz, “A Lunatic on Bulbs,” inspired by the Emily Dickinson line about her gardening habits, eight artists, including Rirkrit Tiravanija and Joel Shapiro, created idiosyncratic outdoor objects like a liquid-rubber-coated Ping-Pong table and a tire swing hoisted by solid gold chains. And for more than a decade, Pace, who earlier in his career worked for both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim in New York, has also run Nomad, an itinerant biannual design fair.

Even by his own ambitious standards, his idea to have the Tokyo-based architect Kengo Kuma transform a rowhouse that Pace inherited in a 19th-century fishing community on Italy’s Adriatic coast into a gallery-cum-museum is outsize. The project, which he says will be done in late 2023, is deeply personal: Termoli, an enclave of 30,000 residents in Molise, the second smallest of Italy’s 20 official regions, an almost three-hour drive across the country from Rome, is his ancestral hometown; both sides of his family have been prominent there for generations. For as long as Pace, 56, can remember, he’s been annoyed that Termoli and its surroundings — which include snowcapped mountains and remote hilltop villages in addition to the unspoiled coastline, but not a single five-star hotel — are regarded by Italian sophisticates as a bit of a joke, if they even know they exist. (There’s even a meme in which comedians compare the region to Narnia: #IlMoliseNonEsiste.) Pace is not amused: “So many areas of Italy are overrun by tourism and here is this perfect environment, so charming and undiscovered,” he says.

Pace in one of the living rooms. Photography by François Halard.
Pace in one of the living rooms. Photography by François Halard.
A Barovier chandelier from 1940 hangs from the original frescoed ceiling in a living room on the second floor. Photography by François Halard.
A Barovier chandelier from 1940 hangs from the original frescoed ceiling in a living room on the second floor. Photography by François Halard.

If he gets his way, that will change in the coming years, beginning with Kuma’s reimagining of the beautifully detailed, gracefully crumbling 750-square-metre four-storey 1850s house at the apex of Termoli’s main pedestrian thoroughfare. The grand residence, which came to Pace in 2018 after the death of his maternal great-uncle Arnaldo Sciarretta, a doctor, once housed one of the city’s first pharmacies, established almost 150 years ago by the curator’s great-great-grandfather Pasquale Sciarretta. “I think my great-uncle chose to leave it to me because he knew that, of all the children, I would understand it and make it the most it could be,” he says. Pace’s parents, Elena and Nicola, both nearly 90, occupy the stately 19th-century house next door, though theirs has a marble-floored entrance, oil portraits on the walls, fringed lampshades and velvet settees. A few cobblestone blocks away, in a building owned by his father’s side of the family that has been converted into apartments, Pace has already renovated a two-bedroom pied-à-terre for visiting artists, with a capacious terrace and views of the docked trawlers and trabucchi — traditional Adriatic fishing shacks on stilts — in the nearby harbour. Its decorative elements, including a Kiki Smith drawing, a Roni Horn photograph and stools by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, are from flats he owned in Paris and London before moving to Switzerland a few years ago.

For his great-uncle’s place, Pace knew from the outset that he needed to enlist a world-class architect who shared his vision for the house as a sort of 21st-century cabinet of curiosities, albeit one with a modern intervention. Then, last year, Pace was introduced by a friend to Kuma, who designed LVMH’s Japanese headquarters; the 67-year-old architect instantly saw the house’s potential as an art pilgrimage destination. Pace hopes Kuma will burnish the structure’s history and add a radically new top floor (the architect was set to visit the site to finalise the plans in late January, but his trip was delayed because of Covid-19). “Giorgio and I share the same romantic vision of reactivating the countryside through culture, preserving its identity and craft,” Kuma says.

One of the living rooms of the curator Giorgio Pace’s home in Termoli, Italy, with 19th-century furniture and a chandelier by Barovier from the 1940s. Photography by François Halard.
One of the living rooms of the curator Giorgio Pace’s home in Termoli, Italy, with 19th-century furniture and a chandelier by Barovier from the 1940s. Photography by François Halard.
In one of the dining rooms on the first floor, a Liberty chandelier from 1910 over a series of original 19th-century Gebrüder Thonet chairs. Photography by François Halard.
In one of the dining rooms on the first floor, a Liberty chandelier from 1910 over a series of original 19th-century Gebrüder Thonet chairs. Photography by François Halard.

Ultimately, the curator intends to turn over each of the 15 large, high-ceilinged chambers to pairs of creators — artists, architects, chefs — who will co-create works that will be exhibited for at least 18 months (the Albanian-born, Milan-based performance and video artist Adrian Paci has already started conceptualising his piece, which will involve music that echoes through the lofty spaces). The rooms, though now mostly empty, remain redolent of family gatherings across the decades; most still contain their original wallpaper, dolorously faded and peeling, and tile or terrazzo floors. Elaborate Murano chandeliers hang from plaster ceilings frescoed with ivy garlands and small inset landscape paintings. The mahogany architraves between the rooms bear forged-iron hardware; the heavy doors open and close with ease. A few pieces of furniture remain, marking the building’s past: intricately carved walnut beds from the 1860s; a chiming wall clock from the 1920s; a series of Thonet dining chairs around a vast oval table, both from the late 1800s. When he was cleaning out the dwelling, Pace discovered a pair of his great-grandfather’s embroidered house slippers in one closet.

A 19th-century dressing table and mirror. Photography by François Halard.
A 19th-century dressing table and mirror. Photography by François Halard.
A 19th-century leather armchair in the library. Photography by François Halard.
A 19th-century leather armchair in the library. Photography by François Halard.

On a recent chilly afternoon, it was a challenge for the curator to navigate Termoli’s narrow streets at his preferred pace: On every block, yet another distant cousin — the owner of a local restaurant, an accountant on her way to the office, a stay-at-home mom running errands — wanted to stop and chat. “I probably have 50 or 60 cousins here,” Pace says, adding that most of them don’t understand what he does for a living — they suspect he merely flits about Europe with his friends. Others may think it’s a bit mad to turn his ancestors’ historic house into a museum in a town that doesn’t really have a hotel, other than the cozy albergo owned by, of course, a cousin of his. But all that will change, Pace insists. In a few years, he believes, Termoli will evolve into the cultural enclave it was always destined to be, with his museum surrounded by luxurious new lodgings suited for international visitors who already frequent Bilbao, Spain, and Marfa, Texas. Also on the list of invitees: those wags who once reduced the region to a punch line. Ever gracious, he intends to be in the parlour, where his elders once stood beneath the frescoes of clouds and the heavens, to welcome everyone inside.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our seventh edition, Page 105 of T Australia with the headline: “A Second Act”

A Refuge For The Marvellous: Dior’s Entrance to Hospitality

What to get for the billionaire who has everything? The house of Dior proposes a night of all-access indulgence at the spiritual home of the New Look.

Article by Grace O'Neill

The architect Peter Marino, who was tapped by Dior to redesign the maison’s Paris flagship. Photography by Brigitte Lacombe. The architect Peter Marino, who was tapped by Dior to redesign the maison’s Paris flagship. Photography by Brigitte Lacombe.

A few years ago, I interviewed a charming man whose job it was to provide bespoke experiences for the customers of a high-end jewellery brand. His coups included wrangling a private tour of Catherine the Great’s bedroom for a history buff holidaying in St Petersburg, renting a vintage speedboat to take an art collector gallery-hopping in Venice and, most breathtakingly, shutting down the Tower of London so a client could spend an afternoon one-on-one with the Crown Jewels. At the time, these exploits sounded otherwordly in their extravagance. But in the years since that interview, what constitutes a truly one-off experience has only become more rarefied. Luxury brands have now fully embraced the idea that simply crafting beautiful handbags, shoes, clothing and jewellery will no longer cut it in a world where money-can’t-buy experiences are seen as the ultimate indulgence.

There is perhaps no greater example of this phenomenon than Dior’s newly reopened retail space at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris, a shopping experience so remarkably opulent, it makes shutting down tourist attractions and renting million-dollar boats feel quaint by comparison. Having opened this March after a renovation that took just over two years, the new boutique is outfitted with a patisserie and restaurant (La Pâtisserie Dior and Monsieur Dior, respectively, both run by the French chef Jean Imbert), as well as the brand’s haute couture salons, exclusive jewellery ateliers and a sprawling exhibition space.

Most impressive is the single hotel suite that sits amid the splendour, a multiroom space accessed by private lift. The suite includes 12 full- time staff, a large dining room and all-hours access to private chefs, bespoke monogrammed Dior bathrobes and countless other idiosyncratic details designed to immerse guests in the world of Dior. Perhaps most importantly, the suite offers guests 24-hour access to the entirety of 30 Montaigne, meaning you can treat yourself to midnight shopping sprees, early morning appointments with Dior couturiers and private gallery tours whenever the mood takes you.

“The 30 Montaigne project is a journey through the inner essence of the brand, expressed through the architecture, interior design and experience of each space,” explains Peter Marino, the famed architect who was tapped by Dior to redesign the boutique. “It’s about creating environments that allow the customer to explore the brand in an immersive, delightful way.” Marino cut his teeth doing drawings for Andy Warhol in the 1970s before training formally as an architect, and those early years continue to bleed into his approach to projects like the Dior renovation. “I’m an artisan architect,” he explains. “Just like a couturier, I seek to awaken emotions using 3D creations. I design all my projects by hand, which seems ridiculously old-fashioned to some of my collaborators, but I really believe that hand designs are the only way to truly crystallise a thought process.”

Dior
Photography by Kristen Pelou.

Marino’s deft hand is evident in every element of the Dior suite, which was designed to have the feel of an intimate (if exceedingly glamorous) Parisian apartment, rather than a traditional hotel room. The bathroom is fitted with white marble onyx and a mini-fridge designed to house beauty products. There is a library with a large Yves Klein coffee table at its centre, flanked by plush bespoke armchairs made by Marino’s design studio. The minibar is stocked with champagne, including vintage Dom Pérignon and a 2000 Château Cheval Blanc that typically sells for more than $2,000 a bottle. The walls of the suite are filled with artworks, many of which were commissioned by Marino for the project, including an installation by Paul Cocksedge, mirrors with leaves engraved by the artist Anne Peabody and a triptych by the French sculptor Guy de Rougement.

Christian Dior moved the operations of his namesake fashion house to 30 Avenue Montaigne in 1946, remarking at the time that he was “going to settle here and nowhere else”. Dubbed a refuge du merveilleux, or a “refuge for the marvellous”, the space was likened to a beehive by Monsieur Dior as it buzzed with activity, from his legendary salon presentations through to dinners with the artistic elite of the era, including Jean Cocteau and Marlene Dietrich. It was at this location that Dior finessed the New Look, which went on to define the 1950s, where he created the Miss Dior fragrance and, later, opened his first boutique, a space for gifts and homewares called Colifichets, or “Ornaments”, which ultimately paved the way for the brand’s thriving Maison line.

A commitment to the maison’s heritage is evident throughout the entire renovation, from the aforementioned new gallery space, La Galerie Dior, the largest fashion-focused exhibition space in Paris, through to the opening of the Salon Historique, the previously off-limits dining room where Dior once threw his dinner parties. Those staying at Suite Dior 30 Montaigne have the option of hosting dinner for up to 14 guests in the salon. “In my head, I wanted to create what Christian Dior would have done if he was still alive,” says Marino, who is one of the fashion industry’s most in-demand architects, having worked on countless retail stores for the LVMH group.

This homage to Dior’s founder is perhaps nowhere more obvious — or heartfelt — than in Marino’s multiple allusions to nature and, more specifically, flowers. “We commissioned the great American artist Jennifer Steinkamp to do a flower mural, because the main theme of this Dior boutique is gardens and flowers,” Marino says. “When [Dior] began in 1947 he had the idea of putting flowers on dresses again after the war. Wearing cheerful flowers during the war would make you look ridiculous, but the fact that he brought out roses and painted them on dresses after the war is, for me, very touching.”

Marino’s research led him to the company archives, where he discovered old photographs of Dior’s garden at Granville, a small town in Normandy where the designer had a country home. “It was bursting with the most beautiful roses and hortensias, which happen to be my favourite flowers, too,” says Marino. “This shared passion inspired the two immense winter gardens at the heart of the new boutique. I often picture this idyllic scene of a woman strolling through a luxurious rose garden to reach the bag of her dreams.” Marino approached Peter Wirtz, a longtime friend and landscape architect, to craft the “flourishing gardens” that include tropical plants and apple trees.

French chef Jean Imbert. Photography courtesy Dior.
French chef Jean Imbert. Photography courtesy Dior.
The boutique’s new restaurant, Monsieur Dior. Photography courtesy Kristen Pelou.
The boutique’s new restaurant, Monsieur Dior. Photography courtesy Kristen Pelou.

Luxury brands entering the hospitality space is nothing new — names like Armani, Bulgari and, most recently, Fendi have opened five-star stays around the world. Dior already has a few dedicated suites and spas at hotels, including the Dior Spa at the new Cheval Blanc in Paris and the Suite Christian Dior at the Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic in Cannes. But Suite Dior 30 Montaigne represents a new frontier in luxury experience- making. Brands can no longer simply offer consumers beautiful products to own and wear; they are now expected to create immersive universes in which their customers can entirely lose themselves.

This demand is doubtlessly tied to the growing number of people who can afford luxury goods. The past two years have seen a widening of the wealth gap, as a certain subset of the world’s population has seen its personal wealth explode. In 2020, more than five million people became millionaires for the first time, and for a period during the pandemic, a new billionaire was minted every 30 hours. For a one per cent that is ever ballooning in both size and disposable income, the definition of what constitutes luxury is being forever pushed.

With a single night at Suite Dior 30 Montaigne reportedly costing $37,000, the house of Dior is rising to the challenge admirably. What could be more fabulously opulent than sipping chilled champagne while perusing couture at midnight, the proverbial key to the epicentre of a Parisian fashion empire nestled in your pocket? A refuge for the marvellous, indeed.

A Design Duo Adding Whimsy to Traditional Woodwork

The East London furniture makers Wilkinson & Rivera are giving classic silhouettes a playful twist.

Article by Aimee Farrell

The design firm Wilkinson & Rivera’s take on traditional 18th-century wooden chairs. From left: two iterations of the Queen Anne-inspired La Silla and the studio’s version of a classic Windsor. Photography by Michael Vince Kim.

The East London-based husband-and-wife woodworkers and furniture designers Teresa Rivera and Grant Wilkinson have been inspired by many things, but two above all: the writings of the 20th-century English cabinetmaker Charles H Hayward and YouTube, where they’ve watched dozens of tutorials by different furniture artisans. “You used to do an apprenticeship with one person for years,” says Rivera, “but now you have access to a limitless amount of masters online.” Last year, the self-taught duo set up their studio, Wilkinson & Rivera, inside a 15-square-metre shipping crate in Walthamstow. Their works combine a respect for traditional forms with a sense of play: the pair’s debut piece is an eccentric and whimsical take on the classic Windsor chair, replacing the 18th-century English seat’s straight-spoked back with undulating pieces of wood that seem to shimmy.

After meeting at a party in 2012 while studying fine art at London’s Camberwell College of Arts — Rivera, a New York City native, was on a six-month transfer from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture in Philadelphia — the couple went on to pursue different creative paths, Wilkinson as the lead woodworker for the English globemakers Bellerby & Co. and Rivera as a designer for the British decorator Fran Hickman. Today, their line includes stools with petal-like edges that come to life via a succession of sketches, clay maquettes and small-scale prototypes. They collaborate on everything, with one person naturally taking the lead: Wilkinson first doodled the Windsor chair on a train; Rivera’s obsession with ornate 17th-century barley twist furniture, characterised by its spiral wooden posts, inspired the Welsh Stick chairs — squiggly spool-legged pieces charred using the Japanese technique of wood scorching known as shou sugi-ban — that they presented at the New York City-based gallery the Future Perfect’s Design Miami display last December. And for La Silla, their crinkle-cut iteration of the Queen Anne chair, popularised in the 18th century, both Rivera and Wilkinson taught themselves to weave so they could make its cane seating. Its name — the Spanish word for “chair” — is a nod to Rivera’s Dominican heritage, a world away from Wilkinson’s southern English childhood. Or maybe not so far after all: “Our backgrounds are so different,” says Rivera. “But through making furniture, we’ve found this lovely common ground.”

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our fifth edition, Page 34 of T Australia with the headline:
“T Introduces”
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Luxurious Sustainability Among The Trees

Native flora abounds at this unique luxury lodge in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Article by Katarina Kroslakova

A luminaire by Shona Wilson and Celina Clarke frames the bush view at Crane Lodge, Sydney. Photography by Michael Wee.A luminaire by Shona Wilson and Celina Clarke frames the bush view at Crane Lodge, Sydney. Photography by Michael Wee.

What defines luxury accommodation? Is it the organic linen, tranquil views, art on the walls or high-end appliances? Or, rather, is it about sustainability, considered encounters with the natural world and an unmistakeable sense of place?

Matt Cantwell believes the true magic of a luxury escape is in the flora. He would know, having conceptualised some of Australia’s most enchanting landscape projects. As the founder and director of the landscape architecture firm Secret Gardens, he has created green havens on coastal clifftops, nurtured lush oases on top of skyscrapers and sculpted gardens from native wilderness. He relishes a challenge and is especially excited by the opportunities presented by difficult terrains. He points to Crane Lodge, a recently revitalised retreat in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, as a prime example of a tough brief that resulted in a spectacular outcome.

“The fact that you enter the property via an inclinator gives you a great perspective of the hallenges across the site,” he says. “There’s nothing duller than [a site] with no trees or a change in level. “We felt nothing but excitement when we saw the property,” he continues. “But we also needed to get our heads around how we would achieve the brief — how we would touch the landscape only lightly while doing a major overhaul, while also remaining sensitive to the protection of the trees.”

Crane Lodge is the latest addition to Wild Luxury’s portfolio, helmed by Kim and Derek Ellis. The lodge is perched on a hillside behind Whale Beach, a stone’s throw from Palm Beach. With views across the native canopy, it offers an immersive bush stay like no other. It’s a place where local artisans are championed alongside native plant varieties. “The property has a strict biodiversity ruling from the local Northern Beaches council, meaning we had to plant a minimum of 90 per cent endemic species,” says Kim. “But it’s as Aussie as you can get … or as Palmie as you can get.”

The site features an array of lemon myrtles, native blueberries, Pittwater spotted gums (endemic only to the area), Bangalow palms, staghorn ferns and lichen that has been growing on the site for more than 250 years. Many plants were chosen to attract native bees to keep the ecosystem in good health. Cantwell says the project took 14 months from concept to completion. The greatest challenge was protecting the local flora — construction had to stay away from sensitive root zones and ensure existing trees were not impacted in any way.

The result? “A botanical experience, a real connection with the landscape and a luxury lodge that looks like it’s floating above the garden,” says Cantwell. “What I’m most proud of is the restraint in the rear garden. There’s very little that we didn’t turn over, but it doesn’t feel like the site has been abused.

“I hope when people visit, they’ll feel like they’re experiencing a very special piece of Sydney that’s familiar, but unique in its own way. The design is meant to encourage people to explore and discover the garden and feel comforted by the volume of vegetation. It’s an opportunity to explore the bush without leaving home.”

This is an edited extract from Issue 6. To read the full story, pick up a copy of our new issue in newsagents nationally, order online or subscribe to receive T Australia straight to your letterbox. You will find it on Page 55, named “Among The Trees”.

The Australian Designers to Watch Right Now

Adam Cornish spills his little black book of fellow Australian designers to keep an eye on.

Article by Emma Pegrum

Dean Toepfer's "Vase Versa" in red and taupe. Photography courtesy Dean Toepfer.Dean Toepfer's "Vase Versa" in red and taupe. Photography courtesy Dean Toepfer.

Melbourne-based industrial designer Adam Cornish has an impressive portfolio – including a line for iconic Italian brand Alessi, and pieces exhibited at Salone del Mobile in Milan, ICFF in New York, and NeoCon in Chicago. His studio is at the forefront of the Australian industry, collaborating with names like Tait and NAU; so when it comes to scoping out emerging and enduring talent, Cornish is a reliable source.

The South Drawn Hat Mono pendant range in wattle. Photography courtesy South Drawn.
The South Drawn Hat Mono pendant range in wattle. Photography courtesy South Drawn.
The South Drawn Hat Mono pendant range in wattle. Photography courtesy South Drawn.
The South Drawn Hat Mono pendant range in wattle. Photography courtesy South Drawn.

Luke Mills

New Zealand-born industrial designer Luke Mills worked for two years in museum and exhibition design in Hong Kong before settling in Melbourne to pursue the realms of lighting and furniture. His brand South Drawn (formerly Lumil) is characterised by natural materials and simple functionality, with pieces rigorously worked through from paper sketching to prototyping to the finished product.

Darren Fry's "Sinclair Pendant Light", made with European marble, white gold and blown glass. Photography courtesy Darren Fry.
Darren Fry's "Sinclair Pendant Light", made with European maple, white gold and blown glass. Photography courtesy Darren Fry.
Darren Fry's "Southern Light", made with European maple, white gold and blown glass. Photography courtesy Darren Fry.
Darren Fry's "Southern Light", made with European maple, white gold and blown glass. Photography courtesy Darren Fry.

Darren Fry

South Australian designer Darren Fry has a career spanning twenty years, with a focus on furniture, lighting and objects made from the highest quality materials from Australia and around the world. Fry’s elegant yet organic pieces – such as his award-winning spherical cordless lamp, The Southern Light – slot seamlessly into contemporary Australian living.

Dean Toepfer's "Vase Versa" in melon and pink. Photography courtesy Dean Toepfer.
Dean Toepfer's "Vase Versa" in melon and pink. Photography courtesy Dean Toepfer.

Dean Toepfer

The works of Adelaide-based designer Dean Toepfer, who recently interned in Amsterdam under The New York Times-featured Lex Pott, are explorations in material, shape and form. While best known for his formal practice in furniture and lighting, Toepfer’s forays into smaller objects – like his series of split-body, two-tone resin vases called “Vase Versa” – are just as worthy of attention.

An Elegant Notting Hill Flat Enlivened By Maximalist Flourishes

It was renovating his home in London that helped Enis Karavil hone his aesthetic and led him to start his own design business.

Article by Aimee Farrell

The living room of the designer Enis Karavil’s West London home. Above the mantel is a portrait of Karavil’s great-aunt, and to the right is a trio of antique chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Styled by Sara Mathers. Photography by Simon Upton.The living room of the designer Enis Karavil’s West London home. Above the mantel is a portrait of Karavil’s great-aunt, and to the right is a trio of antique chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Styled by Sara Mathers. Photography by Simon Upton.

In 2012, after graduating from the Inchbald School of Design in London, the Turkish designer Enis Karavil was living in the city’s Belgravia neighbourhood and working nearby — for the London Design Festival — at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He spent much of his weekends, however, a few kilometres northwest in Notting Hill, browsing at Portobello Market, which consists of a two-kilometre-long string of street vendors who have been congregating there since the late 1860s, and which, thanks to the so-called rag and bone men — essentially, cart-wielding junk dealers — has over the last eight decades evolved into an epicentre for antiques and eccentric bric-a-brac. Eventually, Karavil’s frequent excursions, as well as the neighbourhood’s vibrant atmosphere, spurred him to look for a place in Notting Hill. First, he put an offer on a three-storey London villa, but then he saw an apartment that spanned two floors of a stucco-fronted townhouse built in the mid-19th century. Though it needed considerable love, he knew, largely thanks to an original marble fireplace with neo-Classical corbel detailing and an unusual wrought-iron spiral staircase, that it was where he wanted to be.

Karavil sits on a club chair from the Nicole Farhi store. Photography by Simon Upton.
Karavil sits on a club chair from the Nicole Farhi store. Photography by Simon Upton.
His bedroom features a reproduction of a print by the New York portraitist Atelier Von Behr titled “Rebecca, 1938,” left, and a smaller work by the Spanish artist Carlos Aires. Photography by Simon Upton.
His bedroom features a reproduction of a print by the New York portraitist Atelier Von Behr titled “Rebecca, 1938,” left, and a smaller work by the Spanish artist Carlos Aires. Photography by Simon Upton.

What he did not yet know was that renovating the home would usher in a new creative chapter for him. Over the next five months, Karavil worked to revive the property’s quiet charm, at which haphazard interventions and general neglect had, over the decades, slowly chipped away. “I wanted to make sure the interior mirrored the architecture of the building, so that everything felt as though it had been here since the beginning,” he says. In some ways, this meant putting things back the way they’d been. Starting in the south-facing sitting room that anchors the apartment, Karavil reinstated decorative plasterwork moulding, restored the trio of round-topped windows that open onto a long balcony and tore down ceiling storage that had been installed in the 2000s and stunted the room’s original generous proportions.

But Karavil also let himself stray from the historical record, opening and brightening the space, and its combination of old and new elements is one of a couple of apparent contradictions that make the home so appealing. He removed the door leading from the entryway to the formerly boxed-in kitchen, for instance, and added a serving hatch in the wall between the kitchen and the sitting room. He also painted the walls bone white — rather than any of the deep hues the Victorians might have favoured when the home was built — installed custom stainless-steel cupboards in the kitchen and laid a reclaimed pinewood floor sourced from an old English tobacco factory throughout.

Another notable tension is that, for someone who loves collecting, Karavil has kept the rooms remarkably and intentionally spare. The seating in the living room largely consists of a single sofa — a boxy brown leather design by Umberto Asnago for Arflex — a vintage black pony skin club chair from the Nicole Farhi store in Chelsea and a trio of small, mother-of-pearl-inlaid dining chairs from an antiques store in Marylebone. There’s also a slender Serge Mouille floor lamp, a television-shielding lacquered screen with mesh and gold patina detailing and a metal-trimmed tea stand.

In the centre of the room sits a brown leather sofa by Umberto Asnago for Arflex that’s set with embroidered cushions from Karavil’s own line, Sanayi313. Photography by Simon Upton.
In the centre of the room sits a brown leather sofa by Umberto Asnago for Arflex that’s set with embroidered cushions from Karavil’s own line, Sanayi313. Photography by Simon Upton.

Still, Karavil’s more maximalist side shines through here and there via various curios, which are prominently displayed and offer notes of theatricality. On the mantel of the marble fireplace, also located in the living room, is a glass dome encasing a trio of dried and painted mushrooms, their dark, globular forms looking as though they’re part artwork and part science project, and on the dining table is an old butcher’s block topped with vintage stationery accoutrements. On the floor in front of the hearth is an antique alligator rug nicknamed Bob that Karavil found at a Chelsea fair in 2016. And in a far corner of the room is a set of custom shelves that houses pieces from his collection of over 100 silver teapots. What began as a nod to the English tradition of having afternoon tea — and to Karavil’s grandmother Sol’s copious assemblage of silverware — has become a full-scale obsession, and among his vessels are a pyramidal version picked up at the Marché aux Puces in Paris and one with a plexiglass handle sourced from Lots Road Auction House in London. “They’re these tiny things. But it always amazes me how completely different they are from one another,” says Karavil, who adds, “It’s the details that bring the colour for me.”

That’s certainly true of his favourite item in the apartment, which didn’t come from a design studio or a flea market but instead from his maternal great-aunt, an artist named Suzanne Kutiel: Above the fireplace hangs a glamorous oil portrait of her that was rendered in 1959, when she was 36 and dressed to attend a friend’s ball in her adopted homeland of Brazil. When she returned to Turkey in 1995, the painting was the only possession she brought back with her. It looks out past a glass-topped dining table with mismatched wooden legs from the Georgian and Edwardian eras, at which sit a set of cartonlike papier-mâché 10313 stools, both of Karavil’s design, to the opposite wall, which is hung with 13 anonymous male portraits purchased at different antiques markets. “A stadium for Suzanne,” he says.

The kitchen is outfitted with stainless-steel cupboards and a series of wall-hung Fornasetti plates. Karavil designed the bronze ladder, which accesses extra storage space hidden in the ceiling. Photography by Simon Upton.
The kitchen is outfitted with stainless-steel cupboards and a series of wall-hung Fornasetti plates. Karavil designed the bronze ladder, which accesses extra storage space hidden in the ceiling. Photography by Simon Upton.
“I wanted a very clean look,” Karavil says of the bathroom, which is accented with vintage marble accessories from the Cloth Shop in Notting Hill, Turkish hammam-style towels and a little stool picked up at a London flea market. Photography by Simon Upton.
“I wanted a very clean look,” Karavil says of the bathroom, which is accented with vintage marble accessories from the Cloth Shop in Notting Hill, Turkish hammam-style towels and a little stool picked up at a London flea market. Photography by Simon Upton.

By the time Karavil was mostly done with the apartment, he was working as an interior designer at the firm Hubert Zandberg, but then his friends, seeing what he’d done with his own space, started asking him to reimagine theirs. In 2015, after he’d worked on homes for pals in Boston and Istanbul, he decided to start his own firm, Sanayi313, with his brother, Amir, and to base it out of Turkey, where he knew he could create environments, and offer products, that weren’t available anywhere else in the country.

Even today, the Notting Hill flat remains a kind of blueprint for his projects — from an art-filled beach house in Bodrum to Cafe di Dolce, a Parisian-style restaurant in Istanbul where guests sit beneath an installation of some 2,000 acrylic peonies by the artist Nahide Büyükkaymakci — which all share a streamlined aesthetic that nods to Old World beauty. This approach extends to the Sanayi313 restaurant and store, located on the mezzanine of the former car repair shop that houses the firm’s offices in Maslak, an industrial district of Istanbul. The former serves a daily menu of seasonal fare to guests seated at the same style of long glass table in Karavil’s Notting Hill dining area, while the latter sells items from the house line alongside a curated selection of objects from other makers, including Karavil’s beloved Serge Mouille lighting, Taschen art books and Cire Trudon candles.

Beside a glass-topped dining table of Karavil’s own design, a collection of anonymous portraits picked up from markets and antiques fairs across Europe. Photography by Simon Upton.
Beside a glass-topped dining table of Karavil’s own design, a collection of anonymous portraits picked up from markets and antiques fairs across Europe. Photography by Simon Upton.
In the guest bedroom, which is located at the top of a wrought-iron spiral staircase on the apartment’s second floor, striped wallpaper lends drama. Photography by Simon Upton.
In the guest bedroom, which is located at the top of a wrought-iron spiral staircase on the apartment’s second floor, striped wallpaper lends drama. Photography by Simon Upton.

The designer hopes one day to open a similar setup in West London. For now, he’s getting ready to present a 21-piece offering of wood, ceramic and glass vases this spring, and working on a furniture collection. He lives in the Notting Hill flat about one week a month. When he’s there, he likes to host impromptu wine and cheese parties. After his friends go home, he makes for his bedroom, a bijou space to the rear of the apartment that’s appointed with a simple antique Iranian table and a Flos Parentesi lamp. On the wall, in lieu of a headboard, is a wallpaper mural depicting a chlorobromide print of a nude by the Greenwich Village portrait photographer Atelier Von Behr titled “Rebecca, 1938.” The next morning, if his schedule allows, he wakes up, grabs an iced coffee, takes his black schnauzer, Polka, for a walk and then heads to Portobello Market.