The title of the 2011 monograph devoted to the work of Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini perfectly sums up their approach to interiors: The Invention of the Past. This Milan-based design duo could never be labeled modernists, nor are they remotely avant-garde. Instead, their work references history with consummate sophistication, evoking the architectural styles of times gone by—though never in a slavish fashion. "Nothing is copied directly from something else," Peregalli says. "It's always a reinterpretation, like a reverie." Sartori Rimini adds, "Our interiors aim to give the impression they've always been there."
An early Arts and Crafts home in Hampstead, London, proved an ideal medium to demonstrate their artistry. The 19th-century architect Basil
鲨鱼电竞官网Champneys had built the stately 1881 brick house for himself. A pioneer of the Queen Anne style, he counted Robert Louis Stevenson and Victorian essayist Walter Pater among his acquaintances, and his major commissions included Manchester's John Rylands Library and Cambridge University's Newnham College.
鲨鱼电竞官网The graceful main section of the house has changed little over the years; it boasts Flemish gables, four central chimneys, and transom and mullioned windows. A series of 20th-century alterations, however, had almost completely stripped the interior of architectural merit. In the late 1950s, it was turned into apartments largely inhabited by artists—"it was like a commune with hippies," says Sartori Rimini. Then, in 1984, it was converted back to a private house, and an indoor pool was added. "The interiors were very flashy, without any charm," laments Peregalli. There were shiny marble floors, plain white walls, and a faux-stone spiral slide cascading down to the pool.
鲨鱼电竞官网That didn't prevent the new owners—an Italian couple with three children—from falling in love with it. "It had a rich past and beautiful proportions, and it simply needed a sympathetic refurbishment to bring out all its glory," says the wife, who was drawn to the expansive grounds. "After 20 years in Chelsea, I was longing for a bigger garden and a dog. Here there is one acre of continuous surprises, from the rose garden to the vegetable patch. We call it our London country house."
The most important change was to relocate the swimming pool to the basement. In its place on the ground floor, Peregalli and Sartori Rimini imagined a sumptuous library incorporating bookcases designed around a series of 18th-century portraits of Ottoman figures. The bookcases are from the legendary Italian decorator Renzo Mongiardino, who was a friend of Peregalli's parents. "He came to the house often," recalls Peregalli. "He was like Socrates for me—my most important influence." The library also features a glass dome at its center, reminiscent of grand 19th-century British buildings such as the Crystal Palace. "We wanted to put in an architectural element that was typical of England in that period," says Sartori Rimini.
鲨鱼电竞官网Another modification they wished to make proved impossible—to enlarge the staircase between the first and second floors. The flight of steps dates from the construction of the house, and although it no longer had its original banister, the landmarks commission insisted the stairs stay in place. Undeterred, the designers added grandeur by installing a wooden balustrade on either side. Elsewhere, antique Italian parquet floors salvaged from the clients' former house and ceiling moldings add a touch of majesty.
For the rest of the decor, the pair opted to play on the historical notion of Britain as a land of seafarers, who would decorate their homes with goods brought back from their travels. The doors in the husband's dressing room are covered with antique Spanish tiles. A sample of 18th-century chinoiserie paper was the starting point for the dining room, while the walls of the living room are painted with aerial views of woodlands, inspired by the Galerie des Cerfs at the Château de Fontainebleau with its depictions of French royal estates as seen from the sky. "It's as if an Englishman had been there in the 19th century and asked painters to create something similar on his return home," Peregalli explains.
鲨鱼电竞官网The designers often specify custom work that demands the highest level of craftsmanship. It's not always easy. Here, they were unable to find a manufacturer in Britain for the carpet in the master bedroom, which had to be sourced in France. And it took months to track down an English artisan capable of making the green tiles for the swimming pool. "We can have ideas, but if we don't have people to make them, it's a big problem," Sartori Rimini says. Without the talent, inventing the past simply becomes impossible.
Take a tour of this house in the gallery, here.