The first few days of October took me out to the West Coast—speaking at the Virginia Robinson Gardens and a book signing there, and then off to Montecito to a book signing and a visit with a wonderful fellow blogger friend for years Penelope Bianchi. It was a great week to meet, to catch up with, and to talk about how they decorated.
No architect-interior designer-artist-connoisseur rivaled him.
Today that remains true.
In aesthetic circles, he is known, simply, as MONGIARDINO.
In Milan, a marble-paneled chimneypiece is actually reverse-painted glass.
CABANA, a magazine that appeared a little over two years ago, has seemingly been created within the magical world of Mongiardino.
It's no wonder.
The editor of CABANA, Martine Mondadori Sartogo, grew up in a house that was decorated (that hardly describes it) by Mongiardino. She sat spellbound, no doubt, as he visited and dined at the house—a Mongiardino acolyte of sorts.
CABANA is an island—a world unto itself in a sea of magazines, not unlike Mongiardino, a connection Mondadori Sartogo acknowledges.
Mondadori Sartogo and the editors of CABANA have opened the doors of Mongiardino created houses, still intact, lived in, and vibrantly alive, in a new book, RENZO MONGIARDINO A PAINTERLY VISION. Photographer Guido Taroni scans these interiors taking in the whole, then with laser focus zooms in on those details that make a Mongiardino room a MONGIARDINO Room. Roomscapes, Mongiardino's only personally published book, according to the Cabana editor, stands as the ultimate anthology of his work. In her Introduction, she also writes about the lack of acknowledgment of his work and influence today. RENZO MONGIARDINO A PAINTERLY VISION will change all that.
Mongiardino rooms reverberate. His working over of every surface whether it was with textiles, references to Old Master paintings, or with his trompe l'oeil illusions, makes him the ultimate "master of illusion."
In Milan, Mongiardino, just another wall.
The Dining Room of a Milan Mongiardino work—in layers, a simple Laura Ashley fabric was the ground, over it a stencilled blue and green pattern, and an addition suggested by the master, years later— a collection of Imari. Twenty-five years of scouring markets for the plates resulted in atypical Mongiardino quilt of patterns, textures, and references to exoticism.
These close-up, tangibly tactile photographs, let us see Mongiardino's mastery. The Grand Hotel, one of the few public spaces Mongiardino decorated teems with Proustian intricacies evoking une recherche du temps perdu.
The Grand Hotel, Rome
In Rome, a Mongiardino masterpiece
detail of the walls in the house's ground floor living room
The editors of RENZO MONGIARDINO A PAINTERLY VISION refer to this house in Rome, as one of his masterpieces. Restoring the ceiling and letting in natural light, allowed Mongiardino to orchestrate a living space below of complexity and refinement. With all its opulence, the designer coupled a floor of simple terracotta tile, notably without carpets, with lavish sofas in silk damasks and velvets. Equally intricate, the walls are carried out from floor to ceiling— with faux marble moldings & wainscoting, blue and white pilasters surrounded by painted floral motifs, faint pale apricot marble, Classical plaques, and finally, terminating into the vaulted ceiling.
With just enough text to set the scene, highlighting the most important aspects of each residence, the editors of the book step back and left Mongiardino's genius speak. In addition to this collection of these fifteen masterpieces, an essay by Francesca Simone about Renzo Mongiardino's friendship with contemporary, Lila De Nobili, noted costume and stage designer, offers insight into the man. He seems a man of reserve, contemplation, a student of history, all reflected in his work—with its historical references, infinite minutiae (perhaps still unknown subtleties to anyone but Mongiardino, the artist how painted for him, and the families that live in these singular rooms). In addition, Umberto Pasti, Lee Radziwill, and Elsa Peretti add their remembrances of the friendships and professional relationships they shard with Mongiardino. Another treasure, a letter from Jacqueline Onassis to Mongiardino closes the book.
One hopes these divinely inspired rooms, houses, will continue to be maintained and preserved by generations to come, venerating Mongiardino's artistry.
While privately owned, these rooms belong to the world.
all images were provided by the publisher Rizzoli and used with permission
I've been anxiously awaiting this book from photographer Miguel Flores Vianna. Appropriately, Vianna named it, Haute Bohemians, as he's divined with his crystal clear lens today's interiors that defy the slightest whip of trend or kitsch.
These rooms, through this wonderful book, will remain long after trends are gone and forgotten.
Miguel could be considered a happy wanderer-the book finds him traversing four continents to find Alexander Twombly's Italian farmhouse, Madison Cox's 1930's Tangier house, Carolina Irving's Paris apartment, & to the Hudson River Valley cottage of Marian McEvoy. There are twenty interiors in all with each one totally unique.
Authentic is a word batted around incessantly these days to the point that we sometimes wonder if it's lost its meaning. Haute Bohemians renews our belief in the word.
Carolina Irivng~ Paris
Vianna an elegant, yet down to earth man, introduces each of his Haute Bohemians withbrief but insightful storytelling, giving us a glimpse of the inhabitants living their bohemian lives. Cleverly, Miguel hasn't photographed any of these haute inhabitants-we see them through his prose, but more importantly through his keen and magical eye.
Madison Cox~ Tangier
Never styled-at least not so that we know-the rooms appear to be captured as if someone just walked through, the faint presence of its creator. That's no coincidence, it's all just part of Miguel's genius.
Alexander Twombly~ Italy
"...It is the geography of a life, that renders them unforgettable because they, like unforgiving mirrors, reflect who their owners are in a most personal way. They are like maps of their desires and like images of how they see themselves. All the houses in these pages are poetry."
Marian McEvoy~ Hudson River Valley
These interiors can be studied, put to a fine tooth comb-but can't be copied.
And should you begin your quest for finding what makes your interiors tick...Haute Bohemians gives hours of inspiration, and pages for study.
Individualism is the underlying message from Vianna. This book might just make you get up and start moving things around, pulling things out, and celebrate your creative mess.
There's an Art to it of course, and that's what makes Haute Bohemians so remarkable.
all photographs are from Miguel Flores Vianna and used with permission
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing- Shakespeare, Sonnet 98
A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent--sweet, not lasting;
The perfume and suppliance of a minute;
No more. -Shakespeare, Hamlet
April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. - Shakespeare, Sonnet 98
Shakespeare mostly always got it right, none more so that at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night. Kieran Shipka, 17, wearing Mui Mui~ Millie Bobby Brown, 13 in Calvin Klein by Appointment, decidedly under the influence of Raf Simons~ the beautiful Yara Shahidi, 17, in Prada.