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For the Italian fabric designer Idarica Gazzoni, every surface is a blank canvas until she embellishes it with her whimsical patterns.
If you want to brighten up a dull room, according to the artist-turned-textile designer Idarica Gazzoni, you must dress up its walls. Gazzoni, 49, found this out for herself 20 years ago when she set out to turn the first floor apartment of an 18th-century palace in Milan into a family home. Piero Prinetti Castelletti, a horse-breeding ad executive who was then her husband, was attached to some family heirlooms, what Gazzoni describes as some “ghastly pieces” of early-17th-century Lombard furniture, including a terribly stiff sofa and some opulent-looking but impossibly uncomfortable carved wood armchairs. Gazzoni decided the only way she could outshine these pieces was to divert the attention to the walls and ceilings, which she painted with fantastical trompe l’oeil scenes.
That’s how the living room came to look like a Napoleonic military headquarters, complete with campfires and tiny soldiers in uniform; the sitting room, with its ceiling painted in Cintamani symbols, an exotic boudoir; and the bedroom, a Scottish woodland featuring foliage shimmering in the mist. Family and friends came to visit just to admire Gazzoni’s work, and soon she was fielding commissions from clients all over the world to decoratively paint in their houses. There was the Mondrian-like room in an 18th-century country villa in Parma; a Pierre Loti-inspired Turkish-delight salon in Tel Aviv; a bedroom in Venice that resembles a Fabergé box; and floor-to-ceiling decorative motifs based on a vine leaf for a wine bar in Florence.
Three years ago, however, Gazzoni — who in the meantime had replaced her ex-husband’s furniture with an eclectic mix of antique pieces and vintage textiles that she’s draped over tables and sofas — decided to take a break from her life on the scaffolding, and create her own line of printed fabrics. These textiles are adorned with evocative patterns that convey the same kind of exotic narratives she has mastered while painting walls. She established an atelier in a spare room of the house and named her fabric company Arjumand, in honor of the legendary Mughal empress whose premature death led her emperor husband to erect the Taj Mahal in her memory. “When I began designing fabric, I had just been left by my husband,” Gazzoni recalls. “So I suppose thinking about this woman who had been loved so deeply reconciled me with the notion of romance.” Arjumand was also a great traveler, which inspired Gazzoni to discover the 17th-century palaces of the czars for her Russia Collection; to immerse herself in the culture and colors of southern China’s Miao people for her China Collection; and to explore Japan’s late-19th-century obsession for indigo blue, which resulted in the Japan Blue Collection.
When Gazzoni isn’t creating fabrics from her imagination’s wanderlust, she travels abroad to take on decorating projects. She recently returned from Beirut, where she designed Liza, one of the city’s trendiest restaurants, with the decorator Maria Ousseimi, and Patmos, Greece, where she decorated a house using fabric from her latest collection. Still, as she found herself climbing back up on scaffolding for the project, she admits, “I couldn’t keep myself from painting some walls.” Fabrics available at harbingerla.com.