THE PAST PERFECT
Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini
at their studio, 2015.
Words by Diogo Mayo
Portraits and studio by Simone Storelli
Interiors by François Halard and Massimo Listri
“A good laugh is sunshine in the house.”—William Makepeace Thackeray
Talking with a friend over a few sunk-in-ice spirits on a slow thick summer night, the theme of decoration, and in a generic way the importance of the house, was summoned before our philosophic bragging. Momentarily convinced of the dogmatic auctoritas of our vaticinations, we both condescended that “people have become lazy”...
Laziness, nowadays, seems to clearly epitomise the way most people build not only their houses but, in a higher scale, their complete aesthetic experience. With the concomitant words of Marie-Hélène de Rothschild coming to mind: “People don’t know how to dress any more (...) nothing is done now for good taste or for the beauty of things, but to appeal to people’s lowest instincts”, the progression of the conversation became less encouraging when we suddenly, as both being in our late 20s, felt dangerously alike Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. Exceptions were however pointed and previous judgments especially smashed once my friend brought Studio Peregalli to the discussion.
With an undeniable penchant for historic and grand interiors, I was, of course, comfortably familiarized with their work. A double-headed eagle, Studio Peregalli is a duo of decorators nested in Milan. Mastering the ability of cloth interiors with a subtle vibration of time bypassed, while encapsulating a refined sense of the past in the alluring and mysterious interiors produced, their body of work and fierce seductiveness is assured by the individual tastes and makings of Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini.
Not far from that time, the coming issue of Scala Regia, this one in your hands, met its early plans. With a plethora of references tinkling and the imagery of the duo’s work resonating once again I, quite naturally, felt an irresistible and acute urge of featuring in a less than shy number of pages our celebration of their work. Démarches were made in the course of a few weeks and an interview was eventually set up. I was thrilled.
While meeting them, the first thing becoming evident was the spontaneity and sheer complicity that Laura and Roberto share. Not only they agree but they also agree to disagree, a symbiosis that is the product of over twenty years working together. To understand the chronology of Studio Peregalli it is necessary to go back to the late 1980s when Roberto and Laura first met. Incidental to their encounter was the gravitating presence of a man, frequently epitomized as one of the most influential decorators of the 20th Century, the interior designer mogul Renzo Mongiardino.
“A beautiful house can be
a source of happiness,
it depends on the relationship
you have with aesthetics”
At that time, while pursuing her architecture studies, and with a special vocation for the restoration of old buildings, Laura found herself in Florence where she met Mongiardino through the wanderings of the métier. Mongiardino also happened to be a close friend of Roberto’s parents, later becoming, more importantly, a mentor to Roberto, with whom he collaborated for several years. Unsurprisingly, not to say prophetically, the decoration of Roberto’s family residence was a creation of Mongiardino. At that exact address, with long corridors and generously wide rooms, sits today Studio Peregalli’s headquarters.
“We gather inspiration from many sources: the arts, fashion, nature, books”—both agree when inquired about their influences. “There is also a certain influence from the past of our country, even if we love mixing cultures together”—Roberto adds. The rich layering of influences which—be it a certain Proustian shade or the delicious decadence of Luchino Visconti’s Il Gattopardo, Senso and many others—alternatively assume the de rigueur dignity of a palatial patrician villa or the hedonistic peacefulness of a hermit’s retreat.
Even the physical presence of Roberto and Laura are utterly evocative and tremendously magnetic. His facial features, somehow reminiscent of a Valentin Serov portrait, simultaneously combine and contrast with hers, the latter capable of bringing to life some of those impressive women rendered by Tamara de Lempicka.
Every object inside their studio is beautiful, each one coexisting with the other in the fashion of an opulent cacophony: sumptuous fabrics and rare samples of wallpaper, architectonic models, plasterwork fragments and even a spectacular engraving of Piranesi’s Column of Trajan, the one that my friend, who mobilised Studio Peregalli into our conversation, has been coveting for ages.
All of a sudden, thinking that all this per mesura princely splendour must forcibly correspond to equally princely fees, I did not resist to enquire: “Does one have to be magnificently rich to hire you?” The answer came up pronto: “Not at all, but the client and us must have a similar feeling in order to work together. You must, however, take into consideration that quality and craftsmanship have a certain cost.” Roberto and Laura are intransigent advocates for the use of prime quality materials as, in their opinion, “they age beautifully”.
They are absolutely right. No detail is left behind and there is definitely nothing lazy about the Studio Peregalli method: “It’s safe to say, I believe, that the architects’ and the decorators’ job often relates a number of aspects that, per definition, are contained in the field of other specialists.” As the interview progresses, Roberto’s academic roots become increasingly evident as, although being a decorator by vocation, Roberto is a philosopher by formation.
Questioning if it is possible that the architect’s job is also related to that of a philosopher, or maybe to that of a psychoanalyst, the reply is:“Of course. The world is complicated and as we deal with many people, we foremost must be trustworthy and professional. There is a mutual relationship between the house and the ones that live in it. A beautiful house can be a source of happiness; it depends on the relationship you have with aesthetics. To have balance, the house should not be overwhelming, but rightly based on its owner's life and necessities.” His words echoing those of a sacred monster of architecture, Alvar Aalto: “The ultimate goal of the architect... is to create a paradise. Every house, every product of architecture... should be the fruit of our endeavour to build an earthly paradise for people.”
Over the last few decades, the forms of human interaction changed drastically. We are constantly travelling and moving from town and country, we are constantly letting ourselves be dominated by the Internet and smartphones. With this in mind, it occurred to me to ask Laura and Roberto if our physical home keeps its role as a nuclear social backdrop, to which Laura replied: “Everything is more fluid nowadays, even ‘liquid’. Home, however, is a source of stability, the place where we keep our roots. A place to which we are happy to contribute to. Even if the job is time-consuming, we still find time to cultivate different interests.”
This is perhaps mainly due to the fact that Laura and Roberto’s playing field is a very sensitive area. Their work is not merely about moving furniture from one place to another or choosing between the most exquisite fabrics and tassels. Their synergy and sensibility is scrupulously focused in rendering houses into homes. Ultimately, for all of us who, at the end of day, crave for our own homely comforts, what an achievement that is!
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN
SCALA REGIA #2
Opening spread of the paper version.
SCALA REGIA, 2020