B ased in Milan, Studio Peregalli has a reputation for creating some of the most luscious and evocative interiors in the world. The duo’s hallmark is the layering of different styles and combinations of patterns and historical techniques to create something that is in constant dialogue with the past, while looking remarkably new. Their work can be seen around the world, from Rome to New York, Tel Aviv to Tangiers. Every project is constructed with the same team of artisans, ensuring the result is as much a work of art as the collection upon the walls.
When you have a project, where do you begin, what's your starting point?
Laura: Meeting the client. This is a very important first step because we try to understand what they are looking for and the reason they came to us.
Roberto: Another important step is to understand the place in which they want to do the project and the connection between our work and the location.
One of the things that comes across very strongly is a sense of a special identity for every room that you put together. Where does that grow from?
L: Every project is different. Sometimes we build from scratch, sometimes we restore buildings, sometimes we change the appearance but not the structure. It’s true that we try to design each room, because we are convinced that every space has a role and a meaning. If each room has a purpose, where does art fit into that? Is it something that helps with the aesthetic, or is it a conversation going on in the room?
R: The client’s collection of artworks is an element to consider, together with the place and the psychology of the client. It can be a starting point. For example, in the project in New York that appears in Grand Tour: The Worldly Projects of Studio Peregalli, the couple are American artists and so we began with both the apartment building the project was in and the works of art they were making.
It's quite unusual for designers and decorators to acknowledge histories and styles that have gone before. How were you able to introduce this into what are now some of the best contemporary interiors that are made?
R: Well, in a very natural way in the sense that it is important not to think about what is fashionable or what is trendy. I think that it's a little bit strange to think about the past as something dead. It's essential that history is part of our lives because we are made by it. It’s necessary to keep a memory – a sort of dream about the past – because that past is our source of life.
L: For me, it's a choice. When I decided to study architecture I went to Florence because I loved the restoration of old buildings and historical centres – I always wanted to do that kind of thing. I never thought at that time that I was going to be an interior decorator. It was not in my mind at all. But it's been natural. When we met we had different things in common, and one was this passion for antiques and history and historical renovation and so on – and so it worked.
When you're working in a new or different culture but you also need to keep your own distinct aesthetic, how do you navigate that?
L: It's never a copy of the past, or a copy of a different culture; it's always an interpretation from our point of view. Our approach is to try and understand the place – where you are, where the project is, the neighbourhood – and then we try to dream about what the project could be, should be, but a dream that will endure within our sensibilities and our culture also.
R: Even when we seem to do something in homage to a country, some people from that place will see the project and say to us: “I feel the Italian memory and spirit.” We can't take our [Italian] selves out of a project, because we make the project possible. So even when we work in places that have a very strong culture, we bring our perspective, alongside the work of our country.
Do you collect art yourselves?
L: Personally, I collect things that I like. It's not important if it’s a sculpture or a painting. I love to be surrounded by things that give me something in terms of energy, or feelings of enthusiasm. I love to get up and see things that give me pleasure.
R: I like to collect in a sort of Proustian way, in the sense that everything gives me an emotion; from archaeology to 17th-century painting. Small things can be interesting. It's important that you buy because you want to and not because it's something that is now in the spotlight and is valuable. You sometimes find at auction that beautiful 18th- or 19th-century furniture is sold for nothing because there is no one that likes this history anymore. That is a little bit sad. I think that sometimes objects that come with memories can be more intriguing than something commercial.
Edward Behrens is a writer based in London Grand Tour: The Worldly Projects of Studio Peregalli is published by Rizzoli