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When ancient Rome meets minimalism

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An understandable reaction to spending more time at home is to store items intended for comfort. It’s likely that even dedicated minimalists have wondered, recently, what another throw or throw pillow could do for their space and mental state. But, while he’s certainly not averse to some sort of elegant ease, Norbert Stumpfl, the executive design director of the Italian men’s clothing brand. Brioni, has always put a lot of time and care into her aesthetic choices, with results so precise that they seem inevitable. This is evident in her clothing collections, consisting of handmade costumes and pieces separated by luxurious wools and silks, as well as the three-story, 3,200-square-foot townhouse in central Rome, where Austrians were born in Austria. designer, 44, lives with his wife, Daphné Karras, ceramicist, and their two daughters.

Before the family left Paris and started renting the house in 2019, its owners completed a multi-year renovation, updating the space with things like stainless steel beams, concrete and glass floors and , on upper levels, floor-to-ceiling windows. This means that, although the bones of the house are typically Roman, the foundation can date back to the 8th century BC, and the remains of ancient walls, as well as a simple mosaic of white tiles near the entrance on the ground floor. -paved, are still visible, it gets a surprising amount of light for this quiet street, which also houses a medieval monastery. Thus, the new tenants had a bright canvas and pleasantly refined, but steeped in history. It’s a beautiful mix of ancient Rome and very modern minimalism, says Stumpfl. It is also a combination perfectly complemented by its approach to interiors, which is defined by the respect for both secular processes and fresh and uncluttered forms, and by an emphasis on materiality. Like he says, I only buy pieces that I want to live with forever, and everything we have is soft and timeless and is about technique.

From the street, an ivy-covered wall conceals the stone facade of the building, which is partially painted in golden yellow. Guests pass through an iron gate and ascend a dark and narrow travertine marble stairwell, where they find a 2,300 square foot courtyard filled with wisteria, camellias and orange trees, lemon trees and strawberries and, right on the doorstep. beyond, from the front door. Beyond this is a large open space atypical for traditional Italian houses, which are more likely to have many small rooms and possibly a large gilded ballroom that includes the kitchen, with a dome-shaped wood-burning brick oven and wall old exhibit whose shelves are lined with Karrass ceramics (earth-colored bowls and vases with shiny finishes) and the dining room. There, an oval wooden table is surrounded by six vintage leather and chrome Butterfly chairs by 20th century Danish architect Arne Jacobsen that Stumpfl found in Brussels. (I travel quite a bit to buy pieces that I really love, he says.) Hidden under them and a naturally stained Moroccan rug are glass floor panels that provide a bird’s eye view. view of the cellar. This is where my wife keeps her pottery studio, so you can just lift the rug and say hello, says Stumpfl, or, as the couple’s daughters like to do, mist the surface and then draw abstract shapes and messages. on it with their fingers. The houses with wooden beams and coffered ceilings, which were installed over a century ago when the building belonged to the family of a carpenter whose workshop was on the ground floor, also bring a little of comfort.

On a flight of curved concrete stairs are two living rooms, one with a pair of modern white linen Ghost sofas from the Italian design group Gervasoni, a sleek 1950s wooden sideboard by French designer Grard Guermonprez that opens and closes with the touch of a discreet button, and a white beehive-shaped table lamp made from metal discs superimposed by the Finnish designer Ilmari Tapiovaara in 1955. This more formal space, says Stumpfl, is to sit, while the other, with wooden shelves stacked with art and architecture books and black office filing cabinets filled with of magazine clippings, as well as a pair of chairs and two blankets, is to live.

Both, however, are adorned with fine art, including a silver metal sculpture by Fritz Nagel that sits atop a Marcel Breuer Laccio table in wood and steel, limited edition lithograph of a 1966 magnolia by Ellsworth Kelly, black ceramic sculpture by Antoine Tarot and photographs by Rinko Kawauchis 2011 Illuminance series. The family spends a lot of time around the vintage metal and glass 70s coffee table in the life living room, read or play with clay trinkets made by Danae, 10, and Thea, 7, although the girls have all the power of the house. In the living room, there is a room which at first glance looks like a fragile abstract sculpture; in fact, it’s a Tangle, an American children’s toy meant to twist and stretch into any shape imaginable. It’s first and foremost a family home, says Stumpfl.

Other accents exist in the form of plants, five which fill the rear of the living room, which features a glass ceiling and a steel and glass spiral staircase that leads to the three top-floor bedrooms. In the afternoon light, the stairwell becomes a prism and rainbows fill the space. We treat her like a kind of greenhouse, says Stumpfl, who finds her night-flowering ficus and cereus, which produce small white flowers that each last a day and night before falling, to be calming presences. There is also a strelitzia, or bird of paradise, with its black beak-shaped flowers, which sits atop a rectangular pedestal and in an earthenware pot that resembles a stack of pebbles made by the artist. Francesco del re, which is based outside Florence. Instead of a red tone, it uses gray-colored earth, and while the artisanal process is traditional, the shapes are modern, Stumpfl says. It’s sophisticated but human at the same time.

He might as well talk about his work at Brioni, which was founded in 1945 and where, since assuming his current role in the fall of 2018, after stints at Berluti, Louis Vuitton and Lanvin, Stumpfl has balanced timeless luxury with contemporary flourishes. , producing lightly fitted woven and washed silk shirts, durable denim pieces, soft cashmere sweaters and woolen suits and jackets, some of which are cut from a fabric spun with electromagnetic wave technology, but are sewn to hand to buttonholes. Everything should be in the construction, but it should be hidden. I don’t want the Brioni man to be overpowered by design, he says. Stumpfls’ daily uniform consists of navy wool Brioni pants and a knit t-shirt or top with no shoes on, at least not when he’s working from home, either among his many books. in the living room or taking video calls next to the fruit trees in the courtyard. (It’s the only place I can have a decent connection, he laughs.) He feels right at home in the space and in his adopted hometown. Despite the hardships caused by the pandemic, he says, people remain open and warm. The food is fresh and simple, and the street style is lively but relaxed. Italians call it sprezzatura, he says of the way shirts are thrown, rolled up or unbuttoned with a studied flippancy that he’s embraced since arriving. To me, it’s a reminder that imperfections are human; life is the most important.

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