For Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci, the duo behind Dimore Studio, it`s been a busy decade. They met in Shanghai, while working for a project there and, since then, they`ve been inseparable. In 2003 they started their own design studio, occupying a single room of a 17th century building in Via Solferino. They used to live in the same building, but in 2014 they moved their residence into an apartment overlooking the wonderful garden of Villa Necchi, the modernist masterpiece of Pierpaolo Portaluppi, and transformed their previous space into one of the most sought after galleries in Milan. And it won`t take long to figure out why the design glitterati are so smitten with it. Once you cross the threshold of their decadent palazzo, catching your breath after marveling at the huge Venini chandelier in the hallway and the feather-light, rare Italian vintage pieces scattered around the gallery, you won`t want to leave. Given the complex mélange of historical periods and the rich, painterly color palette, you`d be forgiven to think you entered an Italian film set.
Salci was born and raised in Arezzo, a town in Tuscany renowed for its flea market, where fellow designers such as Ms Prada were spotted bargaining. He remembers spending his childhood years drawing and looking at colors. His fascination with fashion, developed in his early years, shows in his confident way of wearing loud patterns. In his 20s he took over his father`s furniture shop, which sold brands like Vitra or Knoll, and transformed it into a concept store. In 2000, Giulio Cappelini discovered the place and was impressed by the carefully curated selection. He offered Salci a job as a creative director at Cappelini, which he accepted and held for 3 years.
Moran grew up in North Carolina and moved to Milan during his gap year, but he fell in love with the city and never returned. He was working as a graphic designer when he met Salci. They realized they have similar taste and decided to open their own studio. They even mentioned in an interview that when they are apart they would call each other to comment on the same article in a magazine. Initially, they designed residences and their clients weren`t keen on publishing photos of their private homes, so their uprise was somewhat slow in the beginning.
After being hired in 2011 by maverick hotelier Thierry Costes to design Café Burlot in Paris, their projects became more and more ambitious. Since then, the duo designed a wide range of hauntingly beautiful spaces: a hotel in Guadalajara, inspired by local hero architect Luis Barragan (whom I have introduced to you in a previous article, a restaurant on the top of a fascist building that houses the headquarters of DSquared in Milan, a light installation that could be part of an Art Deco planetarium for Pulp Room in Chicago, collaborated with fashion houses such as Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Sonia Rykiel and more recently, Fendi, and are currently working on decorating the iconic Parisian house built by famed architect Adolf Loos for Tristan Tzara, in 1924. Since 2008, the`ve been redecorating room by room the Grand Hotel de Milan, a historical hotel in the city. Maria Callas and Luchino Visconti used to be frequent guests and Giuseppe Verdi died in one of their rooms. This turned out to be one of their most challenging projects, since the brief was to keep the appeal the hotel had to the old clientele and add a fresh touch, in order to attract a younger public as well. But this is the kind of job that suits the duo the best.
Their approach reveals a deep respect for history, which translates in their brimful moodboards, bound by a local artisan in Milan. This is one of the reasons they prefer to be based in Milan, despite working on many projects in France: affordable craftsmanship of top notch quality. Their thoroughly researched concepts abound in references, from vintage photographs to pattern archives. They even confessed, in an interview, that the grayish blue hue covering the walls in the main room of their gallery was characteristic to 17th century paintings. The duo often cites as their inspiration the work of Carlo Scarpa, Gio Ponti and Pierpaolo Portaluppi.
Although their references vary from project to project, the glue of all of their interiors is always the same: a rich color palette that highlights the soft lines of the eclectic furniture, creating the type of space that could be the visual definition of understated, sophisticated luxury. They both agree that, although their interiors are tinged with nostalgia, they always throw in a piece of contemporary art , to add a disruptive note. And it always works.