RENZO MONGIARDINO, “THE DECORATIVE ARCHITECT”





“Illusion comes into being as part of the pleasure”

 Renzo Mongiardino (1916-1998), Roomscapes



The American designer Mark Hampton described once Renzo Mongiardino as “an alchemist, a transformer of common materials into noble ones, a brilliant manipulator of emotion through design”.

Hampton couldn’t have captured in a more brilliant and concise way the essence of the Italian set designer, architect and interior designer who was often referred to as the greatest designer of the 20th C but who was never a household name – not even in his native Italy.

Mongiardino's study

Mongiardino’s study

 

I must admit I wasn’t quite familiar with Renzo Mondigiarno and his work until a few months ago when I read that the fabulous Hollywood decorator Martyn Lawrence Bullard cited Renzo Mongiardino as one of his inspirations, which prompted me to look into his work.

Music room in London house of Drue (Mrs. Henry) Heinz.

Music room in the London house of Drue (Mrs. Henry) Heinz.



Eventhough they might look a bit passé to some of us, there is a lot to be learnt from Mongiardino’s rich legacy. I instantly fell for the way he decorated rooms with either his incredible trompe-l-oeil on the walls, the floor or the ceiling, or the way he enveloped them with different layers of fabrics and textures culminating sometimes in his iconic ‘tent’-like rooms.




Mongiardino certainly wasn’t a minimalist. If he believed in the adage ‘more is more’, he would probably be called a ‘maximalist’ these days and one with oozes of taste.





Being first and foremost a set designer using stage trickery, Mongiardino favoured “atmosphere, not authenticity” and his style can be epitomised by his extravagant trompe l’oeil but also his tent-like interiors, sumptuous brocades, faux marble and intarsia, neoclassical stucco work and neo-mannerist frescoes which were the building blocks of his stately visions.

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To achieve that, he used for his interiors the same painters, carpenters, gilders and model makers who manufactured his sets for stage and screen work.




Renzo Mongiardino rejected minimalism and modernism (so that’s Art Deco out – oh dear) in favour of opulent spaces with architectural features borrowed from ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan sources to the work of the Renaissance and baroque masters like Michelangelo, Palladio and Bernini, using antique fabrics, like Fortuny, carpets, and objets d’art.

Glorious deep blue silk damask on the walls

 

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His aesthetic suggested a more theatrical, highly emotional cousin of the “humble elegance” espoused by his English contemporary John Fowler.


 

Japanned bedroom in Paris townhouse

Japanned bedroom in Paris townhouse. Great braids on the walls

 

Drawing by Renzo Mongiardino

Drawing by Renzo Mongiardino

 



Rendering by mark Hampton

Rendering by Mark Hampton

 

Triangular house in Turin

 




Renzo Mongiardino's detail study for painted wall panels

Renzo Mongiardino’s detail study for painted wall panels



Franco Zeffirelli’s house in Positano. Great ‘tent’ effect

 

Mongiardino’s bathroom. Fab mosaic and trompe l’oeil on the walls. So clever

 

Drawing by Renzo Mongiardino

 



Having worked on many operas, he brought his operatic vision to his prestigious clientèle who was described in his obituary “to resemble a kidnapper’s wish-list”: the Agnellis, couturier Valentino, Aristotle Onassis, Lee Radziwill, Gianni and Donatella Versace, Rudolf Nureyev, Princess Firyal of Jordan and Franco Zeffirelli.

 So here is A-Gent’s of Style’s way to (re-) discover one of the greatest design talents of the last century and his romantic dreamscapes:

 Simply divine!

Baron Guy and Baroness Marie-Helene de Rothschild

Baron Guy and Baroness Marie-Helene de Rothschild

 

Hotel Lambert, Ile St Louis, Paris in the mid-1970s for Guy and Marie-Helene de Rothschild

 

Hotel Lambert

Boudoir of Baroness Rothschild, Hotel Lambert



Contessa Brando Brandolini d'Adda

Contessa Brando Brandolini d’Adda

 

Contessa's Brandolini 17th-century Roman palazzo

Contessa’s Brandolini 17th C Roman palazzo

 

Villa Vistorta, the Brandolini-family estate in Italy’s Veneto

Villa Vistorta, the Brandolini family estate in Italy’s Veneto. The doors are covered in green felt and gold paint. Green and blue! Sublime

 

Living room of Contessa Brandolini

Living room of Contessa Brandolini

 

Contessa Cristiana Brandolini

Contessa Cristiana Brandolini’s green lace boudoir

 

The Brandolini estate, Vistorta

The Brandolini estate, Vistorta

 

 

Princess Firyal of Jordan

Princess Firyal of Jordan

 

The palette of Princess Firyal of Jordan’s Grand Salon in London, designed in the mid-1980s, was inspired by Indian watercolors

The palette of Princess Firyal of Jordan’s Grand Salon in London, designed in the mid-1980s, was inspired by Indian watercolors. Great scheme

 

Different schemes for the walls of Princess Firyal's London home

Different schemes for the walls of Princess Firyal’s London home. Fantastic keepsake

 

Princess Firyal Grand Salon, London

Princess Firyal’s Grand Salon, London

 

Princes Firyal’s Dining Room

 

Princess Firyal's Tent Salon, London

Princess Firyal’s Tent Salon, London. I love the way the decor wraps the painting which looks like a window onto another world. Trickery at its best

 

Princess Firyal Grand Salon, London

 

 

Lee radziwill her daughter Anna in her Turkisk Room at Buckingham Place, London

Lee Radziwill her daughter Anna in her Turkish Room at Buckingham Place, London. Probably my favourite photograph. Divine

 

Lee Radziwill's house

Lee Radziwill’s house. And leopard prints!

 

Lee Radizill's house

Lee Radziwill’s house

 

Lee Radziwill's house

Lee Radziwill’s house. And a bit Hicks-esque too!

 

Lee Radziwill's country bedroom in Buckinghamshire Rendering by Mark Hampton.

Lee Radziwill’s country bedroom in Buckinghamshire. Rendering by Mark Hampton. Notice the pattern on the floor. Lee Radziwill is so fond of it she will re-use it in most of the houses she has lived in over the past decades!

 

Stanislas and Lee Radziwill’s house in Oxfordshire, England, 1960s. Silk scarves were placed on the walks and then delicately enriched with floral overpainting

Stanislas and Lee Radziwill’s house in Oxfordshire, England, 1960s. The room was dressed in colourful Sicilian silk scarves which were then delicately enriched with floral overpainting. Genius!

 

Lee Radziwill's house

Lee Radziwill’s NYC penthouse

 

 

Valentino

Valentino

 

Valentino's villa in Via Appia Antica, Roma

Valentino’s villa on Via Appia Antica, Rome

 

Valentino's sunroom

Valentino’s sunroom at his villa on Via Appia Antica, Rome

 

Detail at  Valentino's villa on Via Appia Antica

Detail at Valentino’s villa on Via Appia Antica, Rome

 

Valentino's villa in Via Appia Antica, Roma

Valentino’s villa in Via Appia Antica, Rome

 

Valentino’s Via Appia villa, Rome

 

Valentino's villa near Sienna, Tuscany

Valentino’s villa near Sienna, Tuscany. Love the friezes and the green

 

Valentino's villa near Sienna, Tuscany

Valentino’s villa near Sienna, Tuscany

 

 

Nureyev in his apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris

Nureyev in his apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris

 

Nureyev’s Paris Apartment Quai Voltaire

Nureyev’s Paris apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris

 

Nureyev’s dining room on Quai Voltaire, Paris

Nureyev’s dining room on Quai Voltaire, Paris

 

 

Rudolph Nureyev’s apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris

Rudolph Nureyev’s apartment on Quai Voltaire, Paris

 

Rudolf Nureyev Paris apartment

Rudolf Nureyev Paris apartment on Quai, Voltaire

 

Finally, Mongiardino authored the incredible book Roomscapes which would be the perfect addition on your coffee table





 

5 comments


  • punam

    Breathtaking!

    November 6, 2013
  • Jay and

    Nureyev’s apartment is by Emilio Carcano, according to Architectural Digest, where it was published in the 1980’s.

    October 19, 2015
    • fabricebana

      Thank you for the info and correction!

      November 2, 2015
  • Jay and

    In other words, not by Mngiardino.
    The other images are great, though.

    October 19, 2015
    • fabricebana

      Thank you Jay

      November 2, 2015

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