Marie-Louise Sciò has a singular approach to house hunting. ‘I stalk the building,’ she says. ‘That’s how I find apartments.’
Four years ago, on a quest to find a light-filled space in a modern building – a tall order in her native Rome – Sciò became obsessed with a fourth floor apartment in a 1950s block on the edge of Trastevere. ‘It was in really bad shape and the windows were falling apart,’ she says. ‘I took my father to see it and he was like, “why do you want to move here?”‘
It’s a formidable question when posed by Roberto Sciò, the man behind legendary Tuscan hotel Il Pellicano, but Sciò enjoys the challenge of reinvention. Having studied architecture at Rhode Island School of Design and worked with interiors master Massimo Zompa, she was enlisted to update Il Pellicano in 2005, pairing its storied, old school glamour with a modern freshness.
The results – documented in photobooks by Juergen Teller – demonstrate Sciò’s talent for encapsulating a uniquely Italian holiday spirit, one she has continued in her role as a creative consultant for other brands. But in her apartment, the tone is a little different. ‘The hotels represent my summers, the holiday side of my style. But returning to Rome marks a slowing down, retreating to private things that nurture my soul.’
She didn’t mess about with the fundamentals of the space. ‘Structurally I kept it more or less the same,’ says Sciò. ‘It’s cosy, but everything fits perfectly.’
The furniture is eclectic. ‘It’s a bit of a mishmash of stuff,’ Sciò confesses. ‘I just love good-looking things.’ A Mies van der Rohe lounger faces off with a white Giò Ponti chair, while a pair of 16th-century Venetian consoles frame a large sofa – once Sciò’s teenage bed, now re-upholstered in deep pink velvet. The large hand-painted dining table moonlights as a ping-pong table.
‘It’s zen up here,’ she says. ‘It’s my little sanctuary.’
Here we take a tour round Marie-Louise Sciò’s apartment, discover her inspirations and discuss what – if anything – constitutes a truly Italian style.
What does a home mean to you?
Marie-Louise Sciò: For me, a home is the collection of my intimate interests – my music, books and films. I have friends who are very private – in their homes you don’t see their books, they keep everything very tidy. I like having my stuff around. The books that I have on the coffee table keep changing because I read them – I don’t just have them there for show.
What do you find inspiring?
I’m very curious, so everything inspires me: music, books, magazines, travel and people. It’s what you do with those single inspirations and how you put them together that becomes interesting. It snowballs.
Giò Ponti is my favourite designer. Iris van Herpen is amazing – I really enjoy the way she thinks and how that comes out in her clothing. James Turrell is the person whose brain I’d want to sit in. He approaches design from a psychological standpoint and it’s just so interesting. I like anything that plays with perceptions.
What is your personal design style?
I don’t think I have a specific style. When I had time to be an architect as well, I did lots of private houses and it really depended on the person – what they liked, their style, their taste, and bringing my knowledge to them. Coming here, my move was very rushed. I just decided one day and the next day I moved. I had everything that I needed and, having an architect’s training, as soon as I walked in, I was able to say: ‘I can do that, I can do that, boom. Everything fits.’ So it was pretty easy.
What is your favourite part of the house?
The sitting room. The view was the first thing I noticed when I walked in. I get up really early in the morning and it gives me so much joy to see it go from black to sunrise. It’s unbelievable – like a painting.
What do you think defines an Italian style?
I think there is a very Italian style but now that we have visual access to so many things, all styles are becoming highly contaminated. Renzo Mongiardino was the greatest – his houses are just incredible, all painted and trompe l’oeil, done in this super opulent style. He demonstrated that Italians really know how to use marble and stone like no-one else. But those kind of designers are a dying breed.
What three things would you save in a fire?
Besides the human beings and the dogs, I would take the photographs and the art, the little Christo, Gillian Wearing and Robert Rauschenberg. And I have a box that I have been carrying around since I went to boarding school in which I filed everything that was important to me. Handwritten letters, drawings, books, essays and diaries, all filed by category. I’d have to save that.
If you could live in any other building, which would it be?
London’s 180, The Strand. I think it’s really cool – I love that kind of architecture. I like to demolish everything and get the maximum amount of space. It’s very Italian to have the living room, the dining room, the kitchen all separate, but really, for me, unless it’s a magnificent palazzo and it was built that way, I prefer open spaces.