Milan’s magnificent history cannot be considered without mentioning the house of Visconti.
The family rose to power in the early 13th century, ruling the Italian capital of fashion and design for almost 200 years. The name continues to command respect today, propagated by the likes of celebrated film director Luchino Visconti and jewellery designer Osanna Visconti di Modrone.
Famed for her distinctive, dramatic pieces, Osanna’s creativity isn’t confined to beautiful baubles. Just one look inside her family abode – situated a few steps from the Duomo in the heart of the city’s historic centre – shows that her talents are equally weighted in furniture and interior design.
The sober facade of the 16th-century Renaissance building that houses the apartment occupied by Osanna, her husband (gallerist Giangalleazo Visconti) and their daughter Madina (a fellow jewellery designer) reveals little about the treasures that lie within. The original frescoed ceilings and walls that bear the patina of passing time pay homage to the home’s rich heritage, while a monumental collection of modern art and furniture from Osanna’s own assemblage, as well as key pieces from prominent Italian designers of the 1950s and ’60s, provide counterpoints to the understated elegance of the setting.
Osanna achieved the almost-nude effect of the 13-feet-high walls after removing the colours that she had initially chosen. The exposed finish creates a visual fluency throughout the space, from the dining room to the bedrooms. Raw and unpolished – a sort of anti-white cube – the walls also provide the framework for the family’s art, lending atmosphere and expression to each room.
Of these oeuvres (from the likes of Lucio Fontana, Maurizio Cattelan and Bill Viola), perhaps the most striking is the concave mirror by Anish Kapoor in the living room. Suspended above the fireplace, its abstract world commands attention, reflecting the palette of burnt sienna, olive green and deep burgundy back into the generous space. A large-scale piece by Aaron Young also dominates, its sinuous shapes echoed in the Zanuso chair, the rug and the marble floors.
The dining room introduces a different ambience entirely, with one wall dedicated to blue-and-white Chinese porcelain, interspersed with ornate antique French mirrors. Another corner assembles some of Osanna’s interior creations: a slim console with a lacquered green top, a pouffe in bronze and Mongolian fur, and some small bowls flanked by candlesticks from Tommaso Cascella, all arranged beneath one of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings.
Items in bronze are cast from wax moulds sculpted by Osanna at the historic Fonderia Artistica Battaglia in Milan, one of the country’s premier artistic foundries, which has produced works for some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. And despite her homeware brand’s relative infancy, Osanna has already completed some important commissions, including those from Alessandra Facchinetti, the former creative director of Tod’s, who employed her to furnish the fashion brand’s offices, and Maison Schiaparelli in Paris.
Osanna shares her ground-floor studio with Madina, who has made her own name through striking, feminine designs that celebrate nature’s raw beauty in much the same way as her mother’s creations. Surrounded by art, artefacts, talismans, tchotchkes and a legacy of aestheticism, it’s easy to envisage where the gifted pair’s inspiration originates. Vision and virtuosity reign supreme in this spectacular casa, where classic and contemporary sit effortlessly side by side and result in timeless design. Even the master bedroom exhibits this confluence of contrasting forces, where a giant tapestry by contemporary South African artist William Kentridge hangs beneath centuries-old ceilings, composing a scene of complete harmony.