Impeccable taste comes naturally to Sophie Wannenes.
Hailing from a family of antique dealers who’ve been in the industry for five generations, she found her true calling by opening her own boutique, Palermo Uno. Sophie’s exquisite aesthetic manifests throughout the saturated showroom, which serves a dual purpose as her home. Coupled with an affinity for art and decor, Sophie’s optimism and energy, drawn from years of working in advertising, make her the perfect salesperson – and it certainly helps that the space sells itself.
To walk through Palermo Uno is to explore different styles and eras, with an abundance of inspiration and references held within. Much of it is due to Sophie’s diverse background. Her initial inclination for art and design can be credited to her father, an antique dealer who, at 86 years old, still purveys 18th-century French furniture. It’s no surprise, then, that Sophie gravitated toward the same field. “I started working by doing stages at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and became super-passionate about 20th-century decorative arts, colours, and decoration,” she shares.
Though it’s difficult to imagine Palermo Uno in a different light, it has indeed come a long way since Sophie first saw the space. It had been abandoned for a year and looked like “a wreck,” she recalls wryly. “It looked like it had survived a war.” Whereas not many people would have been willing to take on the risks and challenges of gutting a space, Sophie recognised its potential. “It was love at first sight, and I immediately imagined what it could be after I decorated it,” she says.
The neighbourhood, too, contributed to Sophie’s attraction. “It’s a typical ‘bon chic, bon genre’ area with a close-knit community,” she explains. “Many of us know each other, and I have at least five friends who live in the same building.”
Developed on a surface area of a little more than 1,600 square feet, Palermo Uno possesses a 20th-century layout that’s typical of its neighbouring buildings.
A large entry hall gives way to six doors. What truly stands out is the atmosphere Sophie has created by following her creative instincts – a varied spectrum of colours lend the showroom a fun eclecticism, while the harmonious blend of design movements and periods makes its elegance undeniable.
Asked about her favourite spot, Sophie reveals that the studio is closest to her heart. “The yellow wallpaper, art deco furniture, and Serena Confalonieri’s lighting give the room a very romantic mood,” she explains. “I love being surrounded by beautiful things while working.”
Visitors to the showroom can move freely throughout the apartment’s different rooms, touching and experiencing each of the design pieces that comprise the setting.
Here, there isn’t a “do not touch” rule, and you’ll never find furniture or objects that conform to current trends – Sophie’s personal taste dominates the arrangement. “Every time someone asks how I select my furniture, I say that I chose every single piece according to my own taste,” says Sophie. “It’s all out of love.”