When it came to finding an apartment in Paris, the young interior designer Fabrice Casiraghi was willing to settle for much less than most of his clients. He didn’t need something as grandiose as, say, the 4,500 square foot apartment he’s currently finishing in a building in the 7th Arrondissement. But while Casiraghi’s needs were modest, they were also non-negotiable.
First, two outdoor terraces, one in each direction. “Two small terraces because I need to stay outside, have a glass of rosé in the sun,” says Casiraghi. Second, a working fireplace. “A small dinner, with a risotto around the fireplace, is very important to me, even if I don’t have a table. My mom made me these fantastic handmade napkins, and I give them to everyone and we sit on the beanbag, on the sofa, with a plate of risotto and a glass of champagne, and everyone is very happy.
Casiraghi was lucky on his side. His dream apartment fell to his knees – fireplace, two terraces and all – with the first real estate ad he responded to. He didn’t mind that it was only 700 square feet and a fifth floor with no elevator because the space is an old artist’s studio with a huge north-facing window and a double height ceiling in the living room. Casiraghi, 33, trained as an architect and town planner at the Politecnico in Milan, where he grew up. free space. “Even though the apartment is small, this 13-foot ceiling is very important, because we feel like…” – Casiraghi stops here to fill his lungs – “we breathe!”
We are standing on its front terrace overlooking a quiet street in the 9th arrondissement, not far from Montmartre. When Casiraghi moved to Paris four years ago, he lived in the trendy Marais, and he seems relieved to let go of his oppressive chic. “I love this neighborhood. Lots of families with children, the elderly, straight people, homosexuals. A little hipster, but not too much. We don’t have a lot of fashion stores. It’s good, ”he said.
This spirit of grounded reality is what Casiraghi clients value; its spaces are intended to serve the people who live there, and not the other way around. Her own apartment is filled with a mixed bag of treasures found over the years. He brought the beanbag in front of the fireplace from Morocco, and the masks on the wall come from Kenya. “I traveled to Sweden and fell in love with this wonderful lamp there,” he says. “It’s a table by Josef Hoffmann. The bedroom is the result of where I have traveled, where I have lived, the places I have visited, what I have seen in my life. For me, this is very important.
All of these disparate objects sit comfortably together, as if they’ve shared this house for a long time. “I like to create spaces that seem to have been inhabited for 10 years,” says Casiraghi. “You feel a bit the same when you walk into this apartment. You don’t think I moved in two months ago.
There’s some good art here too, not that it ever makes you pay attention. “It’s a painting by Lucio Fontana that no one notices at the entrance. I don’t hang it in the middle of the wall with a light facing the painting. I just put it next to the door, maybe behind the door. Even though no one cares to see it, I see it every morning and I’m happy with it, and that’s how I like to approach my projects. I hate loud things. I hate those things that you have to show people that you are rich or educated. That’s what my family taught me.
Casiraghi comes from the good bourgeois Milanese stock. His father worked in the artistic department of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera; her mother was a university administrator. Their strong presence literally hovers over the apartment. On the large living room wall is a series of austere graphic images, all signed by papa. “He doesn’t do things for the public, only for the family. It’s easy, but I like the shapes. Plus, it’s very feng shui, ”says Casiraghi, who takes Chinese principles of harmonious design very seriously in his understated way. Casiraghi’s mother is also pictured. She’s not your typical Italian mother – Casiraghi says she can’t cook which is worth a lick. But she knows how to weave like Arachne: her curtains frame the high windows.
Casiraghi first moved to Paris after graduation to work with Dominique perrault, the architect and town planner who developed the imposing François-Mitterrand Library on the banks of the Seine. But what really got him on his way was volunteering at Villa -Necchi -Campiglio, an iconic 1930s mansion in the heart of Milan that is now a house museum. “I fell in love with the handles, the hinges, the way the floor was made,” he says. “I fell in love with the kind of detail impossible to find in town planning. “
He spent the next two years at Dimore-Studio in Milan, the influential partnership of interior designers Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran that has become something of a design academy in itself. “They are obsessed with light, color, atmosphere, mixing objects,” says Casiraghi. “That’s what I learned from them.” Casiraghi had already started to think beyond Dimore when the Parisian design agent Julien Desselle gave him carte blanche with his apartment in Venice. Desselle is a big wheel in the design world, and he could have chosen any of the A-List architects he represented to help him. Casiraghi crushed the commission and Desselle made it on his list.
The attention he garnered for the Venice apartment and the support of Desselle helped Casiraghi start his own business in Paris in 2015. He was not yet 30 years old. He left his mark on a hotel in Verbier and a beach club in Mykonos. It refreshes the familiar Café de L’Esplanade, opposite the Invalides, without feeling the need to trample on the spirit of its former creator, Jacques Garcia.
Casiraghi’s particular blend of confidence and humility impressed Laurent Gardinier, who owns the Parisian restaurant Drouant with his two brothers. Gardinier also needed to transform an iconic place without turning it upside down – Drouant has been around for a very long time, and it looked like it. But it was a particularly sensitive facelift: the winners of the most prestigious literary prizes in France, the Goncourt and the -Renaudot, are announced from the top of the steps of a magnificent Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann staircase in its main room.
Casiraghi loves Art Deco, and he loves Ruhlmann, he said, gesturing to a brass Ruhlmann doorknob on his living room cupboard. Corn Drouant was a prisoner of her identity. “It was horrible. We changed everything and just kept the beautiful staircase in the middle. I had to build the Art Deco sensibility in a modern way. I hate the pageant. The new room is light and airy, with yellow seats. For the Proust salon in Drouant, Casiraghi commissioned a whimsical fresco of nymphs wearing dark blue garlands from his friend Roberto Ruspoli, who also painted constellations on the ceiling of Casiraghi’s apartment.
“Fabrizio has succeeded in giving the restaurant back the Ruhlmannian character without making it a pastiche”, explains Gardinier. “He gave him back what had been lost. For someone so young, he has a very strong sense of cultural heritage. He suggested a simple black and white mosaic on the floor, and when we tore up the old flooring we found an unusable mosaic like this, from 1925, which was originally there – it didn’t not even know she was there!
Many designers have a recognizable signature. -Casiraghi doesn’t, largely on purpose. But if you’re looking for telltale signs of her work, check the angles on her walls – they’re often soft. He did very little major work on his own apartment, but added a double archway between the living room and the kitchen. “Each passage is rounded, it’s more cozy, softer. And where I can’t do that, I put a slightly rounded shape between the wall and the ceiling. We have the impression of being in a cave. Also, hairspray: Casiraghi tends to use it a lot. He has furnished his tiny bedroom in a shade he calls Portofino Olive (green with lots of brown); the walls of an apartment he makes in the 10th are all burnt orange. “Lacquer is like a mirror, it increases the amount of light,” he says.
For the most part, however, Casiraghi avoids imposing his preferences on the people he works for. He asks clients to submit five images (any five images) and starts by building a moodboard around them. From there, he functions almost like a parent, guiding his children towards a more sophisticated expression of their own tastes. It may take a long time, but he can’t help it. “I can’t decide everything in a month,” he says. “I have to put on a first layer, go inside with the customers, so we put on a second layer, then a third, then a fourth. I finished an apartment a year ago, and we are still adding things. If they need me, I’m here.
When in a hurry, Casiraghi possesses lasting likes and dislikes. He is crazy about Hoffmann, Koloman Moser and the Wiener Werkstätte. Ditto for the 70s groovness of the sophisticated hippie Gabriella Crespi, whose exorbitant prices put his work beyond his reach, he says regretfully. Mid-century modern, this chic decor brown? Meh. Oh, and don’t get him started on minimalism. The architect in him admires the skill of masters like John pawson and Peter Zumthor, but the designer in him, well, no.
“I think minimalism is fascism because it forces you to live in a very unnatural way,” he says. “You are a prisoner of the order you have built to maintain the perfect shape of the house. I want to create places where, if you put your journal down like this or that, it still works, because that’s life, and life is like that.