Rome wasn’t built in a day: Inside designer Achille Salvagni’s family home in the Italian capital

Rome wasn’t built in a day: Inside designer Achille Salvagni’s family home in the Italian capital

If you’re an art-loving billionaire with a couple of homes and maybe a super-yacht to furnish, Roman architect and designer Achille Salvagni is the person to call. For discerning individuals of wealth, his taste, flair with colour and eye for rare collectables have made him the interior designer of choice.

Salvagni now produces his own limited-edition lighting and furniture, too. Made by Roman artisans in marble, onyx, lacquered wood and bronze, these beautifully crafted pieces are sold by design gallery Maison Gerard in New York and, since 2015, in his own showroom in London’s Mayfair.

A soft, natural colour palette inspired by old-master paintings unites a mix of styles, from Salvagni’s own designs to inherited pieces and investment art CREDIT: PAOLO PETRIGNANI

Not that his home in Rome’s Quartiere Coppedè, which he shares with his wife, Valentina, a university professor, and two children, Gaetano, seven, and Victoria, four, is decked out solely in Salvagni. That’s not his style. Like the surrounding neighbourhood , renowned for its mix of architectural genres, Salvagni brings together different periods, sourcing pieces from auctions, flea markets, galleries and antique shops, with a few of his own designs sprinkled in.

There’s a strong Italian thread throughout, with notable appearance s from his personal favourites, 20th-century design greats Paolo Buffa and Gio Ponti. But, he says, «I prefer to create a stage for many souls to find their own space. I love many styles; it’s a mismatch.» Albeit a fabulous one, where a 1930s Buffa card table stands in front of a Biedermeier cabinet, GioPonti vessels line up next to Etruscan vases, and a Louis XV console sits beneath a canvas by contemporary artist Ettore Spalletti.

The kitchen and bathroom are defined by graphic black-and-white flooring CREDIT: PAOLO PETRIGNANI

Inherited gems include Tang vases and an early-20th-century self-portrait by Giorgio de Chirico, a gift from Salvagni’s father, as well as an early-19th-century plaster bust from his mother’s side of the family. «He was so serious I put a pair of swimming goggles on him,» Salvagni says. «I like to be a little ironic sometimes to demolish the seriousness.»

The colour scheme is classical, complete with soft ultramarine, sienna, ochre and umber, natural pigments that date back to the Renaissance. «I seek out old-master colours because they’re timeless,» Salvagni explains. «I’m convinced that how you feel in a space is connected to the colours. If they come from the past they are not aggressive or overpowering, but calming.»

A series of etchings depicting an ancient battle scene lend a classical element throughout the apartment CREDIT: PAOLO PETRIGNANI

Despite his professional expertise, most decisions were taken jointly, though Salvagni had the final word, «because my wife trusts me. She evidently shares his attention to detail as the pair spent an entire afternoon with a decorator testing different white paints for the living-room walls. «It faces west and because of the art it was really important to get the right white. We didn’t want the wall to turn a strange yellow when the sun sets, so we had to add some grey tones to avoid that.»

Salvagni’s bronze-and-onyx Spider chandelier hangs above a table also of his own design in the dining room.The chairs, byTomaso Buzzi, were reupholstered by Salvagni CREDIT: PAOLO PETRIGNANI

The abundance of light was one of the key factors that prompted the family to move in. Salvagni had been searching for a central Rome property with a large terrace for over a year when tenants vacated this apartment, which had been a wedding gift to his wife from her parents. «We stepped in and it was full of light. We looked at the beautiful views and thought, ‘Why not?'»

A Paolo Buffa bar cabinet hangs an artwork by Giuseppe Uncini.The Venini glass sculpture dates back to the 1920s CREDIT: PAOLO PETRIGNANI

It took a year to reconfigure the 3,500 sq ft listed apartment, transforming it into a three-bedroom family home with quarters for a housekeeper and nanny. It was originally composed of many smaller rooms, with two bathrooms, but Salvagni connected spaces to create larger living areas and installed five bathrooms, repeating architraves and restoring 19th-century elements. He avoids generic suppliers right down to hardware, preferring to design his own bronze door handles and hinges.

Living room of Achille Salvagni’s apartment CREDIT: PAOLO PETRIGNANI

And how do two young children fit into such an impeccable space? «I need this balance and purity, otherwise I cannot breathe; for me it’s a sense of daily inspiration,» says Salvagni. «The children’s bedrooms are in the same style, but of course it’s their space, because children need their freedom. However, they will grow up experiencing this and you can’t underestimate the power of beauty in shaping your future.»