The Italian job: Dimore Studio creates Leo’s for The Arts Club, Mayfair

The Italian job: Dimore Studio creates Leo’s for The Arts Club, Mayfair

You wonder what took them so long. They’ve designed hotels, and VIP events spaces and stores for global brands like Fendi, Bottega Veneta and Frette, but finally someone has assigned the perfect project to showcase the talents of Milan-based design duo Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci, otherwise known as Dimore Studio. One that indulges that louche, “other-worldly” escapism at which the pair excel. And luckily for us, it’s in London.

Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci, of Dimore Studio CREDIT: SUSAN MARIANI

You will however need to join The Arts Club on Dover Street to enjoy Leo’s supper club and nightclub, which opens tonight in the basement of the Mayfair members club. Gary Landesberg, chairman of The Arts Club, commandeered the in-demand designers to give the subterranean space, which was already popular with members of the private seven-storey club for its live-music and DJ sets Thursday through Saturday nights, a total overhaul with — according to Moran — a “very generous budget”.

Discussions began in the spring, with Landesberg travelling to Milan, where Dimore’s work can be seen in the apartment-like Dimore Gallery, a series of rooms housed in an 18th-century palazzo where visitors can immerse themselves in the studio’s beguiling world of interiors.

The pair’s decadent aesthetic mixes re-upholstered vintage furniture and lighting from various eras with their own contemporary pieces and custom-made flamboyant textiles and rugs in a distinctive, nostalgic palette of jewel-toned hues.

The clue is in the name; dimora translates as «mansion» and that sense of faded grandeur reverberates through the firm’s spaces, with rich materials and design eras colliding in harmony. It’s utterly fabulous, but in tumultuous times, also charmingly reassuring.

Booth seating at Leo’s CREDIT: PAOLA PANSINI

«Dimore’s style is like nothing else in the marketplace today and they have a deft touch,» says Landesberg. «Crucially, they understand what makes us tick and we trust them implicitly – an essential part of any collaboration. We had complete faith that the bold choices they made with the design would translate from the initial mood boards into something spectacular – and we haven’t been disappointed. We’ve had a lot of fun creating something extraordinary.»

The bar at Leo’s at The Arts Club, designed by Dimore Studio CREDIT: PAOLA PANSINI

Indeed Dimore has made such impact among fashion and design cognoscenti that it has become an adjective: «that’s very Dimore» being applied to any space or furniture combining flamboyant satins, fringing and velvets in certain colour combinations — soft pink and emerald green particularly.

Certainly, Leo’s is sumptuously so, from the glamorously disorientating entrance corridor of rose pink smoked mirror panelling (which Moran points out “makes you look very nice even if you’ve had a bad day”), to the exotic palm-prints that decorate silk-upholstered Saarinen tulip arnchairs (an archive design from Mantero) and lacquered enamel tabletops. It’s loosely inspired by the Riviera clubs of the Fifties and Sixties and you do feel transported to sunnier climes.

Leo’s Club entrance at The Arts Club, designed by Dimore Studio CREDIT: PAOLA PANSINI

Meeting the pair at the club pre-opening, they’re ensconced in a central booth. Salci heads up the design team but is quite literally the silent partner — his English being not so good as the North Carolina-raised Moran. Creativity shines through however in his outré dress sense (today’s all-brown ensemble is like a Seventies flashback, think successful New Yorker hanging out at Studio 54). Meanwhile, Moran eloquently explains the project, which included moving the stage from one end of the rectilinear room to a central lateral position to improve flow and guest experience.

Leo’s being a live music venue, other technicalities involved acoustics. Dimore tackled this issue with stylish aplomb by lining the corrugated booths in a satin-like technical Kvadrat fabric to resemble curtains. Otherwise it’s an Italian-made riot of pattern with seagrass wallpaper printed with a geometric motif and rich details of pink rosa perlino marble, brass, bronze and timber parquet flooring. The Giacometti-inspired bronze sculptures in the entrance, cast at Milan’s legendary Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, are works of art.

The stage at Leo’s Club CREDIT: PAOLA PANSINI

As Moran says, «We’re not just grey, white and beige. We ask our clients to jump off a very fast-moving train with us.» Testament to this daring are the new stage curtains: not your average velvet, but instead bamboo bearing an exotic Lotus flower motif. «They’re the ones you use in southern Italy to keep out the flies,» explains Moran. «Gary was like ‘ok-aay, we’ll go with this’, but that’s what made it so great, the trust of the client is very important.»

Gaining that trust is clearly not an issue for Dimore Studio. The duo are currently working on four private residences in London, a store for Oliver Peoples in Miami, a 35-room boutique hotel in Paris and another high-profile project for Fendi. Their popularity is proof that Dimore’s rose-tinted vision continues to be the feelgood tonic for the times.