‘I came here in 2011. The flat was all white, I was a student, but I had people renting the spare room. I was trying to fill the void, buying things and hanging them everywhere.’
‘Then there was a water leak through the ceiling, so I had all the colours. The walls are painted in Cardboard Box from Papers and Paints. The painter who did it said – ‘Cardboard Box? Shouldn’t you wait until you’re dead to be in one of them?’’
The [built in] cupboards and shelves had all these weird grooves – It looked like a bit of a dolls house somehow.
I filled them in with a filler and changed the profiles and got rid of [the mouldings]. Then I made the two plaster lamps – in situ – so I didn’t have to unwire the junction boxes on the wall.
The idea? At the beginning I did a head like Giacometti,
But then the other [above] is more like flower. I used gauze and I learned little by little. It’s quite a chemical reaction, you cannot mess around. I’m still learning. It’s quite different from my work today’
‘I am English at heart! I always wanted to come to England.
I grew up in Milan, then I did all sorts of wrong decisions in education… My mum, my family, they have good English antiques and paintings, ceramics, at home, but definitely, they are not fashionable, my family – they are just doing their thing.
My grandparents have quite English taste, but quite modern, 70s … My grandmother used to tell me she would come here with her friends, in the 50s, 60s, and go to Portobello market when it was still dark, ‘ and we had little torches!’ And then go back to the hotel and put everything they’d bought on the bed. I think they bought plates, cups, silverware. Green leaf plates…’
‘I wanted to come to England during high school – I came twice in summer, I did like a fashion course at St Martin’s when it was still at Charing Cross. The building was so beautiful! The library, the people! A three weeks course and then I was out every night – the third week was a bit of failure because I couldn’t leave the bed, I was so sick.
I did so bad in my studies – I felt I didn’t deserve it – so I chose something stupid to do then, I studied Philosophy for one year. And then I came here in 2009 and did graphic design, a diploma, then a BA at the London College of Communication in Elephant and Castle.
My BA was Interactive and Moving Image. I was very good at drawings and little stories – so I guess I went into styling.’
‘So! I liked [The World of ] Interiors and the styling is like creating a little world in one shot… I was finishing the BA and I sent a cover letter and a CV to Miranda and Maud Hewlings, whose name was always in the shoots that I liked. I was so low I was trying to kill myself by not breathing…. I didn’t know what to do next and I didn’t really like my degree, I would have had to go back to Italy, I guess.
I went for two weeks work experience. And that was fantastic – and WOI has always been a home. I was really lucky, the first week I helped on a shoot, the second I was in the workroom helping Kirsten Hecktermann for the big October shoot in India. Then I helped Kirsten with her dyeing and making in Suffolk. Then Max [@maximilian~egger] got me maternity cover at House and Garden – I was doing two shoots every month for Gabby Deeming. At the end I’d learned how to be organised and then I started helping Jessica Hayns.
I had no job and I made two lamps at home just for fun. And Gabby said, ‘ Why don’t you prepare a couple of lamps just to sell in the H and G pop up shop?’ And I did 15. I bought cheap lamps from ebay to begin with’
‘The Elton John LP’s on loan. It helped me through Covid, I had only 5 records, dancing, playing records, drinking, my neighbours started complaining it was always the same music.’
‘That’s a photo of me taken by Bill Batten on a shoot, looking through a piece of plastic that was on the beach. The white plaster columns are from when I did the Hand Sale, made for my table at the entrance to the sale.’
The picture over the fire that’s Jermaine’s [@jermainegallacher] – a monoprint – he paints on glass, this is from when he studied at Camberwell, he gave it to me for my birthday.
Blue-green paper shade by Viola Lanari
The first ‘Giacometti’ lamp
‘The table and mirror console ? – I just made it exactly for here, lots of people want to buy it.’
‘The wall hanging is Japanese, painted, devore, I got it in Switzerland 5 or 6 years ago, the rug is kitsch, I got it at auction online for nothing at all’
Classical cameo made by Peter Hone
“kitchen! I didn’t change the kitchen – too expensive – I just took away the extractor, I took it to the tip, I felt so good! The lion chocolate mould, I got it from Jess at the first @theinteriorsbootsale. I made that little shelf for the trays.’
‘Salt, pepper and mustard set – I got it in France, ugly cats are good’
‘That fish cushion is a rag rug, I got it in an online auction for 10 pounds, I made it into a cushion – it was filthy. The hanging is by Dhabu [Dhababu Ngumbao] bought from Kirsten Hecktermann when we went on her shoot for WOI in Kenya, its designed to hang vertically, really’
When I was a child my mum papered my bedroom with yellow roses from Laura Ashley – I detested it, it made me sick for ages, so I was covering my bedroom up a lot – I bought this mage plastic curtain. it was really big from a flea market… the bedspread is Pierre Frey, left over from a shoot at WOI.
The painting is by Ben Burgess, the Puffa fish is from Kenya, there’s a grasshopper, a tin lobster brooch – there are too many animals but they really make me laugh – a pebble dog – The chintz panels in the cupboard doors protect my T shirts from the sun.
An early lamp and one of my papers for the shade.
room with a view
‘Silver-vinyl-lined entrance lobby with applique fishes. ‘Debo Devonshire – a posh person! – had silver in her bathroom, I saw it in Interiors…’
‘The mirror was one of those fake-gold ones, too big in this flat in my opinion, so I just covered that up. The lampshade – this is a hat from my friend Maddy – Hurtence – this is my favourite one of her hats. The owl print is by Mark Hearld, he just gave it to me.’
‘I got the chair at the Battersea car boot sale and it’s just made with all these German stamps, all from 1951’
Viola Lanari’s south London studio
‘And then I came here.’
‘I’ve been in this room four years – three years? I started in the basement and then I really desired a window. Half of the room became available, there was a partition down the middle.The silver ceiling is insulation and keeps the mice back. Its foil for backing mirror glass, I like silver in a very white space. It takes a full day to make one of these flowers. [flower lamps] I made the process up. You have to wait for the plaster to dry, and sand, and wait before you add another layer – Or its too fragile and brittle. This one is patinated – it doesn’t look like a paint effect – hopefully.’
‘Plaster is very French. I went to Paris 3 or 4 years ago, to the Picasso Museum, a show just on the process of making the chandeliers. You realise the connection the material has with the people who make it, its almost moving! It’s very expressive.’
‘Brancusi – I love the simplicity and rough of it – carved picture frames – ‘like medieval furniture’
‘They are lamps – but they are all individually sculpted and assembled individually.’
‘ It’s very botanical – this is more corally’
‘I want to put everything together, the papers, the plaster, the fabric – the product…’
‘I am British now. I’ve never been Italian in Italy… I’m very independent of my family… So… Today I just finished my second jar of Marmite. I am English – I am bloody English!’
Very many thanks to Viola Lanari – thanks dear Viola!
All photographs copyright bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts may be used as long as clear links are supplied back to the original authors and content.
You have a very nice place. Thank you for sharing Viola.
Toll, wunderbar, viel Kreativität, weiter so.
Lovely tapestry in the livingroom. Such a quirky home.
I adore this blog, thank you for another wonderful article!