Corrado, could you introduce yourself?
I am a shoe designer. I’ve worked for various companies in France, Italy and England throughout my career. A shoe is a very small object that forces us to be doubly creative. It’s also highly technical, and that’s why it is an interesting challenge. A shoe really needs its owner to give it life! Because, basically, it is quite immobile, rigid. I don’t think there are any other elements of the wardrobe that have such a fundamental need to be brought to life by someone’s personality. And then, the idea of designing an object that can change people’s approach is very tempting. Shoes often have a very personal attachment for the people who own them. They conceal life stories. Stories of love, sadness, tears, perhaps even eroticism. And they really are an extension of us. They’re the accessory I love most of all!
Where does your love of beauty spring from?
I think my love of beauty is linked to the need to escape from a place where I never felt I belonged. I was born in Puglia, a beautiful region brimming with history and breathtaking natural beauty, but I always had the feeling that I was destined for something else. That I didn’t really belong. I couldn’t escape it right away, and so I started to read. A lot. Especially stories with whimsical characters who were living a life I would have liked to live in incredible settings – and which I promised myself I would recreate one day! Reading is magical because we don’t have images and we can imagine the places that are described in our own way. The scenery, the fragrances, the movement. This allows us to bring any number of parallel universes to life. We can be who we want to be, and we can be how we want to be. I read Huysmann’s À Rebours, Il Piacera d’Annunzio and many others. Being plunged into these different atmospheres, described in so much detail, drove me crazy. After dreaming about it for a few years, I wanted to know more, and I went on to read books on art of all kinds. It was often very entertaining to see in real life what I had imagined. Often, my imagination was actually weirder and more eccentric than reality. All these works were my escape route and the source of my personal definition of beauty. An idea that is always evolving, voracious for novelty, thirsting for discovery.
You work in fashion, but you excel in decoration. Have you ever considered making it your profession?
I’d like to be able to decorate other apartments, but what interests me are the stories that I might be told and the ones that I can tell. The place has to speak to me, inspire me. People’s minds fascinate me. And if their background speaks to me, that can make me want to integrate my world with theirs. I can’t imagine thinking of decoration as a simple command to be executed by endlessly repeating a particular taste and anaesthetic that people associate with me. I don’t want to impose my style. I want to integrate it with the lives of the people who inspire me and who open up new horizons for me. It must be a love story first and foremost; the decoration comes after. Otherwise, there is no soul. It’s all about assembling exceptional objects, possibly made with exquisite taste, but without personality. And as for personality, that cannot be achieved through decoration. You can and must reveal it, or even magnify it, and help it to evolve. Anyway, this is how it is with me and my interior.
I think my love of beauty is linked to the need to escape from a place where I never felt I belonged. I was born in Puglia (...) but I always had the feeling that I was destined for something else.
What did you like about this apartment?
Its history! It’s said to have belonged to a duchess. Memory fascinates me and is very important to me. I am aware that another life has belonged in this place and I know how lucky I am to be able to give it a new lease of life. I’d like to think that someone would do that to my apartment a hundred years from now. By integrating their personality, their experiences into it. Imagining developing somewhere someone has already lived, leaving the traces of the past is, for me, totally bewitching. It’s a story that never ends, that binds me to a past and, even if I don’t want it to, projects me into a future that I am building day after day.
You have totally transformed the place. Tell us how.
Technically, we’ve changed the layout of some of the rooms, but what I’ve tried to do is to create totally different ambiences that have no relation to each other. Each space has its own personality, its own decoration, its own distinct identity. Each one reflects a facet of my personality. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough to express them all. But this is just the beginning of a long story that has is only just beginning. A story of emotions, of aesthetic liberation, fragrances, of little touches, of colours. I wanted the rooms to exude emotion, sometimes fear, to see disgust in some, excitement, contempt, passion… I’m not interested in “beautiful”. It has to be moving, it has to pose questions for me. If an aesthetic doesn’t question me, it doesn’t interest me. I have made choices that many people reproach me for, seeing them as “dubious”. I don’t regret any of them, because I love them and I see myself in them. That’s me. Beautiful or not.
Who did you have two help you with this?
The first person to collaborate with me was my architect Noel Dominguez Truchot. Since then he has become a friend. We don’t necessarily have the same taste, but his intelligence, together with his elegance of spirit and his ability to listen without forming preconceived ideas, has allowed me to make something that had been taking shape within me for years a reality. But this apartment is, above all, the story of some remarkable encounters with artists including Victor Levai and Clément Arnaud. And then there were gallery owners like Laurence Vauclair and Thomas Bonzom, fantastic houses, Zuber for the ceilings, Codimat for the carpets and Dedar for the fabrics. They all introduced me to worlds I didn’t even suspect existed, and with a generosity that opened my mind and made me want to know more and more. I love the sensation of feeling illiterate or even ignorant, and having the need to know, to be informed, to discover new things every day. I need it! I never get tired of it. I like to integrate other people’s worlds into my own. There is always space at home for that. Especially when it comes to people who are generous and full of love for their profession. That way, we fall in love with lots of things, and our aesthetics evolve continually. It’s magical.
Every room is different. What sort of atmosphere will we find in each of them? Which one is your favourite?
I haven’t necessarily tried to achieve a particular atmosphere. The choices I’ve made answer my need to express particular aspects of my personality. The decadence of the living room, the romantic atmosphere of the dining room, the dark feel in the bedroom, the slightly “tacky” look of the entrance, they’re all parts of me in different ways. I hate the idea of thinking about a room according to its function. I find that sad and quite limiting. For me, a space conveys an emotion. The fact that it’s functional doesn’t really interest me. If I like it and it resonates with me, I’ll find a way to live and move around in it. So I don’t have a favourite room. It all depends on my mood, on the facet of my personality that I want to highlight, and also on the person or the people who are with me. If I’m feeling a bit romantic, then I sit in the dining room to read. As a matter of fact, I never eat in there because it doesn’t inspire the idea of eating at all. I consider it to be very successful precisely “because” of that. It is a place that evokes entirely different sensations and desires. It has a very special and unique personality, because it doesn’t serve its purpose as you might expect it to, but it provokes other, much more exciting feelings.
What were your inspirations for the decoration?
My inspirations were, above all, people who were never afraid to be bold. People who are truly daring, who mix anything and everything together because each object has a value to them that goes far beyond beauty and necessity. So I would say, above all, Tony Duquette, my idol. His house in Los Angeles, Dawnridge House, is my ultimate dream. It is pushed to the extreme, fearlessly and with impressive self-confidence. And then there are Madelaine Castaing, Renzo Mongiardino, Iris Apfel, Diana Vreeland, Marella Agnelli and Walter Albini. Strong personalities, daring and full of humour too! Because you can’t take things too seriously when it comes to decorating. You have to know how to have fun! If we had to talk about “places”, strictly speaking, Marrakesh was a great source of inspiration. Looking at it overall, this interior is also the culmination of a series of experiences and purchases made at very different moments in my life, and which have blended together exceptionally well. Because each and every one represents a personal moment that I have loved. Like a perfume that I want to remember!
You buy a lot. Is that with a precise idea of where the object will go, or is it when you fall in love with something?
I never buy out of necessity. A purchase made out of necessity – or to fill in empty space – is, in my opinion, a purchase with no emotion behind it. I buy because I love, because I can’t help but imagine myself surrounded by objects rather than a painting or a piece of furniture. I also buy because I like to see my apartment evolve all the time. Nothing is fixed, nothing is definitively decided, I don’t plan, I don’t respect an aesthetic or a particular “taste”. A moment comes in which I feel that something attracts me, and I have to follow that impulse. I think things call out to us. They are waiting for us, they know us before we know ourselves. If I meet someone new who teaches me new things, I also feel the need to acquire myself something that relates to that. I need to have something that symbolises this emotion close to me at all times, so that I can relive it over and over again. It is very addictive. So there’s always a way to fit things in at home! (laughs)
I have made choices that many people reproach me for, seeing them as "dubious". I don't regret any of them, because I love them and I see myself in them. That's me. Beautiful or not.
What are your most recent acquisitions?
My latest acquisitions are some bronzes made by an Italian sculptor called Nicola Lazzari. They are splendid, poetic and fragile. I also have consoles by Renzo Mongiardino, as well as a Tony Duquette lamp covered with crystals – quite tacky but exceptional – and I’m going to add my own “touch” to it by integrating a lampshade made of straw and raffia by a brilliant designer called Anne Sokolsky. And I have Victorian dioramas made entirely of shells. These are very, very different pieces, but they have all found their place. First, in my heart, and then, naturally, in my home.
Is there any piece that is an exception to the rule and that you couldn’t bear to part with?
I could part with everything except those pieces that were given to me by people to whom I would be linked forever. Because, more so than the others, they are first and foremost gestures of love and affection and, in my eyes, are irreplaceable.
The 10th arrondissement has been your neighbourhood for a few months now. What are your favourite places to go there?
I’ve lived in the 10th arrondissement since November 2019. It is an absolutely incredible neighbourhood with a mix of cultures, perfumes, colours and music! It’s impressively diverse in human terms. I really like the Grand Café d’Athènes, that’s an exceptional Greek restaurant. Le 52 and Le Richer, which are two very good addresses too. There’s always something mouth-watering to be had at Le Daily Syrien. And then there’s the Red Jasmine where I buy my flowers, the Napoleon café where I often sit down and enjoy an espresso, and Super Vintage where you can find real gems in terms of decoration and fashion. But I still have a lot of things to discover, and that’s great!
What about the places where you can find a taste of Italy in Paris?
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay