With voluminous reception areas, antique parquet flooring, historic design and tailor-made pieces, and a play on materials in sober, elegant tones, there can be no doubt that we’re in Milan. Alessia Bossi and Alberto Nespoli share a love of what is known in art history as Ideal Beauty. This form of classicism, often Italian if we’re being honest, can be found revisited and spiced up with a contemporary twist at Eligo Studio, the interior design agency set up by Alberto Nespoli, who professes to have an “Italian style”. The Socialite Family set out to find out more by meeting the couple at their home in the heart of Milan’s Porta Venezia district, entering this jewel nestled in a beautiful 1930s building.
Alessia and Alberto, please introduce yourselves.
I was born in 1981 in a small village near Milan. I graduated in interior design from Milan Polytechnic. I met Alessia at an event during Milan Design Week in 2015, where Studio Eligo was presenting a beautiful layout by the designer and brand Antonio Marras. We fell in love, and a few months later, we moved in together at Alessia’s place. Since then, we’ve both made Milan our city of choice for two simple reasons: it’s a city that allows us to express ourselves freely in our work, and of course, it’s the capital of design! I founded Eligo Studio here.
I set up an agency specialising in events and digital communications, WE ARE LOVERS, in 2016, with my partner Lucia Serafini I’m the Creative Director: I’ve always had lots of imagination and a great passion for beautiful things. I’m incredibly fortunate that this has become my profession over the years…
Alberto, tell us about Eligo Studio.
Eligo Studio is a creative agency made up of architects and interior designers developing tailor-made projects in a purely Italian style with a few key concepts. We design all types of interiors, from retail to hotels and restaurants, and not forgetting private residences. We combine traditional Italian techniques with contemporary space design to create original places. Each project is unique and has that indefinable Italian charm. As we often say, “Italian beauty is timeless”! In fact, the name Eligo comes from the Latin word eligere: to choose with care and elegance. This fits in well with our mantra: to develop projects that combine aesthetics, ethics, passion and local culture in perfect symbiosis. Our efforts have been crowned with success. To name just a few, we won the Milan Design Award in 2015 with “The Path to the Nest of Spiders”, a stand designed for Antonio Marras. That was the start of international recognition for us. In 2019, we were named “best designer” by Altagamma. This prize enabled us to establish ourselves on the national and international markets as a midway point between fashion, craft and design. Finally, we were selected as one of AD magazine’s 100 interior designers for 2019.
Can you try to define this celebrated Italian style you’re talking about?
Reinventing the present through references to the past. For us, the new Italian style is based on research and analysis of the great design masters. Gio Ponti, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Ignazio Gardella, Ico Parisi, Ettore Sottsass, Vico Magistretti, Carlo Scarpa and Umberto Riva are just some of the many masters we study and admire every day. We seek to learn from them, as well as through contact with the craftspeople and companies we work with.
For us, the new Italian style is based on research and analysis of the great design masters.
Tell us about your respective childhood environments. How did they influence your aesthetic approach?
I grew up in an Italian family in the suburbs of Milan. My mother, a contemporary art dealer, was a significant influence on me. She used to take me to fairs and salons and hang out with artists, most of them Italian. The family home, understated and elegant, has always been full of design classics mixed with vintage pieces.
I grew up in a warm and friendly environment. I enjoyed the freedom of country living! My parents were keen on decorating and had good taste. I’ve always been attracted to beautiful and aesthetically pleasing things. I still have flashbacks to places that made an impression on me! It’s no wonder I wrote my thesis on the cult of beauty…
Tell us how you came to find this apartment tucked away in a 1930s building in Milan…
This 135 m2 apartment has superb character, a sumptuous finish, and is dual aspect, so there’s plenty of natural light on the first floor. We’ve preserved everything that gave it its architectural character: all the early twentieth-century stucco motifs, the high ceilings, the original oak and ash parquet flooring, the built-in made-to-measure furniture… This palazzo was built as the home of a family who ran a metal workshop specialising in decoration. Many of the elements came directly from the workshops: the entrance gate, the balustrades and the ironwork on the balconies…
The apartment is in the Porta Venezia district, and we fell instantly in love with its Italian charm. It was clearly a perfect project for Eligo Studio, with this mix of past and present… The project was to conserve and restore as much of the space as possible with a truly philosophical approach to the place, maintaining the distribution of space as much as possible, but we added a bathroom in place of the existing kitchen to create a kitchen and dining area, and two bathrooms – a great idea, now that little Ennio has joined us – and two extra bedrooms. The result is very natural, flows well and is very user-friendly. The first night we slept in our new apartment, I woke up, went into the kitchen and no sooner had I set foot on the floor than I heard a creak. Of course, Alessia opened one eye, and we looked at each other laughing: it would have been impossible not to wake up! Over time, we’ve got used to it, and we really like the floor. The patina of time is something that fascinates us both.
Alberto, how have you expressed Eligo Studio’s architectural signature here?
Alessia and I decided from the outset to work with contrasts, to bring in colours and spaces that suited us both. We’ve each contributed to shaping this joint project through our own choices. One of our first ideas was to express ourselves through clear, plain colours, quite feminine touches such as plaster friezes that are relatively soft and sensual in contrast to the mirrors and metal work, and charcoal resin… We stimulate each other’s imagination a lot. For us, home is a place for living and resting and should be decorated in soft, neutral tones. Contrasts are part of who we are. We’re very different people, but what we do have in common is a preference for elegance without ostentation and a love of historic styles. And speaking of history, we snooped around in all the neighbouring cellars to try and find the apartment’s original doors and by ringing up all the owners, we finally got our hands on them! Another little tidbit: we restored the bedroom’s built-in wooden furniture. At first, I was quite against it, but we followed Alessia’s suggestion and went ahead and did it, and we’re still delighted with it!
Designing our interior was an exciting challenge. The result is a wonderful blend of our two personalities, and I’d even go so far as to say a representation of our values as a couple! Beautiful shapes, clear colours to identify each space, highly expressive decorative elements and a high level of functionality: this is the great success of our apartment, and we created it together.
You have a keen eye for aesthetics and are also young parents. How have you chosen to decorate your home?
We’ve tried to combine a clever mix of practical, intelligent solutions and good taste! For the moment, Ennio’s bedroom is still very neutral. We made this choice so that he could make his own choices as he grew up.
In the kitchen, I’m very happy with the charcoal colour, which I really like and which is very practical: you can’t see the dirt straight away. And I would add that Alessia’s bathroom was a big subject of debate in our marriage (laughs). It’s the result of a dialogue between us, but above all, I tried to satisfy all her requests: big drawers for her creams and perfumes and lots of room for her shoes.
The iconoclastic styling of Milanese interiors has always been a great source of inspiration for The Socialite Family. How do you apply these codes at home?
I’ve lived in Milan for more than half my life, and I’m totally influenced by its aesthetic: understated and elegant, discreet with immense attention to detail. Milan is stylish, modern and discreet. That’s what we’re also trying to represent.
What’s your favourite piece in The Socialite Family collection?
That’s a tough choice! I really like the Paparazzi coffee table in lacquer; the creamy white version would look great in our home.
I love the Sola console: elegant, slim, delicate, timeless.
What does The Socialite Family mean to you?
A genuine, in-depth approach to the family and the expression of hospitality. I like the brand’s aesthetic vision, media, and the love of detail you show in the way you photograph places.
I like the idea that each piece gives a different impression depending on where it is. So versatile and adaptable, just like any family.
What are your favourite addresses in Milan?
The Fondazione Piero Portaluppi, a magical place to learn more about this 20th-century genius, the Tipografia Alimentare restaurant, simplicity and good produce treated with care. Genuine expertise and exceptionally fine, creative cuisine! The Tommaso Calabro gallery, housed in a historic palace, boasts a fine selection of contemporary art.
Trattoria al Laghet, one of our favourite restaurants, is a wonderful place to have lunch in the spring, surrounded by the fragrance of the wisteria in bloom… and Torre Branco, the Branco Tower, near the Milan Triennale, designed by Gio Ponti. It offers a magnificent view of Milan. And Micamera, a bookshop and gallery specialising in photography.
Photographies : Valerio Geraci – Words Juliette Bruneau et Elsa Cau @thesocialitefamily