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She only knew the best in Italy and in Milan, her home town. Ortensia Castelli is the perfect incarnation of the word “socialite”. A free spirit, who knew the greatest artists and designers during her childhood. Osvaldo Borsani was one of them, and so was Luigi Caccia Dominioni, a bigwig of Milanese architecture whose talent and perceptiveness were acknowledged by all. Thanks to them, she learned about the beauty and its history, even if before them, her own family had passed it down to her. Her grandparents taught her about the 50’s Italian design, and she was able to sharpen her tastes and to have her own opinion and references very young. Years later, she moved to Paris. She brought with her some works of close friends, but also iconic designers’ pieces she loves. And now she wants to exhibit contemporary pictures, paintings and photographs in her home. She wants to make them communicate and evolve in their contradictions. Her Parisian apartment has quickly transformed into a vintage living room, where she constantly welcomes friends. A world in which it’s important to reflect, and where objects examine and gaze at each other. There is no room for superfluous, since Ortensia has no time to care about this. The Italian woman keeps travelling and dedicates her time to discoveries and people.
Ortensia, you’re Italian and Parisian by adoption. How did you choose your apartment?
I arrived in Paris ten years ago and, just like most Italians, I moved into the 7th arrondissement of Paris. After a few years, I changed and lived in the 10th arrondissement, a neighbourhood I loved and where I left my heart. However, two years ago, I decided I had to get closer to my office – I work in La Défense, the Paris’ business district – and so I had to look for a place in the 8th arrondissement, though I was not really convinced by this idea. After exhausting visits, I finally saw the pictures of this apartment. I understood straightaway it was the one and that I had to move. The spaces are huge and the ceilings are to die for!
What do you do for a living?
A lot of things! I try not to stop doing things. The biggest part of my life is dedicated to my work and my two-year-old son. Then, I try to follow my husband on his great trips, to enjoy my friends and party!
Who decorated the place?
I did! But Andrea, my husband, always wants to have the last word. He often goes on trips, and when he comes back, I usually have made changes in the apartment so he can’t say no. Our biggest disagreements are often about the layout and decoration of his office/living room. In order to keep him happy, I try to mix styles, with always the traditional touch he loves and objects I like.
Where do you spend the most of your time at your home?
In my bed. I love it, it’s the comfiest in the world! I’m always lounging there to catch up on my sleep.
You’ve known the greatest Milanese architects, such as Luigi Caccia Dominioni. Can you tell us what has left its mark on you?
Gigi Caccia was an extraordinary man, an architect with a rare perceptiveness in the interpretation of the desires of the people we worked for. It was the grandfather of a friend dear to me. He was reserved, but also very ironical. I remember him in his wonderful house in Celerina, in Switzerland. He used to make me laugh so much when I was a child and when he called my father Giancarlo, the Italian equivalent for the name John Charles…
What was your Italian education in terms of interior design?
Italy influences us all for decoration, me and a lot of other people. The 50’s style is in all my childhood memories and is deeply linked to the house my grandparents had in Liguria.
How would you define your style in terms of decoration?
I don’t think I have a defined style. It’s rather a combination of things I love: lights, colours and fabrics which are memories of my trips, or that I spotted in the flea markets and yard sales (not only in Paris but also in the south of France and in Brittany). I love lights. I buy a lot of them, in different styles. And I also trust my artist friends! At home, I have several photographs, paintings and objects made by them (I hope they’ll all become very famous!). I must owe a lot to one of my best friends, who is an architect and who, for years now, has been sharing his opinions and criticisms with me. He helped me understand and guided me a little. For a few months now, a new set of his small pictures has been bringing a new light to my entrance.
Which object is missing in your home?
Probably a round or oval marble table in the middle of my entrance, and an armchair bed in front of my chimney. My craziest dream would be to have a huge work of art by Calder hanging from the ceiling. If not, what would be the point of having 4 metres high?
Is it easy to combine a nice decoration and family life?
When you have a young child, it’s always difficult to combine decoration and family life. The beautiful things are often fragile, untouchable and they must be put in an exact place. With my son, everything is rigorously put at least one meter and a half high. But I still go back from work and see things have been moved, turned around or put against a wall…
Is there a good Italian restaurant you would recommend? In Paris or elsewhere?
Now in Paris, every neighbourhood has a good Italian restaurant. I have tried a lot of them and I could recommend them all for different dishes. But my favourite place, where I always love going when I want to eat Italian food, is Le Petit Capri Bazar. There are only 4/5 tables, a simple menu, but everything is exceptional. In Milano, just remember the name of this place: La Libera. It’s a tradition, and the owner is an unforgettable man. It’s a very good friend of my husband.
What was your last destination?
South Africa. It’s always Africa actually. My husband works a lot there, and every time we can, we meet him in Kenya, Mozambique or Tanzania.
Credits : Constance Gennari @thesocialitefamily