Ludovica Serafini grew up in an extravagant 9th-century tower in Rome and spent her teenage Saturday nights dancing at decadent balls in crumbling palazzos. When she left Rome’s old world playground at age 30, she unshackled not only the cuffs of her proper aristocratic upbringing, but also the heavy décor that came with it.
“I ended up cleaning off all of the excess first with myself, then with my aesthetics,” says the architect and product designer, who trained at the University of Rome and lived in the Verona countryside before settling in Milan 13 years ago. Her home here, which she designed to sit atop her and her husband’s 25-person work studio, is drawn from bright white walls washed of all traces of her fancy pedigree.
“Having less means much more than having more,” she insists, settling into a white Cappellini chair at a clear glass dining table she designed for Schiffini. “I like thin people, I like clean spaces—there’s nothing extra anywhere.”
Skinny and spare doesn’t mean boring. Key to the space’s minimal charm is a shower of steady light that pours in from its top-floor positioning. “I came to see the space in March when it was so dark and grey outside but the apartment was completely illuminated,” Serafini recalls of the original ceiling holes that she later enlarged into proper skylights. “When I had my first breakfast at this table, I was wearing sunglasses.”
Scrupulous about lines and volume, Serafini cut elegant bones into the space’s original open configuration to create a cozy, well-proportioned two-bedroom apartment. The floors are resin-covered natural wood, and the endless floor-to-ceiling windows are shaded with white linen curtains custom-made in Salento. Even the bathroom looks as though it has been blanketed in snow, with every faucet and fixture custom-designed in matte white porcelain.
“Inside a white box you can put anything you want,” Serafini says, pointing to the colorful yet restrained exuberance she has meticulously curated across the home’s clean canvas. Design objects such as a tree-sized silver flower vase by Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima or a shelf full of vintage glass vases and African jewelry inject unexpected brightness. Canny touches like layering three carpets in her living and sitting rooms add an engaging graphic element.
Serafini, together with her husband Roberto Palomba, designed many of the objects and furniture pieces, including the beds, tables and teacups. Every all-white item in the bathroom (from the shower and fountain sink down to the toilet and sleek towel racks) was made by the duo for Italian bath brand Zucchetti, Kos. Palomba created the living room sofa for Italian furniture label Zanotta, but Serafini rarely uses it. She prefers to sit on the floor, even when she has guests over. “That’s why rugs are important,” she explains of the triple-layered carpets she purchased in the Marrakech souk. Her unorthodox floor lounging inspired her husband to design Lama, a sideways leather lounge chair for Zanotta, that specifically accommodates his wife’s preferred position.
It is these quirks that make Serafini a creator worth watching. Whatever is missing from her home environment, she usually invents herself. But sometimes her perfectionist streak can lead to a domestic crisis. Such was the case with her never-ending hunt for an acceptable set of silverware. “I finally found the right design just a few years ago,” she says of her current set, first designed by architect Josef Hoffman in 1931 and re-edited by Alessi. “Before that, we went 15 years using plastic ones.”
– J.J. Martin