3 astonishing new books on home interiors

pennati, mendini, salone milano

Racconti d'Interni, pp. 383

From Alessandro Mendini’s Buen Ritiro to houses by Carlo Scarpa and Ettore Sottsass for enlightened clients, houses championing trompe l’oeil and camouflage and 40 dream houses overlooking the sea

Racconti d’Interni [Tales of Interiors]

Ten examples of great creativity. Spaces captured by the lens of Lorenzo Pennati, who “spies” design themes as well as furnishings, objects and materials. The author Chiara Dal Canto describes them as “manifesto homes,” conceived for the designers themselves or for enlightened clients. Here they are!

In Milan, Casa Righi by Umberto Riva is defined by its spatial stratagems, its asymmetries and unusual colour schemes, while a passageway suspended over the great living room is a stand-out feature of Gae Aulenti’s home/studio. Set amongst the vineyards in Bolzano, Casa Tabarelli, designed by Carlo Scarpa with Sergio Los, boasts rooms with gardens, windows and an origami-roof, while the Turin apartment imbued with esoteric meaning which Carlo Mollino designed for himself during the Sixties, but never lived in, is now a museum.  For his Buen Ritiro in Val Taleggio, Alessandro Mendini devised a complicated system of objects and references: “staging an elaborate vacuum to contain the story of my life.” The extremely cultured eclecticism of Gabriella Crespi’s Milan home dialogues with her pioneering spirit when it comes to self-production and the use of bamboo. Also in Milan, Pietro Fornasetti’s highly imaginative Wunderkammer is striking for the number of objects accumulated and then built on by his son Barnaba. The interdisciplinary spirit of Osvaldo Borsani’s Forties villa in Varedo plays out in its marriage of art, design and architecture, an example of a unique business model. Meanwhile, it is the bespoke, hyper-coloured furnishings, not to mention the marble artefacts resembling archaeological findings in the garden, that define Ettore Sottsass’ Quarestani house. Lastly, the close dialogue between concrete and glass makes  Vittoriano Viganò’s Villa La Scala on Lake Garda a real one-off, not least because of the vertiginous 45 steps leading from the landing stage to the house itself.  


Title: Racconti d’Interni. Case d’Autore del Novecento [Tales of Interiors. 20th Century Designer Homes]

Author: Chiara Dal Canto

Photos: Lorenzo Pennati

Publisher: Rizzoli Illustrati

Published: 2022

Pages: 224

racconti d interni, book club, salone milano


The Mediterranean Home

This may be many people’s dream home. Overlooking the sea, with stunning views, in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape. It’s the typical Mediterranean home, its essence kept intact through a mix of traditional and more contemporary elements. Always, however, closely connected with the surrounding environment and the local culture.

The Mediterranean is the largest inland sea in the world, bordering 23 countries in Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, for a total of almost 4,000 km of land and 46,000 km of coastline. It is from here that the origins of Western civilisation derive and onto here that the 40 projects in this book face, in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Lebanon. Whether restorations of old habitations, barns or stables, reinterpretations in a vernacular key or new builds, form and function – which was to become the Modernist credo – they have long found their architectural expression, closely and naturally, like the fincas in Ibiza and the trulli in Puglia. 

A thin blue line, like that of the Mare Nostrum – made of osmosis between indoor and outdoor, materials and local techniques, and the integration of the built environment with the landscape – is what brings these projects together, testaments to the fact that, despite their common language, constant innovation reinterprets and renews the Mediterranean aesthetic and lifestyle while maintaining the archaic values, still so greatly esteemed the world over.


Title: The Mediterranean Home

Author/Editors: Gestalten

Publisher: Gestalten

Published: 2022

Pages: 288

Language: English

Instagram and Facebook: @gestalten 

Twitter: @gestaltennews

the mediterranean home, salone milano


Illusion in Design

Trompe-l’oeil, camouflage, spatial tricks, anamorphosis … The word of the day is optical illusion. Distorting the appearance of real things for the sake of aesthetics, problem solving or just for fun. This, basically, sums up the scope of this astonishing book.

Once upon a time there were the Greeks, the authors remind us, who invented the optical illusion known as entasis and from then onwards, in the vortex of history, we come to find ourselves confronted by the great transparent mirages of modernist glass boxes and curtain walls. The six chapters, all underlain by the idea of mystery, are an invitation to look and marvel. 

The book certainly lends itself more being leafed through than to being narrated, because it’s hard to describe a Venetian hotel that visually incorporates water and stones into a room or to adequately render the intimate use of local topographical elements, or even explain how the dichotomy between nature and the built environment can become integration by employing the device of disorientating windows. It would be equally reductive to write about how even places of peace and silence, vehicles for contemplative silence, can help overcome and distort the barriers of the real world, like the house with walls covered with mirrored stripes that reflect the surrounding desert, creating the illusion of bringing it indoors.  There is also the chapel on the beach which, at high tide, looks like a vessel run aground. Then, what should we make of the signs, like murals and “urban lies,” or rather architectural distortions, according to the authors, or the manipulations of space through colour?  

Art, projects, materials and furnishings create the perfect balance of distortion. In the name of illusion.


Title: Illusion in Design. New Trends in Architecture and Interiors

Author: Gay Giordano and Paul Gunther

Publisher: Rizzoli New York

Published: 2022

Pages: 280

Language: English

illusion in design, salone milano