Studio Peregalli is one of the most highly regarded decorating and architecture firms in the world, known for extraordinary attention to detail and an uncanny ability to conjure the rarefied spirit of historical eras long forgotten.
From their lovely studio on a quiet residential street in Milan — the capital of fashion, and Italy’s most hard-charging commercial environment — they are quietly going about the business of creating interiors that are steeped in historical context yet somehow highly personal.
Although the studio has been in business for over 20 years, has shown many of its European interiors in various magazines and in 2011 published a book of its work — the evocatively titled “The Invention of the Past” (Rizzoli) — the work of Roberto and Laura is not especially well known in America. Perhaps one reason for this is that their design process is somewhat cerebral, and may require a measure of patience on the part of their clients that’s more rarely encountered in the New World than in the Old.
Another reason might be that without the backdrop of European architecture, with its history and scale, as a starting point, the powers of imagination required to decide to live this way are simply too difficult for clients to summon. It would be hard to attempt to get Studio Peregalli-like results in an apartment at Olympic Tower.
Finally, there is the modesty of the principals. Roberto and Laura are not self-promoters. They are content to wait to be discovered by clients who truly believe in what they are doing, and appreciate how much care goes into their work.
See also: Betsy Burnham and Burnham Design
It is impossible to hear about Studio Peregalli without also hearing the name Renzo Mongiardino. Both Roberto and Laura worked with the eminent decorator, who died in 1998, and their styles are closely related. Their style is a continuation of the illusionistic, Zeffirelli-set sensibility that earned Mongiardino the reputation of a wizard in interior design circles.
Studio Peregalli’s admirers agree, however, that interiors by Roberto and Laura have a somewhat gentler touch than those of their mentor. A bit less tea-washed and autumnal, a bit more optimistic. Pierre Bergé, unafraid as ever to speak bluntly, gets right to it.
What Studio Peregalli is after is something more than the staging of objects; it is the creation of a narrative. When you hear the partners explain their work, and consider the range of options available to them as designers (both have an appreciation for modernism, and Roberto in particular respects the work of John Pawson), you realize that in their hands, the invention of the past is neither a retrograde nor conservative endeavor.
The impact of their work is felt most profoundly in Milan, the city that demands style — and judges it — more fiercely than any other. While the studio is better known for residential projects, one of its more recent (and most public) triumphs is the restaurant it designed for Giacomo Bulleri, Milan’s foremost restaurateur.
It’s hard to say what the future holds for Studio Peregalli, because unlike most decorators who become important and experience success, the usual way forward — more books, a furniture line, a signature linens collection and so on — holds no appeal for them. What they are doing is not really “scalable,” and in any case, they do not measure the value of their output in economic terms.
See also: Interview with Lorenzo Castillo
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