Carlo Mollino is considered one of the premiere creatives of 20th century design. From the 1930-70s the Italian designer built his reputation on a series of interdisciplinary projects that would pave the way for a postmodern aesthetic. From furniture design to commercial architecture, he pushed the boundaries of eclectic maximalism in the most elegant manner. Mollino was as varied in his recreational interests as he was in his design work, known for indulging in risky hobbies from skiing and race car driving to aeronautics. However, he was a private person whose many active endeavors were for personal fulfillment alone, and often veiled in strict secrecy.
Perhaps the most mysterious culmination of his work is exemplified in Casa Mollino or “House on the Hill,” which he kept a secret from even his closest friends. This eponymous 19th century pied-a-terre situated in his hometown of Turin, Italy, was completed in 1968 and is thought to be where the designer intended to live out his final years. Although he never went on to live there it did act as the backdrop to many of his later creative pursuits. This includes a sizable series of now famous photographic nudes he captured of various muses which were discovered after his death in 1973. Today, the space brought back to life by curator Fulvio Ferrari, is open to the public and remains a beacon of his comprehensive style, artfully showcasing his varied fascinations.
Nothing about Casa Mollino is uninteresting. In fact, it is the sort of space that immediately incites a level of curiosity that can only come from the reflection of a host rich in discovery and taste. To pass through the various chambers is an emblematic trip around the world and throughout time. Dotted with exquisite treasures, the space comes together in colorful achievement. Never pretentious, never uncomfortable, it’s subtle grandeur is both thoughtful and charming. A cryptic series of Ancient Egyptian symbols act as a symbolic throughline and further suggest that Mollino believed the space a personal tomb from which he would pass from our world to the next. The central living room is weighted by a 1950s Borsani couch, upholstered in dark Capitonne leather and accented by two bright pink tufted armchairs. The surrounding wallpaper is inspired by nature, a theme that is carried throughout the apartment. A literal interpretation of this theme is found in the bedroom where a floor-to-ceiling display of encased butterflies meets a neighboring leopard wall covering. The adjoining rooms are divided by various screens and curtains providing a regal practicality, yet each unique in occupation remains cohesive. The modest and cheerful bathroom is adorned with Vietri Maiolica tiles reminding the inhabitant of it’s medditeranean proximity. A strikingly modern moment happens in the dining room where eight Eero Saarinen ‘Tulip’ chairs circle the table beneath an antique Japanese pendant lamp. Mollino takes us through varied cultures and eras with ease allowing the visitors eye to move seamlessly through the space. Perhaps the most romantic and perplexing element of the villa is found in a sleigh bed outfitted with silk linens and drapes. A corner so intimate in feeling that one might presume this was Mollino’s preferred place of passing. The true perfection of Casa Mollino lies in the eternal elegance of its ornaments - a curation difficult to achieve and suggestive of Carlo Mollino’s design genius.
By: Alexis Kanter
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