An understandable response to spending more time at home is to store items that are meant to provide comfort. Probably even dedicated minimalists lately have been thinking about what another throw or accent pillow might do for their space and mental state. Although he is certainly not averse to an elegant kind of lightness, Norbert Stumpfl, Executive Design Director of the Italian men’s fashion label Brioni, has always put a lot of time and care into his aesthetic decisions, with results that are so precise as to be inevitable feel. This emerges from his clothing collections, which consist of expertly tailored, handcrafted suits separated in luxurious wool and silk – and from the three-story, 3,200-square-meter townhouse in central Rome where the Austrian was born The 44-year-old designer lives with his wife Daphne Karras, a ceramist, and their two daughters.
Before the family left Paris and started renting the house in 2019, the owners completed a multi-year renovation that updated the space with elements such as stainless steel beams, concrete and glass floors, and floor-to-ceiling windows on the upper floors. This means that while the bones of the house are typically Roman, the foundations may date back to the 8th century BC and remains of ancient walls and a simple mosaic of white tiles near the entrance on the ground floor are still visible – it’s getting A surprising amount of light for this quiet side street, which is also home to a medieval monastery. And so the new tenants had a bright and pleasantly clear canvas, but one that was steeped in history. “It’s a nice mix of ancient Rome and very modern minimalism,” says Stumpfl. It is also a combination that is perfectly complemented by its approach to the interiors, which is characterized by the respect for ancient processes and fresh, reduced forms, as well as by the emphasis on materiality. As he says, “I only buy pieces that I want to live with forever and everything we have is soft and timeless and is about technology.”
From the street, an ivy-covered wall hides the stone facade of the building, which is partially painted golden yellow. Guests walk through an iron gate and up a dark and narrow staircase made of travertine marble, where they find a 2,300 square meter courtyard with wisteria, camellia and orange, lemon and strawberry trees and the front door just beyond. In addition, there is a large open space – atypical of traditional Italian houses which tend to have lots of small rooms and possibly a large and gilded ballroom – that encompasses the kitchen with a dome-shaped wood-burning stove and an exposed old wall whose shelves are covered with Karras’ Ceramic (earth-colored bowls and vases with high-gloss surfaces) are lined – and the dining area. There, an oval wooden table is surrounded by six vintage leather and chrome butterfly chairs by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen from the 20th century, which Stumpfl found in Brussels. (“I travel a lot to buy pieces I really love,” he says.) Tucked beneath them and a naturally colored Moroccan rug are glass floor panels for a bird’s eye view View of the basement. “My wife keeps her pottery studio there, so you can just lift the carpet and say hello,” says Stumpfl or, as the couple’s daughters like to do, fog the surface and then draw abstract shapes and messages with her fingers. A bit of coziness is also provided by the wooden coffered ceiling beams, which were installed over a century ago when the building belonged to the family of a woodworker whose shop was on the ground floor.
Two living rooms are located on a curved concrete staircase, one of which has a pair of modern ghost sofas made of white linen by the Italian design group Gervasoni, a streamlined wooden sideboard from the 1950s by French designer Gérard Guermonprez that opens and closes with a discreet push lets Knopf and a beehive-like white table lamp, which was made in 1955 by the Finnish designer Ilmari Tapiovaara from superimposed metal disks, bring architecture books and black office binders with newspaper clippings as well as a pair of chairs and two blankets to life.
However, both are adorned with art, including a silver-plated sculpture by Fritz Nagel standing on a Laccio table made of wood and steel by Marcel Breuer, a 1966 limited edition lithograph of a magnolia by Ellsworth Kelly, a black ceramic sculpture by Antoine Tarot and Photographs from Rinko Kawauchi’s 2011 series “Illuminance”. The family spends a lot of time at the vintage metal and glass coffee table from the 70s in the living room, whether they’re reading or playing with clay frills by Danae (10) and Thea (7) Girls have full running of the house. There is a piece in the living room that at first glance looks like a fragile abstract sculpture. In fact, it’s a tangle, an American children’s toy designed to twist and stretch into any shape imaginable. “First of all, it is a family house,” says Stumpfl.
Other accents exist in the form of plants, five From this you fill the back of the living room with a glass ceiling and a steel and glass spiral staircase that leads to the three bedrooms on the top level. In the afternoon light the stairwell becomes a prism and rainbows fill the room. “We treat it as a kind of greenhouse,” says Stumpfl, who finds his ficus tree and his night-blooming cereus, which spawns tiny white flowers that last a day and night before falling off to calm the presence. There is also a Strelitzia, or bird of paradise, with its black beak-like flowers, perched on a rectangular base and in a terracotta pot that resembles a pile of pebbles by artist Francesco Del Re, based outside of Florence. “Instead of a shade of red, he uses gray earth, and while the handmade process is traditional, the shapes are modern,” says Stumpfl. “It’s subtle, but at the same time human.”
He could just as well talk about his work at Brioni, which was founded in 1945 and in which Stumpfl has harmonized timeless luxury with contemporary flair since taking office in autumn 2018 after stints in Berluti, Louis Vuitton and Lanvin Silk shirts, sustainable denim pieces, soft cashmere sweaters and wool suits and jackets, some of which are cut from fabric spun using electromagnetic wave technology and yet hand-sewn to the buttonholes. “Everything should be in the construction, but that should be hidden. I don’t want the Brioni man to be overwhelmed by the design, ”he says. Stumpfl’s own day uniform consists of Brioni trousers made of dark blue wool and a T-shirt or knitted top – no shoes, at least not when he works from home, regardless of whether he is in the living room among his many books or taking video calls next to the fruit trees Patio. (“It’s the only place where I can make a decent connection,” he says with a laugh.) He’s comfortable in the room and in his adopted home. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the people there are open and warm-hearted. The food is fresh and simple and the street style is spicy but relaxed. “The Italians call it ‘Sprezzatura’,” he says of the way shirts are put on, rolled up or unbuttoned – with a studied casualness that he has adopted since his arrival. “For me it is a reminder that imperfections are human. Life is most important. “