Situated in north-eastern Italy between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps is Udine, the city where Patrizia Moroso, the idiosyncratic owner of renowned Italian furniture brand Moroso, has lived for many years. (It’s also where her company’s factory is located.) And yet, while the building she calls home is situated in the urbane surrounds of central Udine, there is an undeniable African sensibility to Patrizia’s abode.
It’s an atmosphere, a mood that emerges from the materials, architecture and furniture used throughout the house – and the way that all of these individual elements seamlessly combine to create a cohesive world full of passion and feeling.
Patrizia loves to tell the romantic story of how she happened upon this property, which adjoins a piece of wooded parkland that can never be developed. And how, just 10 minutes from the city centre, she created a unique designer fairy tale in the middle of a forest.
Patrizia achieved this with the help of one of her closest friends, Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola, who helped her fashion the double-storey structure into an abode with plenty of ‘public’ spaces for entertaining – including the kitchen, two seating areas (one of which opens onto a spacious outdoor terrace) and a guest suite on the ground floor. Upstairs are the more private rooms, including a smaller living room and the family’s bedrooms.
The materials used in the creation of the house include a number of references to natural landscapes, ranging from a very dark brown hue in the exterior’s varnished cedar cladding (a reminder of a trip to Australia that she and Patricia took together, Patrizia says) to the autumnal hues present on the doors and window frames. Rich shades of red – which Patrizia says take her back to the soil tones of Senegal from where her husband, artist and designer Abdou Salam Gaye, hails – are evident in several parts of the home.
This strong relationship between the house and nature is similarly present in its architecture, as large windows open up the expansive interiors to the outside, while the building’s stark lines form a protective yet permeable ‘skin’ that shelters and protects the life inside it.
That indoor life is a dynamic one: Patrizia shares her abode with her husband, and their three children all grew up here. The house also sees plenty of guests, including family friends, and people from the couple’s professional lives (Patrizia is famed for her close work with the Moroso product designers).
So, as well as being a private residence, it’s a creative and working space, and one in which visitors can experience full immersion in the world of Patrizia Moroso. Her company’s most recent furniture collections tend to be showcased here, as well as a number of prototypes – those first creations that encapsulate the original idea behind a particular project.
Patrizia’s love of travel is visible in a mix of furniture and objets d’art brought back from trips to China, Tibet and India. Not as easy to discern are the practical elements of the house, such as collections of crockery and linen, that are all tucked away in cleverly concealed storage nooks. And then there’s the art, which includes work by Egyptian artist Fathi Hassan and Senegalese photographer Boubacar Touré Mandémory, as well as paintings by Gaye. The final decorative layer consists of a number of one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces that are mainly African in origin.
Pattern is an important motif in the interior: contemporary rugs ‘dress’ the floors in a kind of patchwork finish, and traditional African fabrics have been used as upholstery in some instances. Also adding bright colour and print are items from Moroso’s M’Afrique chair collection.
M’Afrique came into being following a trip to Dakar during which Patrizia witnessed the remarkable weaving skills of its artisans. She asked a few Moroso product designers, including Tord Boontje, Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck, to develop chairs that featured a variety of exaggerated and curvy frames, and these were then given handwoven seats by Dakar-based craftspeople. As a result of this collaborative, handcrafted process, each piece in the Senegalese-inspired collection is unique, and the initiative provides work for more than 30 artisans on an ongoing basis.
It is clear that balance plays a major role in Patrizia’s home, which combines beautiful forest-like surrounds and clean-lined architecture with remarkable, layered interiors that reflect a life lived at the cutting edge of design. It’s no surprise that she declares she can’t imagine living anywhere else.