travel | villa necchi campiglio | milan | italy

during our recent holiday, my husband, bob, and i finally visited villa necchi campiglio.

the architecture, the details, the materials, the furnishings...

no wonder many consider villa necchi campiglio one of the 'must see' sights in milan!

gigina necchi campiglio (1901-2001), her husband angelo campiglio (1891-1984), and sister nedda necchi (1900-1993) built their urban villa in central milan between 1932 and 1935.

the necchi campiglio family were socialites and industrialists.  (think necchi sewing machines...)  so, they could afford to purchase the most modern amenities, and the most luxurious materials.  and, to hire leading architects, distinguished designers, and master craftsmen.

architect piero portaluppi (1888-1967) designed the villa in the rationalist style, which was fashionable in italy from the 1920's through the 1940's.  rationalism, a predecessor of modernism, explored how structure could create space without needing decoration.  while the rationalist exterior of the villa is more austere, art deco elements make the interiors more glamorous, and more luxurious.

the necchi campiglio family lived in the villa until 2001, when it was bequeathed to fondo ambiente italiano (fai).  so, it is an unadulterated archetype of 1930's architecture and design.  villa necchi campiglio reopened as a museum in 2008, following a 6 million euro restoration.

since then, the villa has become a popular event venue, especially during milan fashion week and the salone internazionale del mobile.  villa necchi campiglio has also gained fame as a location for advertising and film shoots, including the 2009 movie, i am love (lo sono l'amore), starring tilda swinton.

villa necchi campiglio | designed by piero portaluppi | 1932-1935
photo credit casemuseo.it

the neighborhood surrounding villa necchi campiglio was originally part of the palazzo serbelloni gardens.  development of the neighborhood began in 1926.  so, when the necchi campiglio family purchased the property in 1930, it was not unusual to locate enough land close to the city center to build a villa surrounded by private gardens.

but, it was more unusual for the gardens to include tennis courts.

and, a heated swimming pool.

garden | heated swimming pool
photo credit forpilar.blogspot.com

ground floor
ground floor plan | villa necchi campiglio

entrance | villa necchi campiglio
photo credit casemuseo.it

you immediately perceive the quality, luxury, and craftsmanship as you enter the villa through the two story lobby.

the wide plank noce (walnut) floors are inlaid with palissandro (rosewood) strips in a brick pattern.  the rosewood paneling that lines the stairwell is also set in a brick pattern.

lobby | walnut and rosewood floors | rosewood paneling | walnut balustrade
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

the repetition and the reinterpretation of the materials and the details, like the double fretwork detail of the walnut balustrade, integrates the architecture with the hardware and the furnishings.

double fretwork balustrade

fretwork radiator covers
photo credit casemuseo.it

'c' china | designed by portaluppi for the necchi campiglio family
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

the entrance to the library is on the left side of the lobby through a pair of walnut doors.  the doors are inlaid with strips of rosewood, like the hardwood floors.

rosewood shelves divide the library into three functional areas.

on the right side of the library, two seating areas flank an original portaluppi fireplace and a vitrine, now filled with the zegna collection of 18th century porcelain figurines.  the vitrine penetrates the wall between the library and the adjacent living room, visually connecting the two spaces.
the center section of the library is furnished with a pair of game tables and chairs designed by guglielmo ulrich (1904-1977).  openings in the rosewood shelves visually connect the game and the lounge areas.

library | game tables and chairs designed by guglielmo ulrich
photo credit giorgio majno | fai 

a library table occupies the left side of the biblioteca, which opens to the veranda through a pair of nickel and brass pocket doors designed by portaluppi.

doors between the library and the veranda
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

did you notice the brick pattern of the doors, which is similar to the brick patterns in the lobby?

and, that the double grid pattern on the travertine and green marble floor in the veranda reflects the double grid pattern of the stucco ceiling in the library?

the radiator covers in the veranda even have a grid pattern.

retractable double paned windows open the veranda to the garden.  (a 1930's nana wall...)  the connection between the interior and the exterior, the open space plan, the large rooms, and the natural light make the design of villa necchi campiglio seem undated after 80 years.

veranda | retractable double paned windows
photo credit weareprivate.net

the serpentine sofa that portaluppi designed still occupies the veranda.  like the retractable windows, the green slipcovers connect the veranda to the garden.  

veranda | serpentine sofa designed by portaluppi
fabrics for the refurbishment of the interiors supplied by rubelli
photo credit atcasa.corriere.it

other original portaluppi pieces include a lapus lazuli display table in the veranda, a wooden console table with a marble top in the lobby, and a briarwood wardrobe in the prince's bedroom.

but, all of the furnishings in villa necchi campiglio are not original.  

the living room, which connects to the veranda through a second pair of nickel and brass doors, the smoking room, the dining room, and the master bedroom were redesigned by tomaso buzzi (1900-1981) during the 1950's.  so, now these rooms have 18th century style furnishings.

doors between the veranda and the living room
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

living room | redesigned by tomaso buzzi | 1950's
exhibition of brasilia tables by fernando and umberto campana for edra | salone di mobile 2010
photo credit pasquale formisano

did you notice the mirror?  see how the vitrine penetrates the wall between the living room and the library?  innovativa, no?

vitrine penetrating the wall between the living room and the library
photo credit amicipalazzoreale.it

the entrance to the smoking room is on the opposite side of the lobby from the library, the veranda, and the living room. 

during the refurnishing, buzzi replaced the original portaluppi fireplace in the smoking room with a green marble renaissance style fireplace.

smoking room | redesigned by tomaso buzzi | 1950's
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

another pair of doors with metal inlaid in a diamond pattern connect the smoking room to the dining room.  like the library, the smoking room has a diamond patterned ceiling.

did you also notice the diamond patterned legs on the coffee table in the smoking room?  i wonder if portaluppi designed the coffee table, too?

dining room | redesigned by tomaso buzzi | 1950's
photo credit wallpaper.com

in the dining room, buzzi retained the stucco ceiling that is decorated with an astrological relief pattern, and the parchment paneled walls.  but, he covered the walls with XVI-XVII century brussels tapestries in addition to refurnishing the room.

do you prefer the 1950's design?  or, the 1930's design?

dining room | designed by piero portaluppi | 1932-1935
photo credit sightunseen.com

angelo campiglio's study is also located on the right side of the lobby, across from the dining room and the smoking room.  the geometric ceiling in the study has a labyrinth pattern.

the study was originally furnished with a walnut desk designed by portaluppi.  but, it was replaced during the 1950's with an empire period field desk.

the rectangular rosewood panels on the walls, reminiscent of the parchment panels in the dining room and the rosewood panels in the lobby, conceal storage compartments.

study | mahogany anthropomorphic field desk | made by giovanni socci | florence | first quarter 19th century
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

first floor
first floor plan | villa necchi campiglio

from the lobby, the stairs lead to an atrium on the first floor that adjoins the bedroom suites.

lobby | stairs to the atrium
photo credit giorgio majno | fai
on the right side of the atrium, a gallery leads to the the master bedroom suites.

the gallery, with a barrel vaulted stucco ceiling decorated in another diamond relief pattern, is lined with wardrobes.  the wardrobes still contain the sisters' couture clothing.

each suite includes a bedroom, a dressing room, and a bathroom.  gigina and angelo campiglio's double bedroom suite is located on the left side of the gallery.  and, nedda necchi's bedroom suite is located on the right side.

gallery with barrel vaulted ceiling and wardrobes
photo credit massimo ripani | fai 

both master bedrooms now have traditional furnishings.

gigina and angelo campiglio's double bedroom | redesigned by tomaso buzzi | 1950's
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

nedda necchi's bedroom
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

but, the materials, fixtures, and furnishings of the master bathrooms are modern.  modern enough to meet the bathroom specifications for one of my current interior design projects.

both bathrooms are spacious.  so, spacious that they are furnished with dressing tables.  and, the toilets are located in separate rooms.  the floors and walls are surfaced in marble.  both bathrooms are fitted with two sinks.  and, large mirrors with sconces on either side hang above the sinks.  the bathtubs are surrounded by floor to ceiling slabs of marble and panes of glass. 

during the 1930's, the stall showers with overhead and hand held shower heads and hydrotherapy jets must have seemed ultra modern and ultra extravagant.

gigina and angelo campiglio's bathroom
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

nedda necchi's bathroom
photo credit wallpaper.com

the two guest bedroom suites, located directly off the atrium, also include bedrooms, dressing rooms, and bathrooms.

the de' micheli collection of 18th century paintings and decorative arts is now displayed in the princess's bedroom suite.

the modernist furnishings of the prince's bedroom seem more compatible with the architectural style of the villa than the traditional furnishings of the master bedrooms.

prince's bedroom
photo credit giorgio majno | fai

although the materials, fixtures, and furnishings in the prince's bathroom are not as luxurious as the master bathrooms, the layout is even more innovative.

portaluppi designed a black marble partition wall between the bathroom and the dressing room with curtain panels on either side.  the partition makes the bathroom and the dressing room more spacious.  and, more functional for servants to attend guests.

prince's bathroom
photo credit flickriver.com

traditionally, the housekeeper responsible for the cloakroom was the only member of the service staff with quarters on the same floor as the family and their guests.  

even the housekeeper's ensuite bedroom and bathroom include all of the modern conveniences. 

housekeeper's bathroom
photo credit jules foto

great design ages gracefully.  don't you agree?
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