John D’Orazio’s entranceway doubles as an art gallery.
Interior designer Carlo Fiammenghi
For Carlo Fiammenghi, simplicity is elegance. “Italians are more interested in a beautiful cut and use of luxe materials than layers of decoration,” says the architectural and interior designer, likening the Italian design sensibility to a Gucci or Fendi bag. “It is all in the details and the use of proportion.” Raised in southern Italy and Rome, Fiammenghi came to the US in 2006 and took little time making his mark with modern interiors with a European bent: The Murano condominium he designed with Terra Studio recently won a Silver 2011 Dream Home Award.
It did not take long for Fiammenghi to develop a rapport with the client, John D’Orazio, an art collector who was downsizing from a home in Bucks County. The purple cashmere sweater he wore to their first meeting proved a serendipitous jumping point. “He said, ‘I want that color in my house,’” recalls Fiammenghi. Various shades of the color can be found in rugs, lamps, and accessories. But it was the art that D’Orazio had been collecting for 35 years that was the main platform. The space is literally designed around it. Fiammenghi spent a day at D’Orazio’s old home to learn about his collection and which pieces were the most significant. “His art is very unique, has lots of color, and all have a sort of dreamy quality to it. So I decided to design his apartment having his paintings dominate the space.”
A gallery ensnares visitors as they walk in the front door, treating them to an array of largescale pieces, many from the Hrefna Jonsdottir Gallery in Lambertville, New Jersey. Contemporary art also prevails in the living spaces, which have stunning views of the city with, fittingly, the Philadelphia Museum of Art as the centerpiece. The two-bedroom condo was converted into a one-bed, giving way to larger, more fluid living spaces. Fiammenghi’s approach was to use restraint but still infuse it with an Italian air, concentrating on shape and material. Minimal window treatments cover the windows, and low furniture maximizes the views. Fiammenghi also used glass doors and tables for fewer visual interruptions. His frequent trips to Italy yielded pieces like the floating bed, purchased at Salone del Mobile industrial design fair. The designer placed Halodene lights under it for a soothing somnambular effect. “At night it is like a dream,” he says. Also from Italy are a glass-and-mirror table; poufs, in the sitting room; and plexiglass dining room chairs.
TOP: Not your typical “Air” bed designed by Lago. BOTTOM: Elevated style: The living room and its view to the world
D’Orazio became accustomed to the transatlantic calls about found treasures and rarely ever dissented. “I buy because I am sure the client would walk into the same showroom and pick the same piece,” explains the designer. “I don’t buy for me.”
Other pieces were custom designed stateside, like an Alan Levine bench with chinchilla cushions. Another bench, designed by Fiammenghi, features metal cable details that mirror the train cables visible beyond the living room windows. He incorporated materials like bamboo for floors and partitions—Levine designed the custom bamboo panels that contrast the pale-gray walls and anchor the sitting room—and feltro, a type of wool, for the cushions for the bluish-purple lacquered banquettes in the sitting room (created by Pappajohn Woodworking). “If you turn off the lights in the apartment at night, the city lights reflect off the lacquer,” says the designer. “I like to do strong research for clients. I like to pick things no one has and establish strong relationships with artists and furniture makers and bring them into the family.” D’Orazio, president of John D’Orazio & Sons Inc., a local recycling company, brought an impressive number of paintings and charcoals to the space and regularly rotates more into the collection; Fiammenghi even introduced him to two local artists who now can be found in the apartment. Philadelphia artist Michael Biello was commissioned to make several clay sculptures; for one hanging piece, he used the homeowner’s favorite colors, and for a porcelain figure, he painted onto it flowers and a jaguar, two favorite elements of D’Orazio’s. The designer also brought D’Orazio to the studio of Jill Bonovitz, an artist whose work is exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was there he chose a porcelain plate and an oversize bowl, which graces the dining room table surrounded by Plexiglas Louis ghost chairs. At Christmas time, the table is filled with 20 family members and friends for a catered dinner, a tradition D’Orazio did not want to give up simply because he was moving to the city.
While Fiammenghi continues adding the finishing touches to the condo, which is just short of a year old (he is working with Millésimé showroom in the Piazza at Schmidts to get custom Missoni fabric for benches), D’Orazio just signed the papers to buy the condo next door, with plans to expand his home. Now friends, the two will, of course, discuss these ideas the Italian way—over dinner. Says D’Orazio, “I always wanted to move into the city and have a place with a view filled with pretty things, and I got it.”