Italian director Luca Guadagnino is known for his sun-drenched, intensely passionate films. Fraught feelings of lust and love play out against backdrops of elegant, lived-in villas. Houses and set design seem to breathe as much as the characters. Most memorably, his recent Best Picture-nominated film Call Me By Your Name took place in a dishevelled yet stately 17th-century villa in Lombardy, which soon went up for sale for €1.7m. The atmospheric and sensual sets of Call Me By Your Name, along with Guadagnino’s other summery relationship dramas I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, showcase the director’s innate passion for interior design. Now, his eye for detail is extending past the realm of film. Guadagnino is collaborating with Aesop on their new store in Rome.
The project first took off when Guadagnino happened to stay in the same hotel as Aesop founder Dennis Paphitis. An admirer, Paphitis requested the services of Guadagnino’s new design studio, Studio Luca Guadagnino. Seeking “a sense of monastic order and tranquility”, Aesop tasked Guadagnino with breathing new life into the skincare label’s new Rome location. The store is located in the Piazza di San Lorenzo in central Rome, just a short walk from the Pantheon.
“[I am] drawn by an idea of Rome that is not the usual. Rome relies on its vestiges in a lazy way,” states Guadagnino. “Our minds wandered through the canon of Pasolini and his aggressiveness of modernity.”“In our conversations we became captivated by the idea of a lost Rome, the fifties,” Guadagnino expands further, “the juxtapositions between the city’s ancient buildings and the surrounding countryside.”
The space, formerly a cluttered lighting store, is now spacious and reflective of Rome’s ancient history and immediate geography. Roughened stone, marble, neutral tones and blocks of straw all allude to Rome’s world-famous architecture. At the same time, Guadagnino experiments with expectations of how these materials are used. Red, cream and black lacquered wood shelves line the rough-hewn stone. The lacquer reflects Pasolini’s trademark spectacles, while the straw ceilings recall Pasolini’s film Oedipus Rex and the peasant culture of Rome’s immediate rural surroundings. Playful, geometric travertine tiles clad the shop floor, inspired by the church floor of the San Lorenzo nearby.
Although Guadagnino utilises aspects of his trademark film aesthetics, he finds the two practices disparate. “They couldn’t be more different. There is more discipline in the building of a physical space than the set of a movie. It just so happens that at the age of 45, I made my debut in interior design, inspired by my interaction with architecture.”