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The most exciting design stores in Rome


Rome’s ancient streets are home to a flourishing array of ultramodern interior design stores, writes Sally McIlhone

Sally McIlhone ,

Rome is one of the world’s most ancient cities, so it stands to reason that the Italian capital’s greatest cultural sights are those which are imbued with history. From the crumbling majesty of the Coliseum to the intricately carved spectacle of the Trevi Fountain, the ancient artefacts of the Italian capital draw crowds throughout the year. And when visitors aren’t drinking in the beauty of the statuary or transfixed by the gravitas of the Pantheon, they are investing in Rome’s long-standing fashion stalwarts. But in this city which owes so much to the past, a clutch of interior design stores is looking firmly to the future – and charming international shoppers.

Unique and successful

The striking Piazza del Popolo, with its domed buildings and central Egyptian obelisk, couldn’t be more evocative of ancient times, yet a short walk away on the Passeggiata di Ripetta you’ll find Magazzini Associati, a modern design store displaying quirky, contemporary furniture and homeware items, hand-picked by owner Marianna Marini. Magazzini Associati is well-known among the city’s architects and interior designers, and the brand’s spokesperson Laura Gagliardi summarises the store’s unique and highly successful philosophy as based on ‘curiosity, passion and the desire to suggest unusual, strange things, which can’t be found elsewhere. Choosing companies, designers and craftsmen who haven’t been contaminated by the compulsion to produce in series, who often produce unique items and whose production respects the environment – this is our best quality.’

Let there be light

Selecting original items crafted by modern Italian brands, from Moroso sofas and Opinion Ciatti lighting to Paola C ceramics, is Magazzini Associati’s strength, and the label’s innovators go to great lengths to discover the most innovative items on the market. ‘I always take part in the trade fairs of the sector, even the ones abroad,’ says Gagliardi. ‘I take time off to visit workshops and companies that, despite being centres of excellence, still aren’t very well known. This kind of work is very much appreciated by the architects we work with, because we manage to suggest new, functional items to them, at a fair price.’ To seek out items on the top of every Roman interior designer’s wishlist, we recommend a visit.

Designs for life

A stone’s throw from the Coliseum, on Via Panisperna, you can find cutting-edge design store Atelier Monti – a haven of revolutionary homeware in the heart of the most ancient rione (neighbourhood) in Rome. The shop, which celebrated its 10thanniversary in March 2013, offers customised interior design services as well as a wealth of unique objets d’art, furniture and lighting from brands including Danese Milano and Luceplan.

Architectural angle

Massimo Lucarini from Atelier Monti believes the store was a trailblazer and says that the ‘challenge’ of opening a contemporary design boutique in the centre of this historic city was clearly an inspiration to other interior décor afficionados. ‘When we opened our store we were the only reference point in this area. Now many have followed our path. The history of Rome in the last 40 years tells of many companies like ours that had a very deep impact on the interior design of Roman homes. Rome has one of the most important architectural universities in Europe, with very talented architects.’ The needs of the modern interior designer are also catered for at Atelier Monti.

Rome’s wealth of experienced architects looking to add a modern slant to their work, coupled with the 21st-century penchant for all things novel and high-tech, has led to a boom in ultramodern homeware in the city but there is also an audience seeking a more eclectic selection of vintage-inspired interior décor pieces.

Top table

Via Margutta, home to forward-thinking lighting specialist Artemide and graphic storage expert Lago, is also where you’ll find Serra, a store which sells everything from colourful Murano glassware by Venini to more traditional dining services. Founded by Mario Serra in 1924, the boutique was once a supplier to Roman nobility and the royal house. Now run by husband-and-wife team Alessandro and Ornella Serra, the boutique continues to captivate customers with Meissen porcelain and Baccarat crystal. ‘The products and brands we select are always leaders in their particular field,’ Ornella Serra explains. ‘We always try to mix timeless classics with modern, fresh designs.’ The label’s custom-made products include bespoke marble mosaic tabletops that Ornella herself produces. ‘These pieces represent the essence of classic Italian history wrapped up in modern craftsmanship.’

Vintage finds

Another craftsman who is updating classic designs is Alain Martin, whose store, simply named Alain, to the west of the city on Via del Pellegrino, offers furniture designed between the 20s and the 80s, antiques and his own quirky handmade stools. ‘Interior design has always been a natural lifestyle for me. Nowadays it has become moda – fashion,’ he says. Melding contemporary cool with a sense of the past, Rome’s interior mavens are creating a new design landscape.

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