India Mahdavi animates Villa Medici with a colourful and contemporary restyling
Apr. 29, 2023
The grand Villa Medici sits in a privileged position on the top of the Pincian Hill in the centre of Rome. From its arched entranceway, leering over the cascade of white marble that makes up the Spanish Steps, the entirety of the city unfolds at your feet. Built in the 16th century, it was once the private home of Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici. Constructed in the Mannerist style, its frescoed walls and ceilings – rendered by some of the Renaissance’s most revered names – make up some of the most handsome decoration in the ancient capital. And now, thanks to India Mahdavi (Wallpaper’s Designer of the Year 2023), its rooms have been updated with a colourful and contemporary spin.
Re-enchanting Villa Medici: from Fendi to India Mahdavi
Since 1803, the villa has been the base of the French Academy, a home-away-from-home for artists, artisans and historians to stay and soak up the culture of the Italian capital. In 2022, the institute partnered with Mobilier National, which oversees the conservation and restoration of historic French furniture, to slowly reinvent the rooms utilised by their residency programme, beginning with a makeover of six reception salons in December by designer Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi.
The latest ‘re-enchantment’, unveiled in April 2023, saw Mahdavi animate six new spaces, including Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici’s private apartments and three rooms newly named in tribute to the villa’s most noteworthy guests, the Debussy Room, the Galileo Room and a salon named for composer Lili Boulanger.
To realise the fresh re-styling, Mahdavi called on artisans across France and Italy to fashion furniture, craft tiles and weave textiles and tapestries for the occasion. In the Debussy and Galileo bedrooms, for instance, the master craftspeople at Maison Craman-Lagarde, known for their skill in marquetry, translated a colour-block pattern by Mahdavi into a four poster bed and matching shelves.
Meanwhile, in Medici’s apartments, carpet-maker Manufacture Robert Four produced a geometric green and burgundy rug Mahdavi says was inspired by the view of the villa’s sprawling garden just outside the window, around which she clustered her Bishop stools like pieces on a chessboard.
Elsewhere, the interventions were decidedly light-touch: a flash of colour in the form of new upholstery on pieces from the Mobilier National’s archive, including a sofa and armchairs by Jean-Albert Lesage in saffron-toned Dedar fabric; restoring the wall decorations by the Modernist painter Balthus, a former director of the academy; and the addition of new paintings and artworks, including portraits of Boulanger and other notable guests.
Mahdavi’s makeover marks the second of three chapters of the ‘Re-enchanting Villa Medici’ project, the last of which will be unveiled later this year after an open call for projects.