Inside the home of a head designer: See Federica Viero's eclectic Milanese apartment

For Federica Viero, her love of design began at the tender age of six. Growing up in Veneto, north-western Italy, she lived in an 80s villa, which, as her family were not interested in decorating, she describes as “nothing special”. A turning point was being invited to a friend’s house for lunch as a child. “It was one of those amazing old country Veneto villas, with huge rooms and amazing fixtures, so I guess I started from there.”

After graduating from Marangoni Fashion Institute in Milan and working for “a couple of fashion brands”, Federica joined Dsquared2 in 1997, she is now group head of design. “Let’s just say I grew up there,” she says, of the fashion house owned by Canadian twin brothers Dean and Dan Caten, whom she regards as her brothers.

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federica viero house1
federica viero house1

Whilst Dsquared2 is known for its cool, young and casual ‘born in Canada, made in Italy’ clothing and accessories, something she describes as her “work aesthetic’’, she says her interior taste is the opposite. “It is more complicated and mature – a bit vintage, bohemian and classic,” she tells us, adding, “But for sure the ‘mix and match’ of totally different elements is common for both work and home”.

This more soigne approach is something Federica has lavished on her apartment located in Piazza Caiazzo, near Corso Buenos Aires and Milan Central station – a 30-minute walk from the city centre and Dsquared2 headquarters.

Despite Corso Buenos Aires being a commercial fashion street with over 350 shops and outlets and little cultural interest, the building itself is a grand example of 20s Italian architecture. On the first encounter, she fell in love with the imposing entrance and staircase that leads up to the apartment she bought in 2017, and now lives in with her French bulldog, Hildegard.

“It was the first one I viewed and I loved it but, as it seemed too weird to like the first one, I kept looking and maybe saw around three more, but the choice had already been made,” she smiles.

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federica viero house5
federica viero house5

Brimming with character, when she moved in, the original fixtures, floors, windows, ceiling mouldings and door frames were exactly as they were when the building was built 100 years ago. So, rather than overhaul the entire apartment, Federica made few structural changes to the existing architecture by simply renovating the two bathrooms and the kitchen. “I wanted to keep it as original as possible,” she says.

Instead of filling the space with highly- coveted mid-century modern Italian pieces, as one may expect from a stylish Milanese apartment, this more popular approach instead gave way to an English Victoriana flavour, with many pieces coming from her previous house in London, where she lived for two years.

“I love anything English. While in London, I rented a large two-storey mews house in Notting Hill. It was amazing, with huge windows and a big barn-style door. The wood of both the front door and windows was painted an amazing military green. I still miss it.”

Further bringing the British theme to Milan, her kitchen is by Plain English Cupboardmakers and is painted the same light blue-grey as the walls (Sea Nor Sky, by Paint & Paper Library); to contrast the central island, with marble countertop, which is a deep grass green, an industrial light sourced from Scandinavia is suspended above.

A focal point is a faux taxidermy collection of papier-mache creatures, by John Derian, New York City, hung on the wall – a nod to her love of wildlife. “I have a passion for animals, I’m totally against hunting and I don’t eat meat, but animals help to create a fantasy world, like a little farm. I also have a stuffed swan, owl and a couple of magpies.”

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For inspiration, rather than preparing moodboards, Federica saves tear sheets from magazines, or pictures she finds on Instagram or Pinterest, which she repeatedly goes back to until a decision has been made. “Or sometimes I find an amazing vintage piece and work around that, I love the websites Pamono and 1stdibs, but often I find great pieces at secondhand Sunday markets here in Milan.”

When outfitting the space, a starting point for Federica was colour. “The floor has an interesting saffron yellow tone, so I had to work from there,” she says, of the traditional 20s Milanese flooring that steered her towards the various contrasting pink shades painted on the hallway and living room walls.

Making use of space, perched in a nook in the hallway is a starred mirror coffee table she found in Dimore Gallery and an upholstered chair with fringed detail.

A collection of contemporary art includes a portrait of Trancia by Greta Frau and a large oval-shaped picture with various black and white photographs bought from a secondhand dealer in Lille, France; the two Pallone sconce lamps are designed by Luigi Caccia Dominioni, circa 1958.

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federica viero house2
federica viero house2

Meanwhile, across one wall in the living room is an impressive 50s bookshelf by Franco Albini, which she bought in Compasso gallery in Milan. The freestanding shelving is stacked with a perfectly-placed array of books, treasures and tchotchkes she has picked up on her travels. “I would have never expected to find something with exactly the right measurements that I needed,” she says with satisfaction. Anchored on the adjacent living room wall is an ornate 30s sideboard designed by Osvaldo Borsani she bought in Dimore Gallery. Also, from the same Milanese gallery that is owned by her personal friends Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran is a fringed chandelier and coffee table with marble top. The custom sofa and leather club chairs were purchased from secondhand dealer Doe & Hope in Bedford, England. The iconic Tromba wall lamp is designed by Luigi Caccia Dominioni for Azucena, the 30s orange vases are by Deruta and the floral rug is vintage.  “I think the house itself tells you what it needs. I chose a period home and I had to make sure that, in some way, I kept a lot of its story. I think to renovate you have to follow your instinct, there’s nothing I would really change looking back.”

Although the two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment is very spacious, she finds herself using the whole space. “I love sitting in the kitchen, but also working in the living room and reading in the green guest room, where Hilde has her comfy chair.”  She admits she’s not a great entertainer, but does invite friends around for a relaxed dinner. “I have some great vintage classic English dinnerware with blue decorations that I pair with white and navy rim enamelware,” she tells us.

There are two dining areas, one off the living room that is painted the same antique pink hue (Rhubarb by Paint & Paper Library). The table and chandelier are by Dimore Studio and the antique French sideboard is from a secondhand shop in Lille, France.

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federica viero house3
federica viero house3

Adding an additional whisper to the past, a display cabinet is filled with her collection of earthenware Staffordshire dogs that she first began collecting when she saw them on British mantelpieces in magazines, when she was living in London, and the chairs around the red lacquered table are from Maison Drucker.

Federica’s favourite room in the house is the master bedroom, “When I’m there I feel protected and in my perfect dimension,” she says. The hand-printed forest-themed wallpaper is a panoramic by Ananbô, the floors are original parquet and every piece of furniture, including the imposing wooden bed stand and chinoiserie chest of drawers, are secondhand purchases Federica has scouted in various junk shops around Europe. The small blue painting is by contemporary British artist Ray Caesar, the Uchiwa wall lamp is made from bamboo wood and designed by Ingo Maurer.

The master bathroom is 20s in mood, vintage tiles are by La Riggiola Napoli, accessories, including the shelf and bamboo mirror are by Raw Milano and the brass taps from Catchpole & Rye. One of the more unexpected spaces is the ‘relaxation spot’, a kind of home-spa. “I usually read or browse the web there, and Hildegard sits next to me chewing her bones or sleeping.”

The vintage daybed was again bought in the UK from a secondhand dealer, the Asian screen is also secondhand, the light blue coffee table is by Dimore Studio and the Bramante sideboard by Kazuhide Takahama for Cassina. “I love every piece in my home, they all bring nice memories, they all have a reason to be there.”

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federica viero house4
federica viero house4

To escape the bustle of Milan, Federica also has a home in Brixen, a stylish town in the mountains of northern Italy, with a stunning baroque-style cathedral that has a marble interior. And she is currently working on a new prefabricated home in the woods around an hour’s drive from the city.

“It will probably be ready by the beginning of next year. I bought a piece of land with a barn and tried to reproduce it sustainably in wood. The area is close to a little lake called Lago di Endine, which is a 15-minute drive from the more famous Lago d’lseo.”

And another weekend retreat option is her partner’s house in northern Italy. It is built along the river Serio and is also one hour from Milan. “It is the town that they filmed Call Me By Your Name, I usually spend my weekends there. We both have dogs so we go for walks in the countryside and have a very relaxed and simple lifestyle.”

This interview appeared in the March 2023 issue of Hello! Fashion.

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