Giorgio Armani’s house in Antigua
All of a sudden, it comes into view. You lift your eyes and it’s there. “I saw the island from afar. The colours of the sea and the distant outline of the small bump of land bewitched me.” With his blue eyes and bold, steady gaze, Giorgio Armani, the king of Italian fashion, looks like a seafarer as he describes his house in Antigua, where paradise is perched on a coral reef. Here, the Italian designer who loves houses owns two linked villas, private beaches and some land where bananas, watermelons and papayas are cultivated. “In 1987, I visited Antigua and immediately promised myself I would go back to peruse it attentively. When I did return as a guest of friends in 2003, I saw that the house next door was for sale.” Designed in the 1990s by Gianni Gamondi, a popular architect of vacation houses in Puntaldia and Porto Rotondo (both in Sardinia), the complex is based on a pair of villas with peaked roofs resting on wooden columns. Overlooking the blue Caribbean, they are nestled in tropical vegetation. “The first block, being brighter and more open, is for daytime use, while the second, being shadier and more sheltered, is for evening activities and the sleeping quarters. I completed the makeover by removing more than I added. I wanted the complex to merge with its natural setting, but without the characteristic cuteness of the buildings seen in this area,” says Armani.
The beautiful houses you live in are always bright places in the sun. What is your selection criterion?
I choose them by looking at the setting, observing the style, both indoors and out. In general, I see them and already imagine the ways I’d like to change them to make them my own. Light is definitely an essential factor in my appraisal, because it defines the spaces and contributes to the atmosphere of the interiors. I prefer it to be natural. I love spaces where the light is soft, diffuse and filtered to create a sense of comfort and peace.
Scent, sound, tactility and a view of the horizon must be important, too.
This is a peaceful place immersed in nature. I’m always surprised by the extraordinarily intense, unique colours of the surrounding landscape. The whiteness of the sand and the way the sky melds with the sea help me really relax. And the island’s pace, so remote from my daily tempo, gives me a sense of total freedom, complete fulfilment, especially when I have my friends and loved ones with me. One thing I enjoy doing sometimes is taking a small boat to explore the beaches around the island.
How do you turn a well-ordered set of square metres into an actual home?
A space becomes a home when it conveys a feeling of warmth and tranquillity. It’s where we are surrounded by objects linked to our experiences and memories.
What steps to you take before designing a house’s renewal?
I study the architecture, its forms and materials, the cultural context, the geography of the place and the building itself. These steps precede the project’s concept. My enthusiasm is always stoked by the idea of materially breathing life into something that by its nature is enduring.
Did the surrounding space influence the design of the house?
Yes, profoundly so, as always. I worked to make the place my own, because I wanted this house to bear my stamp and have a signature Armani presence. All the same, I did not wish to distort it, but respect its personality. I softened the colours of the exterior, avoiding the much livelier traditional ones, so as not to make it stand out too sharply in the eyes of someone viewing it from the sea.
Does an undisputed master like you make a difference between style in fashion and style in interior design? Is there a common denominator?
The same impulse gives rise to my fashions. It’s the search for an ideal balance between simplicity and decoration, the opposed poles of taste. It expresses the same concern with detail, takes the same pleasure in proportions and practicality that are also attractive in dress.
The word elegance comes from the Latin eligere, meaning “pick out, select” and later indicated “to make refined choices”. How do you see this?
As a concept, elegance is far removed from everything that expresses aggression or exhibitionism. It’s an attitude of the spirit reflected outward, something profound expressed in dress, in choosing an object or the colour of a cushion. It’s an innate talent that has a lot to do with the ability to create your own style, discreet yet also recognisable.
According to the Irish fiction writer Colum McCann, windows are like stories – we can open them to all the stories we want. What does Mr. Armani see from the window and what stories does it tell?
What I see from the window, whether it’s Antigua or Milan, is always a glimpse of nature. It is a small, carefully tended garden in Milan, the open sea in Pantelleria, and a white beach in Antigua. I need this contact, because it moves me, calms me and makes me feel part of something much bigger than myself – life.
Article published on the summer issue of ICON DESIGN.