Finding Design Inspiration on a Visit to the Queen of the Adriatic
John Ruskin’s book The Stones of Venice was given to me as a high school graduation present from my art teacher. I thought it was a curious gift at the time and never dreamed that Venice would become an obsession for me—it’s where I was engaged and later married. I love the careful consideration of design in everything you see—light fixtures, glassware, ironwork and, of course, the architecture. I recently returned to Venice with 40 friends to celebrate my husband’s fiftieth birthday and our tenth wedding anniversary. In true la dolce vita fashion, we toured the city and surrounding islands, showing our guests Venice from an art and design perspective, and finding great design resources along the way.
One afternoon, we chartered a boat to take us to the island of Murano to observe the glass artisans at Signoretti. It was amazing to watch them form each decorative glass petal that comprises an intricate Rezzonico chandelier. One of the premier glass factories, Signoretti created the light fixtures for the recently restored Teatro La Fenice in Venice. That afternoon, as I was heading back to the Gritti Palace for a rest, I ducked into my favorite lampshade shop in San Marco. Using Fortuny fabrics and classic shapes, Angela Rosa Greco creates custom lampshades for top designers and the finest Venetian interiors.
My favorite new discovery on this trip was the area directly behind the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in the Dorsoduro district, which is peppered with craftsmen who clearly have an aligned sensibility to the chic museum. A shop that was intoxicating to explore was the Antiquus Gallery, featuring the jewelry designs and decorative sculpture of Carla C. Jewels. Her luxe pieces mix iconic Venetian symbols in a modern way. Across the street is Napé, the antique shop of Filippo Gambardella, specializing in 20th-century Murano glass and selected ceramics. I am in love with each curated piece—from Paolo Venini and Archimede Seguso glass to the matte glazed modern ceramics by Bruno Gambone.
Probably my favorite design experience in Venice will always be viewing the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Arriving via water taxi at sunset, we toured the terrazzo-floored spaces of her former residence, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. On a private after-hours visit, we immersed ourselves in the stunning 20th-century modern art collection set among the interiors and gardens. I love seeing the small photos in each room showing Peggy living in that particular space with her art.
Beyond the crowds and the clichés of the city, Venice truly is a fascinating place and a living museum filled with endless design discoveries. I will always enjoy getting lost in the streets and finding another great design resource.
SUSAN’S TOP PICKS
Once artist Mariano Fortuny’s studio, this Gothic building is now a museum showcasing his artwork and textiles. It is an explosion of rich pattern and sensuous objects. Walking through the decorative vignettes and observing the elegant historic fabrics with their luminous colors is fascinating.
The best way to truly appreciate Venice is by water. Take a water taxi to the small island of Torcello for a relaxed afternoon seafood lunch at Locanda Cipriani. The journey there is just as much fun as touring Torcello itself. On island, visit the Church of Santa Fosca and the restaurant’s beautiful gardens.
This is one of my most favorite buildings architecturally. The pink and white striped stone arches on the exterior are striking, as are the many patterned stone floors inside. My kids love the Venetian history throughout the interior depicted through statues and frescos. Opt for a private tour guide.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2015 issue of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Visions of Venice.