x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

'This house is the story of my life'

Home in the life of Carlo Rampazzi, the Swiss interior designer who helped to furnish Burj al Arab.

The furniture designer Carlo Rampazzi at his home in Ascona, Switzerland, says he would 'never do beige' decorating, even if one of his so-called important clients asked him to.
The furniture designer Carlo Rampazzi at his home in Ascona, Switzerland, says he would 'never do beige' decorating, even if one of his so-called important clients asked him to.

The answer is both complex and simple. With my family we left my birth home here in Ascona when I was 14 and moved several times. After that, I moved for my education and early career. However, when I got married I returned to live in my original home and that is where I have stayed. For me moving house is not an adventure; it is unsettling, quite painful and I really cannot bear it. This house is the story of my life; there are still some toys in the attic from my childhood.

I have an apartment in Paris and one in St Moritz, and love them both. But it goes without saying that my favourite is the home where I was born and where I now live. It belonged to my father and my grandfather before him. It's an old L-shaped building in the middle of town, with a walled garden, rather like a convent; it was once divided into 13 apartments but I changed all the spaces around and it now consists of my showroom, design studio and, above them, my private living quarters.

Both are vitally important but the interior rather more than the location. I live in a city - which I like; it makes me feel comfortable - yet I have created my own isolated and private little world within it. That is the perfect situation for me.

Since moving back here I have gone for three or four years at a time without changing a thing. Then suddenly it will be time and I will change everything in a matter of three or four hours. Usually it is triggered by something special I have bought. For instance I recently bought a two-by-three-metre painting in New York and that dictated a major rearrangement. I even had a window closed off once, in order to accommodate a new piece of art. I do it all, changing and arranging myself, because it is very personal - as well as being tremendous fun. For me it's like a party, like playtime.

Both personally and professionally I can't stand to hear people say of interior design, "Oh, but that's not à la mode". To me something is beautiful or not, interesting or not, a reflection of its owner or not. The idea of trends and fashion is so shallow. Always, with clients, I begin with the questions that get them to reveal who they really are - sometimes they are surprised at what they discover - and then use that as my starting point. In the same way my home, my work and my personal style are intrinsically bound together. My life has been a little strange, in that I wanted to be an artist or an actor but my parents couldn't imagine anyone making a career of it and wanted me to be a banker. Interior design was a compromise, which has still allowed me a creative outlet. Not long before they died, each of my parents said to me that they were sorry it had taken them so long to understand my creativity.

Of course! An idea is easy to have. However, giving something soul - whether it's a piece of furniture, a lamp or a new fabric design - makes the all-important difference. So I need to live with a piece, look at it, use it, love it, loathe it, make little changes, help it to evolve. These prototypes are almost like my children and they don't go out into the world until they are ready. Sometimes I think my wife is jealous of how much time I spend with my things. A psychiatrist friend told me many years ago that I should design my own furniture collection. It was very good advice - much better than expensive therapy.

Something that I can touch and pick up and play with. If you cannot touch things you should put them in a museum and visit them there. I like the kind of things that, even while I'm watching TV, I can pick up and hold and enjoy in that way. The sentimental value of a thing is what matters to me; it has nothing to do with the price.

My red room; it is full of paintings - all Modern and contemporary pieces. Since I didn't become a painter and could never paint as a mere hobby - to me creativity without discipline is nothing, mere dabbling - this is the way I relate to art. Paintings are my passion; they completely change a home. Like the whole house, this room is full of colour, too. Human beings need colour. I would never do beige, even if a so-called "important" client asked me to.

Oh, a collector - of paintings, above all. I become very attached to my pictures and keep everything I buy. But also, I hate wasting things. I believe in style, not fashion and I have things because it pleases me to have them, not because someone says it's the thing to do this year. Some of the furniture designs I show are already six years old but I say to clients, "In these crisis times you don't need new furniture; all you need is a new accessory or two to give the older pieces new life".

Beauty, peace and privacy. Privacy is extremely important. Many times I have been asked to have my home photographed but I always refuse. To lose my privacy in that way would be like selling part of myself. And if you sell yourself too much - having your personal life in the media - you end up with nothing. My home is my haven and the source of my energy.