Michele Bönan talks personal taste: Part Two

The architect and interior designer rounds up his list of likes with Hubert de Givenchy, Iranian caviar and David Bowie’s single, Lazarus

Michele Bönan at home in Florence
Michele Bönan at home in Florence | Image: Mattia Zoppellaro

My style icons include the impeccable Gianni Agnelli, Hubert de Givenchy and the Duke of Windsor – all of whom were beautifully dressed and carried themselves with great ease. The restaurateur Arrigo Cipriani is another man of style who has the gift for making everyone feel perfectly at home.

I never leave home without one of the watches I like to collect and my grey New Balance trainers. I like to jog wherever I go in the world – from Taiwan to Los Angeles to London – as it’s a great way to explore. I am a bit like James Bond – a man of style – so I often travel with a tuxedo and a bathing suit. You never know… From £44; www.newbalance.com.

Tortelli being prepared at Clinica Gastronomica Arnaldo, Rubiera
Tortelli being prepared at Clinica Gastronomica Arnaldo, Rubiera | Image: Nikoboi

A recent “find” is the restaurant Clinica Gastronomica Arnaldo in Rubiera, between Modena and Reggio Emilia. This simple spot serves the most delicious stuffed pastas such as cappelletti and tortelli, as well as bollito misto – the classic Italian meat stew – in a warm, familial atmosphere. Piazza XXIV Maggio 3, 42048 Rubiera (+3905-2262 6124; www.clinicagastronomica.net).

The sight that inspires me is the sunset as seen from our house in St Tropez. The flowers there – lavender, violets – are beautiful and perfume the surrounding landscape. At the end of the day, the light is gorgeous and this is the best place for me to relax and get new ideas.


My fail-safe jet-lag cure is a gin and tonic with cucumber – preferably at Claridge’s bar. Flying private helps a lot too… Brook St, London W1 (020-7629 8860; www.claridges.co.uk).

The last meal that truly impressed me was at our friend’s winery – Colle Bereto – in Chianti. This part of Tuscany is just spectacular and we sat outside under a pergola at a long, beautiful table. Everything we ate – from the mozzarella that was made before our eyes, to the tomatoes and salad from their garden – was so natural and flavourful, and, of course, the Chianti Classico and Il Tocco wines were wonderful as well. Radda in Chianti, Siena (+390577-738 083; www.collebereto.it).

The Goat, 1950, by Picasso, at Musée Picasso, Paris
The Goat, 1950, by Picasso, at Musée Picasso, Paris | Image: Tuul and Bruno Morandi/Alamy Stock Photo

An object I would never part with is a leather chair of my own design that is broken in and very comfortable. It is made of two types of leather – boar and cowhide – in natural colours, and is elegant and timeless. More importantly, I would never part with my wedding ring, which, in fact, is very difficult to take off. This simple gold band is now literally a part of my hand.

An indulgence I would never forgo is really good Iranian caviar with a little bit of tomato and blinis. Our whole family loves caviar, especially when it’s served at a special Sunday lunch at the Four Seasons in Florence. The food there is excellent and I go when I know chef Vito Mollica is cooking. Borgo Pinti 99, 50121 Florence (+3905-526 261; www.fourseasons.com).

Colle Bereto vineyard, Chianti
Colle Bereto vineyard, Chianti | Image: Alessandro Moggi

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a handmade, cream-coloured cashmere sweater given to me by my aunt. It’s practical and goes well with the jeans I wear all weekend.

The people I rely on for grooming and wellbeing are Tomasso at Mario di Via Della Vigna Nuova salon in Florence for my monthly haircuts, and the masseurs at the Heurigen Spa at the Jagdgut Wachtelhof hotel in Hinterthal in Austria, where I enjoy a good, strong massage. My son Sky is my excellent personal trainer and he keeps me motivated. Da Mario di Via della Vigna Nuova, Via Vigna Nuova 22, 50123 Florence (+3905-529 4813; www.mariodiviadellavigna.it). Jagdgut Wachtelhof, Urslaustrasse 7, A-5761 Maria Alm - Hinterthal (+436584-23888; www.hotelwachtelhof.at).

Hubert de Givenchy with his afghan hound
Hubert de Givenchy with his afghan hound | Image: Picture Post/Getty Images

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Alberto Giacometti. I love his drawings and sculptures, and since they are impossible for me to buy, I advise my clients to do so instead… I also love the white Concetto Spaziale works by Lucio Fontana – one can always dream.

If I didn’t live in Florence, the city I would live in is Paris. I love the Palais Royal and would like to own a house there, to be near the gardens. Every part of this light-filled city is a museum, but I’d like to spend more time at the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Picasso and the area surrounding Le Marais. I love to hunt for unusual, difficult-to-find pieces for my clients at the Marché Paul Bert Serpette, and Chez L’Ami Louis is one of my favourite restaurants anywhere for both the food and the intimate atmosphere. Chez L’Ami Louis, 32 Rue du Vertbois (+331-4887 7748). The Louvre, +331-4020 5050; www.louvre.fr. Marché Paul Bert Serpette, 96-110 Rue des Rosiers (+331-4011 5414; www.marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com). Musée d’Orsay, 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur (+331-4049 4814; www.musee-orsay.fr). Musée Picasso, 5 Rue de Thorigny (+331-8556 0036; www.museepicassoparis.fr).


If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the Oltrarno in Florence. Silversmith Argentiere Pagliai is a must for beautifully made picture frames and cutlery, while Laboratorio di Moleria Locchi is a centuries-old studio full of handblown crystal vases and tableware. For contemporary furniture I like Flair for one-of-a-kind and Danish modern pieces. The Vennari Gioielli showroom is another very special place full of jewellery and cufflinks that are made using materials like onyx, mother-of-pearl and enamel. Argentiere Pagliai, Borgo San Iacopo 41R (+39055-282 840; www.argentierepagliai.it). Flair, Lungarno Corsini 24R (+39055-267 0154; www.flair.it). Laboratorio di Moleria Locchi, Via Domenico Burchiello 10 (+39055-229 8371; www.locchi.com). Vennari Gioielli, Via de’ Tornabuoni 1 (+39055-291 832; www.vennarigioielli.com).

The last music I downloaded was David Bowie’s final single Lazarus. This song is particularly powerful as it was released shortly before his death. I have to credit my son with this one as I typically listen to classical music – mostly Mozart – while I work, or when I sketch and paint.

The books on my bedside table are often from Assouline and are focused on art and design. I am currently reading The Big Book of Chic by American interior designer Miles Redd. I also like the positive psychology of the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness. More often than not, though, my nights are devoted to reading history books with my children. www.assouline.com.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a painter. I love to draw and paint whenever I have spare time, and this carries over into a lot of the design work I do now. I love abstraction and brilliant colour, and in an ideal world, I’d paint like Picasso. Directing movies holds appeal as well…

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