Barnaba Fornasetti talks taste: Part Two

Roman architecture, a zebra table and jive dancing complete the designer’s list of desirables

Barnaba Fornasetti at his home in Milan
Barnaba Fornasetti at his home in Milan | Image: Fabio Massimo Aceto

My style icon is difficult to say. I have always loved the way Pablo Picasso, Cecil Beaton and Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, dressed. Today, there’s an Italian art critic called Philippe Daverio who is always very well attired; he looks like a Viennese gentleman.

Watercolour by Fornasetti’s girlfriend, Valeria Manzi
Watercolour by Fornasetti’s girlfriend, Valeria Manzi | Image: Fabio Massimo Aceto

The best gift I’ve given recently is a pair of Italian shoes to my girlfriend, Valeria. I found them in a small London shop called Fiorentini + Baker; they looked comfortable, with a low heel in dark burgundy and brown suede, and are very elegant. She wears them every day. 49 Rivington Street, London EC2 (020-7739 9248;


And the best one I’ve received was a drawing and poetry by my girlfriend. We both like to give presents randomly. I hate feeling obliged to only do it on a certain date, such as Christmas. When I find something that would be perfect for someone, I don’t want to wait for a suitable occasion.

Fornasetti’s Kenyan zebra table
Fornasetti’s Kenyan zebra table | Image: Courtesy Fornasetti

The last meal that truly impressed me was a very simple focaccia with chestnuts, made for me by a chef called Titta who sometimes comes to cook at my house. She is from the Puglia region so there’s always a lot of fresh fish in her cooking. During the day she works at the Centro Botanico in Milan, but I’ve told her I would like to make a restaurant with her; I could do the interior design. She’s a really fantastic cook. Centro Botanico,Piazza San Marco 1, 20121 Milan (+392-2901 3254;

Fornasetti’s ST Dupont lighter
Fornasetti’s ST Dupont lighter | Image: Fabio Massimo Aceto

The site that inspires me is Rome, with its ancient patina and the most impressive, rich mix of architectural and antique styles. And for natural beauty, I also like Scotland. It is the most incredible place; green like a rainforest, but without the tropics.

Comme des Garçons Comme 3 eau de toilette, £65 for 75ml
Comme des Garçons Comme 3 eau de toilette, £65 for 75ml

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a small table in the shape of a zebra from a shop in Mombasa, Kenya. I bought it on a trip years ago while on my way to Lamu. It’s a very local, handcrafted piece, painted black and white, and totally Fornasetti in spirit. I love it very much and it lives in my studio.

Albion café in Shoreditch, London
Albion café in Shoreditch, London

An object I would never part with is an old ST Dupont lighter that I love. I always wear a waistcoat because that’s the only safe place to keep it. I worry when I travel that I might lose it or have it stolen because they’ve become cult objects. Unfortunately, I am a smoker, and this year I am doing a small exhibition called Sublime Tobacco. It’s a very politically incorrect show of a collection of ashtrays my father made. Ashtrays are little used today, but they are still beautiful objects. The exhibition is a way to be a bit provocative about the “prohibitionism” around smoking, which I think is too


My favourite websites are… none. I only go online for work. I don’t really use a computer. I know I’m very old-fashioned, but I don’t care. I prefer not to be contaminated by this kind of technology and I’m very lucky and privileged in that I can ask others to go online for me. My theory is that if everyone is online then perhaps, in the future, it will be good to have someone who doesn’t know anything about the internet, to provide another point of view. I can be that person.

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe is a suit by Umit Benan. It’s grey with a pattern of small spots, almost like tiny brown beans on a grey background. It’s very well cut, with a slim-fitting jacket and Turkish-style trousers, large at the top and tapered at the bottom. Classic with a twist. From €1,400;

The grooming staples I’m never without are Comme des Garçons’ Comme 3 eau de toilette – I just really like the scent, and its design, too, although this is not a sufficient reason to buy a perfume – and Weleda natural products for the bath, shampoo, everything. I think they are the best, and the safest, for the body and the skin. Comme des Garçons Comme 3, £65 for 75ml; Weleda,

My favourite room in my house depends on my mood, the weather, the light, whether I’m eating or listening to music, reading or working. I care a lot about aesthetics. At the moment I’m working on a new atelier where the Fornasetti pieces are manufactured. Even though it’s a place for work and practical things, it will still be decorated. At home, there are many objects designed by my father displayed around the place, and because it’s also the archive and the studio, the style is somewhat eccentric.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Shoreditch in London. There are lots of different boutiques and shops, such as the vintage and thrift shop Sick, lifestyle places, design places, independent restaurants and galleries, including Two Columbia Road – all of which make it much more interesting than shopping in Milan. Last time I was there I went to the Albion café at the Boundary, which serves simple, natural dishes. It’s easy to eat well in London, perhaps even more now than in Milan, where, in general, there’s not so much innovation. Albion, 2-4 Boundary Street, London E2 (020-7721 1051; Sick, 105 Redchurch Street, London E2 (020-7033 2961). Two Columbia Road, 2 Columbia Road, London E2 (020-7729 9933;

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would probably be a dancer. I love all kinds of dance. My favourite is jive – I like very rhythmical movements, and jive is like a kind of acrobatics. I took dance lessons for a short period; it was great but I didn’t have time to continue. Now swimming is the only physical activity I have time for.

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