Piero Lissoni talks personal taste: Part Two

The architect and furniture designer concludes his list of likes with Keith Richards and a love letter to Venice

Piero Lissoni
Piero Lissoni | Image: Albrecht Tübke

My style icon is Keith Richards. Only he could dress like he does – with his conspicuous trail of errors, year after year – and still look incredibly elegant. I remember a concert in Zurich where he came out in a pair of pink leather trousers and this bright apple-green coat, a really long sort of trench, leather too.

Piero Lissoni’s model car
Piero Lissoni’s model car | Image: Albrecht Tübke

The last thing I bought and loved was a little model of a car made out of very thin metal sheets from discarded cans, which I bought from these African guys on the street in Milan. It looks more or less like a Citroën Deux Chevaux. It is very poorly designed but also very beautiful.

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And the thing I’m eyeing next is a lovely terracotta sculpture of a horse from the Tang Dynasty that I saw recently at Arch Angel Antiques in Hong Kong. It is the dimensions I love – it’s very small and compact – and the elegance of the design, which is so simple as to be almost naive. Arch Angel Antiques, 53 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong (+852-2851 6882).

Nopi restaurant, London
Nopi restaurant, London | Image: Keiko Oikawa

A recent “find” is White Cube in Bermondsey. I love the space itself, the volume; it used to be a warehouse. I went to one show in autumn 2012 that was like an enormous library; everyone seemed as though they were reading, but in fact they were part of the performance. I like this idea of a living-museum way of exhibiting. The gallery’s bookshop is also fantastic. 144-152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 (020-7930 5373; www.whitecube.com).

Harry’s Bar, Venice
Harry’s Bar, Venice

The site that inspires me is Venice. It’s like one of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. If I had to describe it to someone who’s never seen it – a place surrounded by water, almost half submerged, whose people get around by boat – it seems like a story. It’s a fabulous city, in the true sense of the word; it’s a difficult and very special place.

White Cube, Bermondsey
White Cube, Bermondsey | Image: Ben Westoby

The books on my bedside table are Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which is always there, and Der Untergeher by Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. I like this one a lot; it’s extremely sophisticated. I’m also reading the latest book by Andrea Camilleri, La Rivoluzione della Luna, a story set in Sicily in the late 1600s, and Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

An object I would never part with? I’m not that tied to things. It’s important to use them when you have them, cultivate a good relationship with them, respect them and – why not? – lose them. It’s part of life, like any relationship. If you can’t part with things, you’re sadder than Scrooge.

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The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Mark Rothko. His canvases have the same force as the Renaissance masters, without resorting to the figurative. They bring to mind Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, even Leonardo. They almost have a capacity to vibrate. To me, they indicate quite complex states of mind. Or Donald Judd, who impresses me with his capacity for silence in his work. It’s like a black hole; he leaves spaces and they draw you in absolutely.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is London. Always, and again and again, for its energy. I come once every two or three weeks and something is always unforgettable; last time it was Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant Nopi. 21-22 Warwick Street, London W1 (020-7494 9584; www.ottolenghi.co.uk).

And the best souvenir I’ve brought home was a tiny jade pearl I was given during a trip to Nepal, Rajasthan and Ladakh, by a woman from whom I bought several things. She gave it with a great deal of spirit, which I loved, and I think it was the most valuable of the things I got from her. At home, I incorporated it into a pair of cuff links.

My favourite room in my house is my library in Milan. It is not very large and every last bit of wall is completely covered in books of every genre. It contains no furniture except an armchair that was designed by Shiro Kuramata. You don’t really need anything else.

If I didn’t live in Milan, the city I would live in is Venice. It’s a city that requires human beings to relate to each other, and to their surroundings, in a completely different way to anywhere else I can think of. It has fantastic food: at Ristorante al Covo in Castello, Da Fiore in San Polo, and the wine bar and bacaro Cantina do Mori near the Rialto market. No one in Venice gets upset if you’re late; I love this. Except at Harry’s Bar – there, you need to be on time, otherwise they’ll give your table away. Cantina do Mori, Sestiere San Polo 429 (+39041-522 5401). Da Fiore, San Polo 2002 (+39041-721 308). Harry’s Bar, Calle Vallaresso 1323 (+39041-528 5777; www.harrysbarvenezia.com). Ristorante al Covo, Castello 3968 (+39041-522 3812).

If I weren’t doing what I do, I’d be a ski instructor. It doesn’t matter where, so long as it isn’t chic, is a bit wild and has a ton of fresh snow. Anywhere in the world with those qualities would be fine.

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