This Milan Apartment Is a Master Class on Renovating During a Pandemic

The creative head of Dimorestudio transformed his home into an atmospheric nest with theatrical flair.

orange living room with rattan chairs and leopard pattern carpet and art on walls
Andrea Ferrari

Last spring, Emiliano Salci, the creative force behind the Milan-based design and architecture firm Dimorestudio, was left temporarily stranded. He had just sold the apartment he owned with Britt Moran, his partner in Dimorestudio, having amicably agreed to live separately for the first time since they got together in the mid-1990s. Just as the pandemic was hitting Milan, Salci moved and found himself immersed in a gut renovation. “It felt strange striving to get my flat finished at that moment,” he says. All he could do was dive headfirst—and hands on—into what he describes as the most personal of all his projects: the creation, under duress, of his new home—a place where he could weather the storm.

living room with blue sofa and antique candlesticks behind
In the living room of Emiliano Salci’s Milan apartment, the Vico ­Magistretti sofa is vintage, the cocktail table is by Dimoremilano, the bookcase is by Giulio Zappa, and the sconces are by Ignazio Gardella. The artwork (far right) behind a collection of antique candlesticks is by Enrico Castellani.
Andrea Ferrari

Stepping into Salci’s apartment is like entering a cinematic interior that fuses together the smoky, urban exoticism of Arthur Geiger’s house in The Big Sleep with the modernist precision of a Luca Guadagnino movie set. The compact space is situated on the ground floor of a late-1940s building block near Piazza Risorgimento, a stylishly bohemian area replete with up-and-coming art galleries, cafés, and restaurants; Salci’s home looks onto a back garden filled with palm trees and other exotic plants. As you walk into the hallway, painted a ripe orange, and onto the leopard carpet by Dimoremilano, Salci and Moran’s home-furnishings brand, you are enveloped by a nocturnal ambience of saturated colors and dimmed lighting. “I wanted the relaxed atmosphere of an evening retreat,” the designer explains.

studio with sofa
In the studio, the vintage furnishings include a daybed re-covered in a Dimoremilano fabric, an Eero Saarinen stool, a Jean Prouvé mounted shelf (left), and a sconce by Serge Mouille. The custom carpet is by Dimorestudio.
Andrea Ferrari

The hallway opens onto the apartment’s main living area, where an oval mahogany table by the American modernist George Nelson converses with a pair of armchairs by Piero Portaluppi, the architect behind the Villa Necchi Campiglio, the 1930s Milanese gem. Seated on a velvet sectional, Salci recalls months of lockdown when he had to use the only resources available to him: cans of paint, beautifully textured fabrics from Dimoremilano, and his own trove of vintage furniture and memorabilia. “When we started Dimorestudio in 2003, the design culture in Milan was dominated by minimalism,” he observes. “From the very start, our work, though far from being traditional, was open to reminiscences from the past.”

kitchen with doors leading outside
The kitchen’s cabinetry is custom, and the stools are by Dimoremilano.
Andrea Ferrari

The walls of the living room are painted a deep maroon, the windows draped with a fine gauze that cuts the sunlight. Windows and door fixtures are varnished black. In a seating area, a bookshelf by the Rationalist architect Giulio Zappa is filled with coffee-table books and a collection of Chinese vases. These, together with the Turkish rug, are the only bright elements in a space ruled by muted colors.

bedroom detail with large window
A Carlo Mollino chair sits in front of the bedroom’s casement window.
Andrea Ferrari

There are playful touches, too. The designer’s extensive collection of clothes (GQ Italia recently included Salci on its list of best-dressed men) occupies an entire room. His wardrobes, which line all four walls, are hung ceiling to floor in shiny purple satin, like a Houdini magic theater set.

Although Salci and Moran are no longer a couple, their friendship runs deep and their working partnership is as solid as ever. One of the characteristics they share is an ability to weave off-kilter eclecticism into a credible narrative. At Leo’s, a supper and music club at London’s Arts Club, they echoed the feel of the 1920s French Riviera. In Rome, above the Fendi headquarters, they fashioned a VIP space that resembles an art collector’s lair. So what was the narrative behind Salci’s stylishly moody interiors? Designing this apartment during the pandemic, he agrees, certainly imbued it with its somber atmosphere. “But most of all,” he adds, “it made me realize the importance of creating a home that was not only interesting from an aesthetic point of view but also livable. A place in which I could just be myself: comfortable, grounded, uncompromising.”

november 2020 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From House Tours