Made In Italy: Inside the Home of Seletti's Creative Director
In a northern town far from the bustle of Milan, the creative director of the full-of-life design brand Seletti has made a home that’s a bit mad, a tad over-the-top, and pure genius.
Stefano Seletti was 25 years old when he moved in to a house in Viadana, a town with fewer than 20,000 people, located 75 miles southeast of Milan in the Po River basin. It was a sort of homecoming. Stefano, now the creative director of Seletti—an avant-garde home furnishings company founded in 1964 by his father, Romano—had grown up next door. The building was right behind his childhood residence, where his parents still live, and had been purchased by his father a few years earlier.
“It wasn’t my dream house,” recalls Seletti of the three-bedroom, two-story stone home, which dates to about 1900 and has an adjacent concrete barn that was built (he estimates) in the 1940s. “The house was owned by an old woman. I remember her because from my bedroom windows I would look at the house and the yard was full of animals—chickens, cows.” He thought he’d stay a year, maybe two.
That was 21 years ago. In the decades since, Seletti and his wife, Adriana, have made it a living space for themselves and their two daughters that is, truth be told, a bit crazy. Some might describe it as maximalist. Nobody would call it boring.
The same could be said for Seletti the company (now owned by Stefano, his father, and his sister). Its products are not for the timid. They are nonconformist and occasionally wacky. Stefano defines a strong product as one that “will shine alone...even in a white crate” and describes the company’s overall offerings as “the opposite of Scandinavian design.” Best sellers include the Monkey Lamp collection of eerily life-like cast-resin primates in various poses holding lightbulbs, and Hybrid porcelain, a tabletop collection in which each piece, from plates to teacups, combines two completely different yet traditional china patterns. Odd? Perhaps. But the products are sold in 1,500 stores worldwide, including Colette in Paris, 10 Corso Como in Milan, Isetan in Tokyo, and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong. Clearly there’s wide appeal.
Over the years, the company, with an annual revenue of about $12 million, has enlisted a range of designers, among them Studio Job, Alessandra Baldereschi, and Diesel Living. The most eye-catching may be the collaboration with Toiletpaper, a text-free magazine created by artist Maurizio Cattelan (whose statue of a kneeling Adolf Hitler sold for $17.2 million at Christie’s in May) and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari that specializes in sometimes uncomfortable juxtapositions. Their bold images—of, say, a toad in a hamburger bun, or a bar of soap with a bite taken out of it—are emblazoned on everything from tabletop items to tea towels, with vibrant background colors.
Seletti’s home, too, is an explosion of color. Almost every surface is covered with something: decorative plates, religious icons, art, or even stickers. It’s a work in progress, changing daily, Seletti says. He lives with a fair amount of the company’s product—a Suburbia wall storage unit by Note Design Studio in the kitchen, a stack of Sending Animal cabinets in the entryway—occasionally mixing in notable pieces from others, including a Diesel Living sofa, Piero Gilardi’s Massolo table for Gufram, an Eames rocker, and a Smoke chair by Maarten Baas for Moooi.
He has no philosophy of interior design. “In decorating, I like mistakes,” Seletti says. “I don’t like having the perfect house, with the perfect chair, with the perfect tablecloth. When you arrive in a nonperfect place, I think you feel more comfortable.” The craziest room in the house, he says, is the combination laundry room–bathroom. It’s hidden behind a frosted-glass door bearing a red question mark; to enter is to encounter the one room where, Seletti says, “I can put everything.” The latest addition: a snow globe featuring the Great Wall of China, purchased in Beijing. Other idiosyncratic or distinctive touches in the home include a pink Smeg refrigerator (bought at the company’s outlet store in a nearby town), a huge sofa by Moroso, and a pink sink skirt that was chosen, one suspects, because it’s the ideal surface to showcase Seletti’s collection of punk-rock lapel pins.
While he never made any structural renovations to the main building, a comparatively modern glass-walled addition (he describes it as his “jardiniere”) was added ten years ago. The star of that uncharacteristically sparse space is a suspended Focus fireplace. “When it is raining outside or snowing, it is fantastic to stay by that fireplace,” he says. “It is also the only place where you can smoke a cigarette.”
Seletti turned the concrete barn into a guest room and gym. And much like the jardiniere, the barn is stylistically the opposite of the main house. The walls, floors, and ceiling are all painted white, and there isn’t a lot of furniture, but what is there seems thoughtfully chosen: an Eames lounger and a white Osorom bench by Konstantin Grcic. This is where Seletti goes to escape. And while he prefers visual chaos, he wants his visitors to be comfortable. “I think that for guests, the other part is too much,” he says. “They can be more relaxed in the barn.”
Seletti has two other residences: one in Brazil, near Trancoso (his wife hails from São Paulo), and another on the ancient Italian island of Pantelleria (where Giorgio Armani also has a home), in the Strait of Sicily. Apparently neither has yet reached the Viadana house’s level of chaotic decor. “I don’t stay there enough to collect so many objects,” says Seletti. “Maybe in the next 20 years those houses will also be full of objects.” Somehow, one doesn’t doubt it.