The stylist Gianluca Longo has always dreamt of living in a conservatory. So when Christie’s asked him to design a series of interiors using objects and artworks from two upcoming Collector sales, only one location would do: Syon House in west London.
The seat of the Duke of Northumberland on the bank of the Thames is home to the Great Conservatory — a magnificent 230-foot-wide metal and glass cathedral of sunlight in the shape of a Greek cross.
Built in the 1820s by Charles Fowler, the architect of London’s Covent Garden Market, the Palladian structure is the jewel of the Duke’s estate, acting as a bridge between the 18th-century Robert Adam-designed house and the gardens landscaped by Capability Brown. ‘Creating these rooms here at Syon House has been a fantastic experience,’ says Longo.
Longo’s signature style is decorative and colourful. Print and pattern are his obsessions, he says. Drawing inspiration from his Italian roots and adopted London home, he seamlessly blends European ceramics and fabrics with Regency furniture and colour palettes. ‘I do not believe in living with one style,’ he explains. ‘My aesthetic draws me to mix and match.’
It’s an aesthetic perfected during his career as a fashion, travel and interiors consultant, working for magazines including Condé Nast Traveller, Architectural Digest and Harpers Bazaar. He is currently the style editor for Cabana Magazine and British Vogue, and regularly hosts talks for Soho House, the Victoria and Albert Museum and SHOWstudio.
‘Christie’s asked me to be a tastemaker,’ he says, ‘and I was very flattered because every time I visit, especially for the interiors auctions, part of my heart would like to buy everything — but unfortunately my pockets won’t allow that.’
Longo was given free rein to select his favourite items from the almost 500 pieces of European furniture, works of art, silver, ceramics and gold boxes on offer across the two Collector sales.
Explaining the rationale behind his choices for the first vignette — an exotic drawing room — Longo points to the hybrid design of a French cabinet, one of his favourite objects in the sale. He says that while the mahogany, pagoda-shaped top is Japanese in style, the two cupboard doors are inset with Chinese cloisonné enamel panels depicting birds, butterflies and flowers.
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Next to towering ferns, Longo added a circular George II mahogany table decorated with orange and red flowers, and two walnut carved chairs of the same period. They’re ideal for lounging in with a drink from the nearby Japanese lacquer and ebony table stocked with his favourite spirits, he adds.
For his fantasy lobby beneath the conservatory’s show-stopping 125-foot glass cupola, Longo chose a magnificent 19th-century French foliate giltwood and Portor marble table, topped with a pair of bronze lily-spray candelabra. They’re flanked by two late Louis XV giltwood bergère chairs by Jean-Baptiste Tilliard — the famous French carver who made bedroom suites for the Palace of Versailles.
In the short film above, Longo reveals that his favourite interior to arrange was the dining room. ‘I love setting up tables,’ says the stylist, who has a collection of vintage silver, glass and china at home.
His fantasy dinner party for six features Royal Copenhagen porcelain plates decorated with botanical specimens, a pair of George VI silver candelabra with olive candles, mint-green linens from Puglia, electric blue, red and green tumblers from Murano and candy-coloured St. Louis crystal wine glasses.
Finishing the look with beautiful fresh flowers, Longo creates a symphony of colour and texture, noting that the plant-filled conservatory is ‘a natural wallpaper for the perfect dining room’.
Longo adds that one of the reasons he loves hunting for antiques at auction is that it gives you the chance to offer an object a second life. ‘You find wonderful pieces and then review them in your home, in your rooms, in your conservatory, in your gardens,’ he says. ‘That is part of the sustainable process of interiors.’
The Collector: Online takes place between 27 October and 17 November 2020. The Collector: Live is at Christie’s in London on 12 November 2020.