Simon UptonThe Casa degli Atellani home of Piero Castellini Baldissera in Milan was where I first met him. Nicolo Castellini baldissera, his son, was not able to give me much information about his family palazzo. He didn’t tell me about Leonardo da Vinci’s connection while he was painting The Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie. Or about the adjoining apartment that was occupied by members of his extended families.
Piero’s ancestor Ettore Conti bought the 15-century palace in 1919. He then enlisted Piero Portaluppi, the husband of Conti’s niece Lia Baglia. After the damage caused by World War II shelling, he engaged him again to restore the complex. Portaluppi reimagined crumbling Renaissance architecture using the neoclassical style, while incorporating 20th-century Milanese influences like geometric mosaic floors and a butterfly window.
Castellini Baldissera has a private apartment. The living room alcove is lined by mesh-fronted wooden shelving that houses a rare collection, including pieces from ancient Rome. Simon Upton visited the courtyard. “Ciao! Nicolo!” called Letizia Castellini Baldissera his aunt. She lives in her own apartment and was there to inform us about an event. “Dior rented a garden for dinner. The table extends all the way to the vineyard. As we began to walk, she asked “By the way, have your cousin seen you?” “No, but I’m certain we will,” Nicolo replied.
Even though children in Italy (particularly boys) often choose to stay at home into their 30s, it’s not common to see a large family living together. “How many of you?” was a question I heard someone ask me at a party. The response was “We came to many, but now we are more.”
The dining room at Castellini Baldissera’s home features 17th-century Italian chairs that surround an 18th century French mahogany table. Portaluppi’s 17-century chandelier is Sicilian and the walls are pale green boiserie. Portaluppi was an architect who helped to define modern architecture in Italy over a nearly six-decade period that began in 1911. Villa Necchi Campiglio was his masterpiece of Art Deco and was located in Milan’s private garden. You can see his unique style all around the city, including in the civic planetarium and the Piedmont power stations he designed for Conti’s electric company.
Portaluppi’s home, which is where his grandson Piero Castellini baldissera lives now with his partner Paola Reggiori, is located in the courtyard of Casa degli Atellani. It overlooks the garden. This is the eccentricest section of the property. It has verdant frescoes at the entranceway and a sundial on the ceiling. Piero, an interior designer and architect who is well-known, prefers a more minimalistic style of decoration, while Portaluppi was more open to displaying his creativity. He has filled the apartment with coral branches, contemporary art and books and any other material that inspires his curiosity. Piero has added his own personal touches to the apartment, like the trompe-l’oeil door that he hidden under the arcade in the courtyard.
Portaluppi’s 1930 garden frescos and Venetian-style seminato floor are visible in the entry. His former workplace, located just around the corner of Casa degli Atellani’s 1939 Casa Portaluppi Building, is now a foundation. It also houses the offices of Piero, an architectural firm that he runs, and which Nicolo collaborates with.
This family, who lives and breathes design, uses the palazzo and adjacent buildings as their home base for a variety of businesses. Piero Castellini and Emanuele Castellini, his cousin, started C&C Milano’s luxury fabric brand in 1996. They worked out details in the communal dining room of the palazzo. Piero brought with them a history in design and style. Emanuele was a manager from the family’s previous textile factory. The discovery of grapevine roots within the courtyard was traced back to Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th-century vineyard. A matching vine was also found in Emilia-Romagna and was first harvested in 2018.
One guest room has twin Louis XVI headboards, and bedcovers made in Braquenie toile du Jouy. Simon UptonA memorable opening scene in Luca Guadagnino’s 2009 cult movie I Am Love, Piero toasts the fictional Recchi, who celebrates the passing on of the torch from one generation to the next. Although it was a small part that a producer would give to a friend or in-law, Milan’s casting spoke volumes. The director referred to the world the characters lived in and the family they belonged to. More clues are given throughout the movie. For example, Tilda Swinton plays the Recchi family matriarch. This bag is C&C Milano. It serves to show that Milan’s Castellini clan has a significant influence on the film’s visual vocabulary and entrepreneurial spirit.
The family gathers in the boiserie paneled drawing room, which is located in the communal section of the house. This was the former home of Count Ettore conti. From left: Nicolo Castlelini Baldissera and Letizia Castellini-Baldissera. Gigliola Castellini Curiel, Piero Baldissera and Emanuele Castellini. Simon Upton. The movie was largely shot in Villa Necchi Campiglio. Piero restored the apartment shortly before filming started. Scene after scene shows C&C’s distinctive stripes and chevrons in the creamy colors of the brand. The company’s success led to the opening of showrooms in New York and Paris a decade later. Nicolo Castellini Curiel and his cousin, Gigliola Castellini, were enlisted to assist. The design conversation continues for the Castellinis across generations.
This story first appeared in the May 2022 issue ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE