Fashion Designer Elisabetta Franchi Weaves A Bucolic Fantasy In Her Bolognese Residence

Elisabetta Franchi, Ayesha Shaikh, A Fashionable Life, Harper's Bazaar Interiors
Photography by Betty Blue

Designer Elisabetta Franchi poses next to the pool in her Bologna home. She wears an embroidered peackock dress from her Fall/Winter 2018 collection

What does it mean to live la dolce vita? For the Italian designer, it goes beyond extravagant indulgences as depicted in her elegant home

A midst the rustic charm of Bologna in northern Italy, Elisabetta Franchi has dreamt up her own countryside fantasy. It’s where the fashion designer and self-proclaimed animalist has made a good home and by extension, a good life for herself, her husband Alan Scarpellini, children Leone and Ginevra, and her beloved dogs. Known for her impeccable silhouettes that are sensually feminine without being ostentatious, Elisabetta has translated her timeless design language into her home, a 20th-century ranch that has metamorphosed into a modern home with some loving restoration.

Elisabetta Franchi

The dining room has a minimal and elegant mood like the rest of the house.

“I like to call my house La contadina (the countrywoman) because it’s the result of the renovation of an old farmhouse, made of four constructions surrounded by a stunning garden,” says Elisabetta, looking like a dream in her own designs. The house, cultivated by architect and her good friend Alfredo Mattesini, is minimalist but warm and inviting, much like Elisabetta’s own aesthetic vocabulary. Inside the art- and design-filled home, every piece has a purpose. “Nothing is here by accident,” she shares. “Every object in my house has been carefully selected following my vision of life and style.”

Elisabetta Franchi

 The master bedroom is filled with natural light that seeps through the floor-to-ceiling windows; The master bathroom is done up in exquisite Carrara marble.

The house offers the same allure and seasonal changes Elisabetta experienced as a child who was born in 1968 in Bologna, which also served as the launching pad for her career when she opened her first workshop Le Complici in 1996. A 15-metre-long glass wall leads up to the living room, which was formerly a barn and now lies at the core of the house. “It’s where we spend most of our time playing with the dogs, reading books and chatting,” she shares. On the walls are photographs of Elisabetta by German-Australian photographer Helmut Newton. “He’s certainly my favourite artist. His artworks are transgressive and sophisticated at the same time. The woman subject of his photography is very sensual but never vulgar, just like my kind of woman,” she notes.

Elisabetta Franchi

Dressing the space are Batman (2014) by Gabriel Ortega and Erotica Intensità (2015) by Cinzia Pellin, which are among Elisabetta’s favourite art pieces; Mostly done in an ivory hue.

The living room is decorated with comfortable sofas in soft, neutral tones and other furnishings created by Italian craftsmen, replete with worn-out oak parquet flooring, all to summon up the home’s original bucolic appeal. “I chose light and pure colours such as ivory and cream because they transmit serenity, just what I need after a long day at work,” she states. Her bedroom, lavishly done in contrasting ivory and black tones, features an ecru upholstered bed sheathed in crisp linen with a tall tufted headboard. Floors in African rosewood, large windows that allow in shafts of natural light and views of a travertine sculpture titled Spokesmen (Portavoce) in the garden, and a cosy fireplace covered in patina copper, greet your arrival here. “The heart of my house that I’d never give up is the bedroom. It’s an area dedicated to a few people, where I take rest and spend most of the time with my family,” she shares.

Elisabetta Franchi

in the dining room wearing a dress from her Fall/Winter 2010 collection and a scarf in faux fur.

Another visual delight is the master bathroom, a lesson in grandeur with its delicious Carrara marble interiors, where an enrapturing dog sculpture titled Fido Teo stands in a corner. “This is a nice spot from where I admire nature together with my family,” Elisabetta says of the garden-facing bathroom. The house is also equipped with a gym and silos, which were once used to store wheat. The dining room exudes classic elegance in luxe tones of black and white with gold accents – plush velvet chairs with a sculptural dining table serve as the centrepiece and crystal chandeliers add a touch of sparkle. Strewn across the sideboards are gold-hued candelabras and one of her favourite art pieces, Batman (2014) by Colombian artist Gabriel Ortega, with Italian Cinzia Pellin’s painting Erotica Intensità (2015) dressing the wall. “I usually don’t look for something specifically. I like to buy pieces that strike my heart at a certain place or in an unexpected moment,” she says of her variedly curated art.

Elisabetta Franchi

Elisabetta in a Red Carpet dress from her Fall/Winter 2018 collection, holiding the leash of a dog sculpture titled Fido Teo in the bathroom.

Step outside and the beautifully landscaped, verdant garden is speckled with design pieces such as Respiro nel Sogno (2016) by Italian artist Giuseppe Inglese and a coloured bronze woman Im Plosione (2005) by another Italian creative, Rabarama, which sits in the centre. “I love to place design pieces in the garden as I think it increases their strength when they’re immersed in the green. That’s why I’ve created a dreamy garden, like the one owned by a princess.” There’s also a barn surrounded by stone columns, and a stable with vaulted ceilings that renders a magnificent feel.

Elisabetta Franchi

Elisabetta wears a long black dress from her Fall/Winter 2018 collection as she sits in the lounge surrounded by some of her rescued dogs.

With a little over two decades in the fashion industry, dressing a bevy of beauties from Jennifer Lopez to Amal Clooney, Elisabetta has come a long way. From churning out fabulous collections season after season that embody what it means to be ‘Made in Italy’ to imbuing her home with her signature effervescence, she seems to have mastered the work-life equation. “I’m a hard-worker. My job takes most of my time, but I’m able to make time to switch off from my job and have fun, dedicating myself completely to my family, which is my main strength,” she says.

Elisabetta Franchi

Elisabetta in her bedroom with her Chihuahua Cherie. She wears a complete look from her Fall/Winter 2018 Collection.

But what does it mean to live la dolce vita? For Elisabetta, it goes beyond extravagant indulgences. “My house reflects my style and taste. I don’t like excesses and for this reason there are just a few pieces, but well-matched. I had a childhood based on simple things and lived in a small house owning little, so I had always dreamed of a house free of useless objects,” she shares. And as for any quintessential Italian, family is the centre of her universe. “The house is fundamental to me. It doesn’t only represent a meeting point but also a shelter where I can feel protected by the love of my family, the pillar of my life with whom I try to spend as much time as possible, despite my numerous tasks,” she shares. “The affection of my loved ones gives me the strength to tackle the toughest challenges. Without them, I’d be nothing.”

It’s this sense of warmth and unbridled love that’s fully expressed in every corner of Elisabetta’s abode. It’s not the nobility of materials or the quality of light but the sensitive orchestration of her own ideal universe that makes this house a home. And everyone’s welcome.


Elisabettafranchi.com

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Elisabetta Franchi, Ayesha Shaikh, A Fashionable Life, Harper's Bazaar Interiors
Photography by Betty Blue

Designer Elisabetta Franchi poses next to the pool in her Bologna home. She wears an embroidered peackock dress from her Fall/Winter 2018 collection