Bold Bolthole

The Milan-born designer Fabrizio Casiraghi likes to incorporate ethnic items into his projects. “For me, they bring a modernity,” he says. 
“I like to mix design with objects from 
far-flung countries. Today’s interiors should be all about putting things together from different cultures.” So in many ways, Sébastien Brocandel was the perfect client, given his love of bringing things back from travels. “They’re more souvenirs,” says the executive director of the Paris-based marketing and publicity agency Pschhh. “But I also love the spirit of curiosity cabinets.” In his one-bedroom flat are a Tanzanian water jar, a Persian prayer mat and a 19th-century Chinese travel chest.

Casiraghi’s early aesthetic memories are also linked to journeys. His childhood holidays took in everywhere from Egypt and Kenya to Cuba, and he still clearly remembers when he was about six being struck at how the Cinque Terre fishing villages remained unspoilt. “I was sitting with my father and said: ‘It’s incredible how they have managed to conserve the heritage,’” he recalls. “To which my father replied: ‘It’s incredible for you to notice! You should become an architect!’”

Casiraghi did study architecture and town planning at Milan’s Scuola Politecnica di Design, but ended up segueing into interiors instead. He trained for two years with Dimore Studio before setting up his own practice in 2015 and moving to Paris.

To date, he has completed a boutique for French candlemaker Cire Trudon in New York’s Nolita district and is currently at work on a Spanish restaurant in Hong Kong; a house in Venice; and a hotel, a restaurant and a 500m2 apartment in the French capital.

Small, sophisticated and cosy

Brocandel’s flat is rather smaller. Just 50m2, it is in the trendy Haut Marais district, home 
to hip restaurants and art galleries. He was attracted to the area’s central location and cultural spirit. He also fell in love with the building, which dates from 1811 and is listed, with period details still intact. “The fireplaces, for instance, are both cosy but also sober in style,” he notes. “There was a certain sophistication, but in a very undemonstrative way.”

The previous owners had painted the flat completely white and laid a floating parquet floor in the sitting room. “My first thought when I walked in was that there needed to be some colour,” recalls Casiraghi. “Otherwise, it would have looked like a doctor’s surgery.” In his mind, using darker hues was also appropriate because the flat gets little natural light. “When a space is dark, you should always exaggerate the effect and use sombre tones to create an almost cave-like effect,” he says. He painted most of the walls a midnight blue and put a cardinal red carpet in the sitting room.

The only space Casiraghi reconfigured is the entry. A corridor, a tiny bathroom and an enclosed kitchen were opened up and now a small breakfast table looks on to the tree-filled courtyard. Brocandel also requested a large bathroom. “I unwind better after a long day at work 
by taking a bath rather than cooking,” 
he declares. “Each to their own!”

Casiraghi’s design for the bathroom took its inspiration from one at the 
Villa Necchi in Milan, the modernist masterpiece conceived by his favourite architect, Piero Portaluppi. “I think of that house when I start each new project,” he says. “I always find a detail I can use.”

Patchwork of styles

The highlight in the kitchen is a sleek cabinet set on top of a brass plaque on the floor. “I love the contrast of this minimal, ultra-contemporary monolith in a setting that’s full of history,” enthuses Brocandel.

He was keen that the furnishings should reflect his love of the decorative arts of different periods. “It’s like in music, where I’m a fan of both electronic music and opera,” he explains. “I wanted Fabrizio to help me create a kind of patchwork.”

Casiraghi did so by juxtaposing the ethnic objects Brocandel already had with pieces of 20th-century design sourced from all over Europe. The Curtis Jeré wall sculpture was acquired in Copenhagen, the Marcel Breuer chairs and Fontana Arte sconce in Lugano, and the Hans Agne Jakobsson pendant lights at an auction in Stockholm. Perhaps Brocandel’s favourite find, however, is the 1920s lacquer screen that hangs on the wall behind his bed. It was unearthed at the Paris flea market and features a motif of birds in trees. “I came across it by chance, but it turned out to be exactly the same width as the bed,” he says. “It’s as if it were made for here and I know it’s something I’ll keep for a very long time.”

Five minutes with Dan Eagle of Mr. Bigglesworthy

We caught up with Dan Eagle, one half of the husband-and-wife team behind Mr. Bigglesworthy, as the pair celebrate five years in business and launch the New Zealand Modern Collection: a rare and unique collection of early works.

What do you think it is about mid-century design that appeals to so many New Zealanders?
In our complex world there is something enticing about simple, beautifully crafted design that functions really well. Mid-century furniture has a lightness of form and a refined elegance that is very captivating. It also ties into important values like sustainability and a respect for the past.

Tell us about some of your most memorable moments from the past five years.
Our most exciting moments usually involve finding a rare piece of furniture or organising a store event to share our passion for design with other people. Opening our Ponsonby store has been a real highlight as the previous space was about a fifth of the size!

What was the idea behind The New Zealand Modern Collection?
It’s basically the culmination of several years collecting rare and unique local design. We’ve always wanted to showcase some of the great pieces produced here in New Zealand but it’s been difficult to get enough good examples for a dedicated collection. Early this year we managed to get a very rare John Crichton mosaic table from Gisborne and on the drive home we decided the time was finally right.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite pieces from the collection?
The suite of pieces designed by Tibor Donner for the Auckland City Council in 1949 is definitely a highlight. These caused a major scandal when the mayor had them produced. A New Zealand Herald article from 1949 reads “Renovation of Mayoral Office described as ‘a monstrosity’ and ‘something that might have been produced by a member of a tribe in darkest Africa’ by members of the City Council”. They were just a little too ahead of their time for most conservative New Zealanders to appreciate.

Tibor Donner Council Chair, Executive Chair and Council Meeting Table.


Where do you see the next five years taking Mr. Bigglesworthy?
At the moment we’re in a reflective stage. It’s been awesome to make it to five years in business and it feels like it’s gone very quickly. Going forward we plan to stay true to our core values, plan more elaborate projects and photo shoots and continue to expand the narrative and awareness of great design, both from here in New Zealand and internationally.