Age is the essential element of every project James Cavagnari touches. There is an elegance, a particular beauty achieved only when a material stands through time, gaining soul and depth where shallow aesthetics would fade. For Cavagnari, a home is a person, and he designs them to become more captivating with each passing year.
With Villa Cupolino we could feel her, and we envisioned something romantic, a little bit decadent, because we knew the house must look like an old lady – a beautiful lady. She has wrinkles, white hair, and she's very elegant in her age. We knew we must do a restoration that would preserve that beauty through time.
The selection of materials is key, says Cavagnari. His understanding of how they will wear predetermines the evolution of his designs. The heavy wooden boards forming the villa’s original flooring were restored intact so that their patina – the thin layer of texture, shine, or colour that forms on a surface naturally over time – will continue to grow richer with age. In another 100 years, the floors will be truly stunning.
While Villa Cupolino was constructed in the 14th century, the impact of time is still central to Cavagnari’s designs for newer builds. “In contemporary houses, you have to achieve a result that, even in some years, is wonderful. A house that takes layers of patina and ages beautifully. This is the goal of my work: whatever we’re building must age well.”
Materials, objects, and fabrics are chosen on their ability to hold their aesthetic, even when heavily used. “Think of a leather jacket, the one that accompanied you on many adventures. Even if it’s scratched, it’s beautiful. The scratches don’t matter, they make it even nicer. People love buying old jackets and bags. You must select for value because with some things, they only shine for a time and then they disappear. Then in ten years, you have a house that doesn’t make sense. It’s just old. This is not what we want.”
Cavagnari points to the use of brass in a contemporary home. Over time the metal takes on a bronze finish, and ageing and exposure only improve its appearance. In 50 years brass faucets will have formed another layer of appeal: the design is modern, the shape is clean, but they now boast a unique finish. With the right materials, time adds more to the home instead of less. Age continues to evolve the precious textures that Cavagnari selects, their patina “the kiss of time”.
Cavagnari knows that if contemporary design is executed well, it will remain iconic, as with the archetypal designs of the 50s and 60s. “They are stylish even today. Tomorrow, and even 400 years later, they will still be beautiful because they represent an era. They have a distinct personality … Layers of patina, layers of time.” This is how a design becomes eternal. With each year that passes, you witness the evolution of beauty.
What we want to achieve, it’s timeless