Inside the Maximalist Homes of a Countess

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It started, as so many partnerships do these days, on Instagram. Last summer, Lizzie Fortunato, the jewelry designer and co-founder of the namesake accessories brand, posted a picture in which she was wearing a Demylee sweater styled with a “neck mess,” as she refers to the tangle of statement necklaces she often sports. Upon spotting the tag, Demy Lee herself, the Korean-born, New York-based knitwear designer, sent a direct message suggesting they collaborate, and the founders — along with Fortunato’s sister and business partner, Kathryn — were off to the spangled races. The resulting three-piece capsule collection includes a short-sleeved mustard-colored sweater with a rhinestone chain stitched along the crew neckline like a built-in necklace, and a Shaker stitch cotton cardigan offset with chunky, candy-colored resin buttons. The third item, a white cotton button-down with hammered gold studs, holds special meaning for Fortunato, as it was modeled on the Demylee shirt she was wearing when her husband proposed. Each of the tops is casual enough to be worn with jeans while also adding a little something extra to an outfit. But don’t hold back, says Fortunato, from adding more sparkle still. From $225, lizziefortunato.com.


Natalie Sytner’s love of Italian motifs can be traced back to the childhood trips she took to Tuscany and Sicily, during which she’d follow her parents around as they “made friends everywhere and found all sorts of gifts and amazing ceramics and objets,” some of which would end up on the walls of their family home in London. In 2021, Sytner, a former fashion publicist, launched Bettina Ceramica, a line carrying a charming medley of Italian ceramics that she named for her Ligurian mother. Rather than simply stocking traditional pieces, though, Sytner partners with generations-old manufacturers to give their archival styles a contemporary spin, whether by updating the color scheme, scale or glaze — wavy-edged fruit bowls from Chianti and folk-inspired ceramic lamps from Puglia, for instance, come in a fresh, glossy white — and thus helps to maintain endangered traditions. The fourth-generation Venetian craftswoman Sytner commissioned to make a series of colorful, hand-painted acquasantiere, the wall-mounted fonts of holy water traditionally found at the entrance of churches, was stunned when international customers depleted the collection; the antiquated style hadn’t sold at her shop in years. “It’s brought this whole part of her business back to life,” says Sytner. From around $53; bettinaceramica.com.


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For maximalists who have been made to suffer through the last decade’s myriad spare white walls and minimalist blond wood interiors comes a balm in book form: “What a Beautiful World!,” out this week and co-authored by Christiane de Nicolaÿ-Mazery of Christie’s France, is a detailed look at the interiors of Countess Isabelle d’Ornano, the co-founder of the French skin care line Sisley Paris. It was the countess who designed the company’s spas across Europe, along with its Paris headquarters and her own homes in London and France’s Pays de la Loire region (her Paris apartment, which also appears in these pages, is the exception — the countess decorated it with the French interior designer Henri Samuel nearly five decades ago). The featured rooms offer a unique and sumptuous blend of rich colors, dizzying patterns, carefully made craft pieces — d’Ornano has an affinity for baskets — and fine art. They feel even more specific to her thanks to ever-present family photos and the needlepoint pillows that she has been making all her life. “The atmosphere in the home is not created only by the beautiful things, it is created by the way you live,” says d’Ornano, who suggests paying attention to the most commonly overlooked real estate in any room, the ceiling: In the apartment on the Quai d’Orsay, large snails by the sculptor Jean-François Fourtou climb toward and upon it, as if sliding home. $85, sisley-paris.com.


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“Spirit works through me,” answers the photographer Ming Smith when asked how she’s able to sense the precise moment at which to snap a picture of someone on the street — just as they walk into the light, say, and their expression changes ever so slightly — so that the resulting image feels candid yet definitive, and deeply intimate. Smith has been creating such images since even before the 1970s, when, bolstered by a debate about whether or not photography is art that she’d overheard while on a modeling assignment, she focused on shooting black-and-white pictures of everyday people in her neighborhood of Harlem. Soon after, she began to apply oil paint on top of certain prints in order to enhance their mood. Eight never-before-seen painted pictures appear in “A Dream Deferred,” a show of Smith’s work at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London. In one, an older woman sits pensively at a diner as if reflecting on time gone by, and melancholy blue streaks suggestive of clouds appear above her head. Also on view are vintage gelatin prints from Smith’s “Invisible Man” (1988-91) series — its title a reference to Ralph Ellison’s novel — for which she photographed her subjects at night, often without a flash and at slow shutter speeds. Yet even when blurred and shrouded in darkness, the figures are impossible to miss. And while the show’s title comes from another work by a writer adept at illuminating Black American life, Smith herself has fulfilled a dream of her father, who wanted to be an artist. “A Dream Deferred” is up through April 30, houldsworth.co.uk.

“I don’t try to make genderless footwear as much as I design without gender in mind,” says Sunni Dixon, who launched his New York-based footwear line, Sunni Sunni, in 2019 after years of being told men’s heeled shoes weren’t commercially viable. “If it’s hot, it’s hot. And I will try and offer it in your size.” Indeed, Sunni Sunni’s styles, including square-toed mules with bold chain hardware and colorful heeled boots with python-print embossing, are available in a full range of men’s and women’s sizing. But Dixon isn’t the only designer making heeled or embellished shoes to fit larger feet these days. Soon after her New York label, Suzanne Rae, launched footwear in 2017, the designer Suzanne Rae Pelaez began to offer size-inclusive velvet Mary Jane block heels, low-heeled pumps in Italian nylon mesh and open-toed sandals in rich suede. The Paris-based designer Ieva Juskaite created the unisex line JiiJ last year, after struggling to find shoes in her size and to her taste; she now makes futuristic boots and chunky silver heels in Frumat, a vegan leather made of apple skins. And then there’s the Brooklyn-based line Syro, which was co-founded in 2016 by Shaobo Han and Henry Bae with the aim, the brand states, of “confronting the authority of heteronormative masculinity and carving out a space for celebrating femme joy.” For evidence of that intention in practice, see the brand’s curved heeled boots or its glossy, chrome-finished platforms with a 5.5-inch heel.


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