Nobody works a piece of Fortuny better than Italian born Alessandra Branca. When I started my Top Ten Designers list, I couldn’t wait to put Branca first. Her signature style – her reds, her blacks, her deep yellows, her stripes, her trims – it is all so appealing, sophisticated yet welcoming. She is a premier interior designer with boundless energy and a steely determination to get her interiors just right down to the last detail – and trust me, all those details take an enormous amount of hard disciplined effort. No surface, not one inch, is left untouched in her rooms – yet they’re not fussy looking nor overdone, rather it’s all just beautiful eye candy. Her new book is gorgeous too. Oversized, heavy, and loaded with achingly beautiful photographs by Thibault Jeanson – it is THE book to get this holiday season. One picture – a scanned image of an early job done in her 20s is so perfect, so wonderful – that it makes me want to give it all up. Knowing I’ll never be what she already was way back when, is enough to make me want to retire.
When we booked Branca on The Skirted Roundtable, I thought I had died and gone to heaven and trust me - she didn’t disappoint. Despite living in America for her entire adult life, she still retains a charming Italian accent and her infectious voice is filled with emotion, displaying a true joie de vie. Despite all her success, she gives the impression that nothing is more important than just being a mother and a wife. To listen to Branca’s interview, go HERE. If you have the book, you might want to grab it as we discuss a few of the rooms with her. But mainly, Branca talks about her aesthetic, her mother, her loves, her life, her work ethic, her goals. Enjoy!
This townhouse in Chicago, where Branca also lives, is owned by a young couple. Branca said she took her time finishing the interior – the mirror above was a hunt that lasted three years. Notice the chest – it’s French with Japanned drawers that were a later addition. The art glass was purchased by the owner and placed here, after the initial installation – something that Branca loves to see her clients do.
Photography by Thibault Jeanson
The Living Room
The gorgeous drapes are trimmed in a blue velvet – Branca often uses Italian Stringing, a method of holding back curtains without any obvious visual means. Skirted tables are another signature look of hers. A faintly patterned wallcovering can be seen between the windows. Branca says she rarely does a plain wall and prefers upholstered walls in the noisy city for their calming effect on a room. The floor is covered with a natural textured rug.
The Dining Room.
The dining room is so cozy – a patterned Bennison fabric covers the banquette and grasscloth is used on the walls to further warm the room. The light fixture is a surprise - a mid-century design.
Here, Branca quilted the sofa’s fabric – something she does to lengthen the life of a fabric especially when it will get much use. The bookcase is gorgeous and is filled with objects found at Branca, her shop in Chicago. Again a textured paper is used in this room. Branca’s favorite, a stripe is used for the window covering. French doors are utilized throughout the townhouse to let more light circulate throughout. The colors in the townhouse are a departure for Branca whose signature is black, red, and warm yellow. Here she used a muted blue/gray with cognac.
This room was arranged for entertaining. Here Branca’s signature colors make an appearance – the deep yellows with touches of red and black. The trim is lacquered black for drama. The walls are upholstered in a Raoul Textiles paisley, another pattern Branca adores. The floor is covered in a patterned textured rug. This room looks like it might be found in a Moroccan or Turkish hotel. Just beautiful.
The quietly elegant master bedroom is a vision in silvers and grays, a true departure for Branca. She used a muted gray and white Fortuny at the windows and on the walls in the alcove. The chair is one of a pair by Jansen. The floors were ebonized for more sheen.
The Guest Room.
The guest bedroom walls are a lacquered soft green. A glorious English Regency sofa was placed in front of windows that are covered with Conrad woven shades. The three piece coffee table is from Branca. She brings her signature touch of black into the room with the lacquered doors and windows.
Branca designed the fabulous headboard with its large brass nailheads, inspired by a visit to Morocco. Again, a simple skirted table is used with a striped fabric. Branca told us she likes to use only natural fabrics – linens, cottons, wools.
To order Branca’s book – go HERE. All, Branca stated, ALL proceeds are going to charities she has handpicked that benefit children. After listening to her talk about her family it’s easy to understand her love of children and wanting to improve their life. To listen to The Skirted Roundtable conversation with Alessandra, go HERE.
(Due to Thanksgiving, I am running behind here – the new show with Judith Miller is already up – too – but if you haven’t listened to Alessandra’s, do so first, THEN listen to the new show with antiques expert Judith Miller. I promise to get caught up!!!)