Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Rubelli | In a word, sumptuous
IF you ever find yourself needing to reupholster a chair or cover a wall with a fabric as sumptuous as those in a Renaissance painting, go to Rubelli.
Rubelli is located at the Sant'Angelo vaporetto stop in the 15th century Palazzo Corner Spinelli, designed by Mauro Codussi who, along with the Lombardi family, introduced the language of the Renaissance to the stones of Venice.
And you won't just find traditional fabrics of silk brocades and cut velvets. There are plenty of those to choose from, but Rubelli also maintains a design studio in Marghera where modern fantasias on traditional themes are created. Within the last few years Rubelli has also acquired other lines of thoroughly modern fabrics and, in the case of Donghia, striking modern furniture as well. You can flip through the collections on their website.
It was hard to concentrate on the fabrics with such splendid views from the balconies outside the showrooms. My first visit was last week, with my friend Pip and two of her friends from Paris. We were given the Cook's Tour by Francesco Caradonna. Pip is a regular and regularly brings people there, and Francesco graciously opened all the doors and drawers for us.
In the office, with its Sansovino fireplace and intricately carved and painted wooden ceiling, Francesco pulled out swatches of historic luxury fabrics, pieces of extraordinary clothing centuries old, ancient ecclesiastical vestments. He showed us particular patterns, such as sprigs of caper berries, that Rubelli reproduced from these ancient fabrics in modern cut velvets, stressing the continuum not only of beauty but of quality.
I forgot my camera the first time, but not the second. When Pip called to say she was going back to Rubelli to pick up the fabric her friends had ordered, I grabbed my camera.
Francesco opened doors and turned lights on and off for me and then left me alone to take pictures. Every ten minutes the daylight seemed to change in those mysterious and enchanting late afternoon ways, reflecting off the Grand Canal and through the florid stonework tracery. It was hard to focus.
The fabrics themselves are striking in their range and extraordinary quality. Although Rubelli is traditionally a purveyor of tessuti per arredamento, upholstery and drapery goods, I have seen their fabrics used for costumes in baroque opera and they looked even better on bodies than they do on sofas and walls. With a little imagination, much of it could be worn to stunning effect. The instant Charlotte saw the silver linen she knew it would be a fabulous skirt.
The Donghia sofas, chairs and love seats are upholstered simply, but dramatically. I was particularly struck by the Donghia because I remembered them from LA, where years ago I had often admired the arresting designs in their West Hollywood showroom. The marriage of Rubelli and Donghia is certainly inspired, as are the scarlet or silver cut velvets and brocades that make the old chairs and walls shimmer like Veroneses.
SEE FOR YOURSELF