Painting and the colours and forms of the surrounding landscape are as inescapable in Elena Carozzi’s home as in her work. The three-bedroom house and studio are set along a bumpy track in an ancient olive grove on the Ligurian border with Tuscany. Although it was built less than a decade ago, the house seems to belong in this terrain; its gentle colours blend seamlessly into its pastoral setting.

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‘We fell in love with the landscape of Mediterranean scrub and olive trees, but the challenge was to make the house look as if it had always been there,’ says Elena of the home that for the past five years has been at the centre of her family life as well as her working career as an artist.

Elena’s father was an antiques dealer in Milan, and her grandfather, Gian Carozzi, was a painter at the forefront of Italy’s avant garde artistic scene. ‘My grandfather dedicated his whole life to the painter’s profession,’ says Elena. ‘Most significantly as part of the Spatial movement with Lucio Fontana in the 1950s.’ She inherited her grandfather’s artistic passion and her father’s interest in beautifully made objects.

After training with the architect Roberto Peregalli in Milan, she moved to Liguria, often working alongside her grandfather until his death a decade ago. Her talents have led to a successful career collaborating with designers of many nationalities and most recently hand-painting wallpaper. ‘I often travel back to Milan, where I’m from, for work and I am invited to exhibit in other cities, but this is my home. The landscape is so important.’


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An airy open-plan living room lies at the heart of the house and is filled with inherited treasures, pieces she has bought, created herself, or been given by designer friends. Surfaces and shelves are filled with books on the artists that fascinate her. A large painting by Elena’s grandfather in a strong black frame forms a focal point in the room.

Its earthy tones are reflected in the two sofas and a Moroccan rug. ‘I have many paintings by my grandfather. Some are more figurative. But this abstract subject he painted at the end of his life and it’s very special.’ On the facing wall is an equally dynamic oil painting of fig leaves by Elena herself. The warm ochre and black hues echo those in her grandfather’s work and, although the style is very different, the scale and colours harmonise comfortably with one another.

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Nature is the main source of inspiration for Elena’s paintings. Everywhere you look there are natural forms, shells, seeds, jugs and vases filled with dried leaves and flowers. ‘I love the softness they bring,’ she says. An elaborate flower-adorned light also reflects her love of flora. ‘It is made from iron embellished with fabric flowers and sequins, and is by Valentina Giovando, a friend of mine.’

Elena’s work also often draws on her knowledge of 20th-century art. Post- impressionists such as Vuillard and Bonnard are important to her work but so too are later modernists. ‘The strong colours of the American abstract expressionists like Rothko gave me the idea’, she says, of one unusually decorated corner of the sitting room where a wall is half-painted in black and half in brown.


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The rich tones contrast with the pale grey of the polished concrete staircase that seems to float in front of the dark background. Two fragments of her wallpaper hang side by side, in gilded frames, adding a sumptuous note to the powerful mix.

Elena is highly sensitive to colour and experiments continuously with tones. The living room walls are white with earthy pigments added. ‘I painted many of the rooms myself,’ she says. In the kitchen, the quest for the right colour is still ongoing. Plain wooden cupboards are juxtaposed with a green end panel and window frame that is echoed in the paintings above the worktop. ‘The green is an experiment – I might change it to red,’ she says.

When it comes to furniture, Elena often adapts pieces to suit her interiors. In the living room, an upholstered chair in bold stripes is created from different velvets that she stitched together. The base of a marble-topped side table is painted vivid coral red. ‘Much of the furniture came from my family. I love the table in the living room: a simple rustic piece, handmade with strange construction and odd supports for local people to use.’

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Textiles also play an important role. In the master bedroom, softly woven woollen fabric creates a romantic canopy above the bed, which is richly overlaid and surrounded with patterned textiles from India and Africa, offset by walls of dusky pink. Outside in her studio, Elena works on a design of trailing vines. Before long these will be dispatched and her unique interpretation of Ligurian nature will blossom in a new interior.

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