An antiques and vintage-filled apartment in Rome
Liselotte Watkins is open minded when it comes to taste. She’s attracted to characterful antique and vintage pieces that, when combined, make for a fun – yet stylish – family home. Photographs Helenio Barbetta / Living Inside
'I have a hard time buying things that are extremely correct,’ says fashion illustrator Liselotte Watkins. ‘I’m drawn to pieces that are a bit awkward. Things that don’t have a place.’ This explains, in part, how her home – an apartment in Rome – has such an effortless feel. Pieces aren’t bought because they’re fashionable (although there’s no denying that the look she’s achieved is seriously stylish) but because they speak to her. Nor do they conform to a certain style – something that could come down to the fact that Liselotte has lived all over the world.
She was born in Sweden and counters her Swedish influences (think Svenskt Tenn textiles and Scandinavian mid-century furniture) with quirky vintage homeware bought while living in Paris, New York and – more recently – Rome. ‘The Swedish and Italian approaches to decorating are completely opposite but they work beautifully together. If you want things to work together, then they do – somehow,’ she says.
Liselotte and her family – husband Jonas and children, Ava and Wim – moved here three years ago. The interior was decorated in such dark hues when Liselotte viewed it that she didn’t have much to go on, but she and Jonas were pleasantly surprised when they moved in and discovered freshly painted white walls, airy, light-filled rooms and amazing geometric-patterned tiled floors. ‘It’s a good job we aren’t minimalists,’ she laughs.
Although Liselotte loves colour (‘I’ve never thought of decorating with colour as being a daring thing to do’), the white walls act as a foil to her vintage finds and collections of art. When it came to buying vintage, she started young. ‘I was 10 years old when I began going to auctions. My grandparents would give me €10 and I’d buy these huge items, such as sofas and chandeliers, and convince my parents to find somewhere in our home for them,’ she says.
‘Everything was so cheap as, at that time, everybody wanted new stuff. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and buy more. It was heaven.’ Now, there isn’t much that isn’t old in her home – from the Børge Mogensen sofa to the vintage Ikea sideboard. ‘I find the idea of someone else having owned something before me very comforting. I like to fantasise about their lives,’ she says. ‘Plus, with antiques and vintage you’re always learning. Whether it’s discovering a new designer, artist or aspect of social history.’
As an illustrator, artist and textile designer, art is a big part of Liselotte’s life. The walls of her apartment are filled with posters (often from museum shops), oil paintings in mismatched frames and, of course, her own pieces: bright and bold abstracts of the female form, which are mirrored in her ceramic designs. Her collection of still-life paintings, displayed en masse in the kitchen, was started 20 years ago, and is made of flea-market finds. ‘The paintings provide snapshots into the everyday. I love how they depict ordinary items in a beautiful way,’ she says.
Elsewhere in the apartment, a cluster of portraits hangs in the master bedroom, while posters are teamed together in the living room and hallway. When asked for tips on how to display art, Liselotte confesses that she doesn’t have grand schemes but does tend to group pieces. ‘I like how works play off each other. I love juxtaposing something precious with something cheap. It makes it more fun.’
Fun is at the core of this home. The children’s artworks are proudly displayed on their bedroom walls, an industrial filing cabinet is put to use in the kitchen and, case in point, one of Liselotte’s most treasured belongings is a leather hippo duo. ‘People are so obsessed with how your home should reflect your personality or your success, but I think it should be welcoming and fun. Our kids and their friends love it here – there’s so much to look at.’
She finds great joy, too, in rearranging her belongings – a process that helps her relax before she delves into work. ‘It’s so calming when you find the harmony in a composition of objects or art, and fun to see how things look when displayed in different ways,’ she says. ‘I would love to have a store although I’d never sell anything. I’d just go around rearranging it all.’
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