“Somewhere in Northern Italy, 1983” is the setting for director Luca Guadagnino’s most recent film, Call Me By Your Name. This stunning tale of love and exploration will take your breath away in more ways than one— its honesty, subtlety, authenticity, and relatability are matched only by its lush shots of the Italian countryside, and its design of the protagonist’s cozy 17th-century family villa.
Without delving in too deep, it’s a coming-of-age story for Elio, a 17-year-old French-Italian-American-Jew, who is intrigued by his professor father’s summer archeology intern, Oliver. Regarding the plot, I’ll leave it at that, but regarding the design and beauty of the film, I’ll focus on the villa, which plays a central role in setting the warm, laid-back yet sophisticated, romantic tone of the movie.
Before directing the film, Luca Guadagnino considered purchasing the Villa Albergoni for himself, but he told Architectural Digest, “Once I realized that I couldn’t afford it and didn’t really want it for my life, I knew where I was going to set the action of the film—this place with faded, aristocratic charm, that a professor and his wife might have inherited but can’t quite keep up.” He had the help of friend and interior designer Violante Visconti di Modrone to create this impression.
Violante is the daughter of an Italian duke, and a relative of Luchino Visconti, a famous theater, opera, and cinema director (The Leopard, 1963 & Death in Vence, 1971) who also had a strong passion for authentic decors. The goal was to create an environment that involved “furniture with heritage and a family without money”, which Violante nailed on the head. She and Guadagnino had three weeks to fill the near-empty villa with life, history, and soul— they sourced furniture and art from antique shops, and even contributed personal pieces from their own friends and families.
“Not everything needs to match, but to create a home you need to create a balance, because every object says something about the people that live in it”, says Violante. The comfortable mix of lived-in antiques they curated says this family is cultured, intellectual, and international— they appreciate art, history, music, and books; lounging in swimsuits to get a break from the sun, reading by the fire, and late-night piano performances with friends during digestifs. There is an unmistakable sense of family, shared experiences, and love throughout each space.
The grand piano was already present in the villa, but Violante and Guadagnino used antique Persian rugs, Chinese embroidered silk panels, and an eighteenth-century mirror to bring a familial spirit to the main living space. The dining room boasts its original vaulted ceilings adorned with antique frescoes, which are brought to life by an Empire table, late 19th century chairs, and ageless paintings, alluding that the pieces were collected and passed down over generations.
To go above and beyond, the duo took every detail into account– the correct televisions, phones, and radios were used, rooms were repainted, and the Italian fabric line Dedar even provided access to their archives for recovering furniture and walls, creating tablecloths, and adorning the master bed with a printed batik canopy (which doesn’t actually appear in the film due to cuts). Violante and Guadagnino also included 80’s references on posters in Elio’s bedroom, which were further supported by the music and fashion throughout the film.
From the homeyness of the antique villa’s design, to the green meadows of the Italian countryside, this feature is sure to inspire your creativity and inflame your wanderlust.