To Costanza Paravicini, Milan is not merely the sophisticated locus of Italy’s fashion industry—it is a small town. Her life revolves around an intimate corner of the city: the historic arts district of Cinque Vie, home to both her sprawling apartment and Laboratorio Paravicini, the workshop for her famed hand-painted ceramics. “Milan is not like Rome,” she says. “It is not that old or grand. My Milan is very cozy.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Milan Artist's Home
Costanza Paravicini’s Milan apartment occupies the attic of a former palace in the city’s historic center. In the sitting room, a table displays semiprecious stone spheres made by Paravicini’s father, Lodovico, who previously lived here.
JAMES MERRELL

The workshop is nearly hidden in an 18th-century building, down a labyrinthine lane and through an ancient inner courtyard. The scene contrasts with much of Milan, which, after the bombings of World War II, saw construction of charmless apartment blocks. Cinque Vie, however, was reassembled brick by brick, preserving its post-Renaissance aura. The workshop is marked by gently lit display windows, themselves revealed by two swinging wooden barn doors. Bedecked with her plates—exquisitely delicate designs that range from classical motifs to bold entwined snakes—the glowing window is a beacon of a near-gone luxury craft.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Milan Artist's Home
JAMES MERRELL

Paravicini paints plates by hand at a desk in her workshop. Her Circus collection—featuring tightrope walkers and trapeze artists, among others—is displayed on the atelier’s walls. Built-in shelving holds the Play Plates collection, whose images become animated when the dishes are spun.

Rustic yet functional, the workshop has stone floors and painted-brick walls hung with dishes and platters that represent nearly 25 years of patterns. At the center,
 on a tall stool with a brush in
 hand, sits Paravicini, whose effortless elegance seems quintessentially northern Italian. She
 began the business as a hobby in
 the early 1990s because she could 
not find finely wrought everyday dinnerware made in the traditional manner, a technique called 
Gran Fuoco sulla Terraglia Bianca,
which involves hand-painted underglaze decorations fired at
 high heat on white earthenware.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Milan Artist's Home
Paravicini’s iconic Serpi plates appear on the dining room walls; on the table, her Zodiac dishes.
JAMES MERRELL

Over the decades, Laboratorio Paravicini has become a Milanese institution, attracting a cult following; the unveiling of a new collection is hotly awaited at Salone del Mobile, the annual Milan design fair, and last year, Laboratorio Paravicini collaborated on a capsule collection with Dior. Two of Paravicini’s grown daughters, Benedetta and Margherita, help run the company. “You don’t find this kind of craft any longer,” says Melanie Courbet, owner of Les Ateliers Courbet, a design gallery in New York and Miami. “You see the mastery and detail in every stroke.”

Milan Artist's Home
In the kitchen, the custom cabinetry is fitted with marble counters, and the ceramic pendant is vintage.
JAMES MERRELL

Paravicini and her husband, Gian Giacomo Medici, who owns a working farm outside the city, live nearby in the capacious attic apartment of a building that has been in her family for generations. Before her parents bought it, the 3,000-square-foot space was redesigned in the 1950s by the legendary Marco Zanuso, creator of the iconic Lady Chair. Paravicini and her family took it over in 2004, keeping much of Zanuso’s layout and characteristic brio. “The space has great meaning to me,” she says.

Milan Artist's Home
JAMES MERRELL
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

LEFT: A Pierre Frey toile covers the interior of the bar cabinet. The glasses are Moroccan. RIGHT: On a terrace planted with roses and lavender, the iron chairs are by SOTOW, and the pendant is a vintage boat lamp.


Today, the apartment, with its dramatically pitched beamed ceilings, is the embodiment of Paravicini’s aesthetic: a vivid mix of antiques, brightly hued upholstery, and centuries-old art. The entryway is laid with a custom Venetian-style terrazzo; she chose the mix of warm-colored stones that artisans bonded with cement and resin. Near a window, a table displays orbs—agate, quartz, malachite, marble—made by her father, a connoisseur of semiprecious stones. In the dining room, a set of her Serpi plates on a deep-red background are mounted on marigold walls.

Milan Artist's Home
A mix of vintage prints and watercolors in the master bedroom. The stairs have a runner in red velvet.
JAMES MERRELL

While the furnishings are by turns elegant, eclectic, and artisanal, the organically chic ambiance is relaxed and unpretentious. “The problem with a minimalist interior or white bone china is that they have to be perfect,” she says. “That’s why I make plates that feel like you have always had them. Old things, even if they are damaged, remain beautiful.”

Milan Artist's Home
Paravicini (left) with her daughters Benedetta (center) and Margherita in front of the Laboratorio Paravicini store and workshop.
JAMES MERRELL