MARCOS PROENÇA WAS WORRIED. For starters, Proença— the hairstylist to the high-profile of São Paulo—was anxious about making the right color choices for the apartment he had bought when it was still in the blueprint stage. He was also concerned about the tab for outfitting and accessorizing the 1,600-square-foot space, a first-floor duplex in a small building near the center of town.
In the main living room of hairstylist Marcos Proença's São Paulo duplex, which was designed by Fabrizio Rollo, both the sofa, upholstered in a Rubelli velvet, and the screen were made in the 1940s by Dinucci, the Louis XV–style armchairs are antique, the 1930s footstools are Italian, the cocktail table is by Naoto Fukasawa, and the faux-twig side table is by Maison Jansen; the custom rug is Tibetan, the artwork over the sofa is by John Grant, and the lithograph is by Andy Warhol.
Further, Proença—who has worked with such supermodels as Gisele Bündchen and Naomi Campbell, and who has more than 450,000 Instagram followers—fretted that the design scheme would either be too tame or too much. He was aiming for the perfect combination of traditional and contemporary. Easier said than done, though. "In Brazil, if it's modern, everyone has the same modern," says Fabrizio Rollo, the interior designer Proença hired for the project. "If it's traditional, it's always the same traditional. He didn't want a stereotype."
And while the budget was not unlimited, Proença knew the value of keeping up appearances. "He told me that he has rich clients and wanted his apartment to look rich," says the decorator, a former editor at Vogue Brasil and a certified dandy. "Not like Versailles, but good quality. He told me he wanted a place that was flashy and beautiful, happy and glamorous, so that people who came to visit would say, 'This is different—but different in a good way.'"
A Maison Jansen–style table is flanked by a pair of antique Directoire armchairs in the hallway; the garden stool is by Rollo.
Rollo quickly dispelled Proença's concerns about the palette ("My favorite color is light blue, and I discovered that he loves it too, so it worked perfectly"), as well as the price. "I told him that good decoration is not about money, it's about mi," says the charmingly cryptic designer, who also answers to the name Lord Rollo.
As it happens, Rollo hesitated before accepting the job. Proença had described the duplex as spacious, but when Rollo arrived to see it, he was taken aback. "I imagined a big living room," he says, "which is super important, because a party is never in the kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom! When I saw the apartment, I told him it was nice but much smaller than I'd thought."
He agreed to accept the project with one condition: The kitchen and one of the apartment's three bedrooms would have to be sacrificed for the cause of a greatly expanded salon. When the walls came down, the main living room tripled in size. The terrace, newly covered and enclosed, now works just fine as the kitchen.
The dining table is by Eero Saarinen for Knoll, the antique chairs are by Maison Jansen, and the Chinese screen was found at auction.
A 19th-century Italian armchair sits under the staircase; the dresser is by Raw Edges and Shay Alkalay for Established & Sons, the artworks are by Estela Sokol, and the poster is by Bridget Riley.
The brash overhaul elicited results. "When they come into the apartment," Proença says, "I confess that 100 percent of my friends unleash a 'Wow.'" Wow is right. The living room is playful but sophisticated, a mix of colors (with blue the undisputed star), patterns, periods, and styles. Here, Louis XV–style bergères consort with midcentury-modern wing chairs. Because Proença likes to entertain—and because those gatherings are sometimes quite large—Rollo also chose pieces that could do double duty. When the books are removed from the ostrich egg–shaped fiberglass cocktail table, it becomes another place for company to perch.
The renovation allowed not only for the expansion of the main living room, but also for the creation of a second one. Each space has a distinct character: showy and extroverted in the larger one, restrained and serene in the smaller annex, where the palette is more subdued. "This is where he can relax when he gets home," Rollo says. "He can throw himself on the couch."
In the smaller living area, the sofa was found at a local auction, the Jean Prouvé chair is by Vitra, the hexagonal table and Berber rug are Moroccan, and the walls are painted in a custom color.
Proença brought nothing from his old apartment to the duplex and gave Rollo carte blanche to buy what he liked, asking only for photographs of water "to relax my mind." He also requested screens just like those he'd seen in Rollo's apartment. He wanted one for every room, but the decorator demurred (though he did oblige in a few places, including the living room, with its 1940s Brazilian screen).
In the guest bedroom, an ikat is used as a coverlet, the rug is Kurdish, and the wallcovering is by Schumacher.
The designer's apartment inspired in other ways, too. "Marcos saw my guest bedroom, where there are a lot of patterns and cultures," says Rollo, who took a similar approach to Proença's guest room. "He loves to travel, so the idea was to have things from around the world." The wallcovering is Indian paisley, the rug is Kurdish, the pillows are from Istanbul, and the headboard is Chinese fretwork. Embroidered sheets add a touch of Hollywood glamour.
In the end, Proença says, "This apartment is the one I've always dreamed of having. I watch TV in my bedroom. I listen to my favorite music in the living room. I drink coffee in the kitchen. I use it all."
Marcos Proença in his living room.
This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of ELLE DECOR.
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