As the head of his family’s design firm, has an in- nate sense for reinterpreting the whimsical furniture and decorative objects created by his late father, Piero, whose inimitable style has captivated the design world for decades. At his home in Milan, Barnaba has been just as faithful in honoring tradition, turning the ancestral resi- dence into a living tribute to the Fornasetti style.
In the early days of the atelier, Fornasetti’s eccentric style may have attracted a particular clientele, but now the company counts fans across the globe. “The pieces have a contemporary look, but they’re not trendy,” says Barnaba. “I’m trying to take the brand forward by reinventing it,” he continues. “My father was a pioneer in this field, mi iconography and nods to history. Even though he was an incredible artist in his own right, he incorporated other people’s images, often making those more recognizable than his own.” Today, there’s no mistaking where the credit is due.
The dining area’s table, chairs, and floor tiles feature Fornasetti’s Ultime Notizie motif, the dishes are in the Architettura pattern, and the convex mirror is from the Litomatrice series; Barnaba designed the Fender Stratocaster guitar, and a 1930s painting by his father hangs on the wall.
Today, Piero’s exquisite furnishings fetch dizzying prices at leading auction houses, while other designs dating from the 1950s to the ’80s remain in production. Barnaba also mines the firm’s archives for inspi- ration, constructing new limited-edition pieces in collaboration with international galleries.
Framed drawings by Piero on display near the staircase
“It’s a house that almost overwhelms you,” he says, “but I’m so used to it that I couldn’t live any other way.”
Fornasetti ceramics line the living room mantel, and the cocktail table is from the .
Located in the Città Studi district, the red, Venetian-style villa is tucked away in the shade of an old garden. Inside, the rooms brim with furniture and curios— screen-printed trays, ceramic vases, a bar cart adorned with trompe l’oeil bows—that skirt the line between decoration and art.
A bedroom features ’s Nuvole wallpaper by , a chair with a Corinthian-column back, and a 1950s chest of drawers; the Antonangeli Illuminazione table lamp is from the ’90s, and the Italian gilt-wood mirror is 18th century.
An elegant man, Barnaba is soft-spoken and charismatic. “The collaboration with my father began when I was four years old,” he says. “I picked a leaf with a small hydrangea flower attached to it, and he used the motif on a tray.” It was not Piero’s only partnership: Over the course of his career, the elder Fornasetti—a talented artist, designer, printmaker, and decorator—joined forces with many of the greats of his time, including Lucio Fontana, Giorgio de Chirico, and Gio Ponti. His more than 11,000 creations, which range from plates to bureaus to folding screens, blend neoclassical and surrealist references with elegance and humor.
In a guest bedroom, aquatic-themed trays are arranged against Fornasetti’s Corallo wallpaper by Cole & Son; the bar cart and chair are also by the designer
It comes naturally to me,” he says of keeping his father’s work alive. “This has always been my life. I see furniture and decoration as a way of being and as a means of injecting joy into a world otherwise obsessed with minimalism.”
The 1950s table in Barnaba’s office was a collaboration between his father and Gio Ponti; the chairs and the rug are both Fornasetti designs.