During the 20 years that spent painting walls in Italy, the Bologna-born artist cultivated much more than a Michelangelo-esque crooked neck. The exacting, difficult work allowed her to master decorative wall art for private homes and laid the foundation for her now two-year-old business as a textile and wallpaper designer. "Everything started from the walls," says Gazzoni, seated at her desk in Milan, where she hand draws ornate designs for her fabrics and papers.
Inspired by the imagined exotic travels of Arjumand, the real Mughal princess for whom the Taj Mahal was built, Gazzoni's patterns hit a special chord: They are decadently rich without being pretentiously fancy. "There's something shabby about them," she explains. The worn quality, together with a muted palette and stylized motifs, makes them look like authentic finds from a wealthy great-aunt's attic. In truth, that earthy patina comes from the antique roots of the designs themselves. "Each season, I make Arjumand travel to different places," Gazzoni says. "In reality she wasn't into design, but I pretend she was."
Such global vacationing has led to collections sourced from Russian aristocrats in the 17th century to China's ancient Miao people. Gazzoni reworks these antique patterns, then prints them on impeccable linens, silk tussahs, and cotton velvets. Her latest textiles collection—sold to the trade at John Rosselli Antiques & Decoration in New York—is based on antique embroideries and laces from Greece, Turkey, and Romania.
As a textile and wallpaper consultant for private clients, Gazzoni is also currently at work designing miniature interiors, "so that people can see the various ways you can use the patterns," she says, showing off a range of scenarios from minimal to decadent. Of course, a blank wall is not part of the equation. "Unless the whole house is white and illuminated by the light reflected from the sea, I don't like white walls," she says. "There's nothing worse than the gray light of Milan on a white wall. It's depressing. We need color."