The Brilliant Italian Decorator You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

November 11, 2020
In his new book, author and Vogue Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles invites us to meet Federico Forquet, a supremely talented fashion designer-turned-decorator who has lived and designed the most gorgeous, quintessentially Italian interiors under the radar. Until now.
In every generation, there are a select few artists who are known to the masses. Their creations end up in museums and studied for generations. Then there are those who complete their work behind closed doors without any celebratory noise—art for the sake of the work itself. Equal in genius and beauty, these pieces often feel like a special discovery and the people behind them even more so.
A quick Google search of Federico Forquet reveals a small selection of glowing in-depth profiles for a man who otherwise has a relatively small online footprint. Until today. With the help of Vogue Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles, the Italian designer is finally ready to tell his story.
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The World of Federico Forquet: Italian Fashion, Interiors, Gardens takes a look at the man who went from whipping up vibrant mod dresses for Sophia Lauren to creating charming gardens and warm interiors for both himself and his closest friends. The book, written by Bowles and a selection of Forquet’s inner circle, opens with a note from the genius himself: “Mine has been a long life and a very lovely one too.” What follows is a study of that life and the man who knows color, texture, and artistic vision better than most.


Forquet plays with geometry on a coat, foreground, and evening dress from his Spring/Summer and Autum/Winter collections in 1970.Guido Taroni
Before Forquet turned to the world of interior design, he was a designer of another sort. He learned the craft of couture under the tutelage of Cristóbal Balenciaga before opening his own atelier in Italy. For a decade he dressed and designed for the Italian elite. The press dubbed him the Italian Dior. Then as quickly as he rose, he went quietly out the door. In reflecting on his career, he once told the New York Times that he didn’t want the fame. “If you create an empire, you become an emperor. But I prefer being a private and happy citizen of the world.”
A mod swing dress from Forquet’s 1967 Spring/Summer collection.Guido Taroni
So he set about building a new empire around interiors, but this time out of the public pages of magazines and the away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi-trailed jet set. “Each of these projects reflects the characters and quirks of their owners and seamlessly combine bravura effects achieved through fine Italian craftsmanship with an intrinsic sense of comfort and practicality, all subtly imbued with the creator’s joie de vivre,” writes Bowles.
At Forquet’s own apartment in Rome, transcontinental style takes center stage in this space. Trompe-l’oeil wallpaper depicting ancient architecture, English seating, a Louis XVI clock and recovered pieces of architectural relief from the Roman Empire all bring out the classical sensibilities of his signature style.Guido Taroni
For a friend’s apartment in Rome, Forquet chose a rose-printed French chintz for the living room curtains and borne. He also designed the hand-painted fabric wallcovering, which is a backdrop for the painting of two Russian sisters, ladies-in-waiting of the Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I.Guido Taroni
This book does a fantastic job of covering the multi-arc career of this true design master as Forquet’s fashion career alone is enough for three books. It’s his work in interiors, however, that pulls him to the forefront of the creative herd. Amongst the clippings of Vogue articles and photos of impeccably dressed models, readers gain a real sense of his skill at playing with form and function. But it’s in the later chapters, as Bowles explores his role as a decorator, that his talents come to life in a totally different medium.
Forquet’s work with gardens gets its own section in the book. This garden is at his home in Cetona and features a statue of the god Pan surrounded by lemon trees and laurel hedges.Guido Taroni
Forquet’s interiors are harmonious, mixing high Italian opulence with Tuscan simplicity. He designed mostly for friends, and his desire to design chic but incredibly comfortable places is apparent in every one of these spaces. Layers of warm, earthy hues are splashed across a room of soft, lived-in silhouettes, while collections of curios and antique tomes make the spaces in hum with individuality.
Perhaps the best part of this book is the sense of exploration, of finding this hidden gem of a designer and wondering how on earth you haven’t heard of him until now.