Style is all about making a home that 'looks real but is not'

Antea Brugnoni Alliata and her husband Marco Kinloch Herbertson, founders behind home decor brand Roi du Lac, appreciate things "look real but not."
Ti Gong

The couple combines unexpected colors, brave colors with antiques and contemporary artworks in the living room.

Antea Brugnoni Alliata and her husband Marco Kinloch Herbertson, founders behind home decor brand Roi du Lac, appreciate things “look real but not.” 

Stepping into their home in Rome, one is transported to a dream-like space respectful of history while in dialogue with modernity.

Half Sicilian and half Milanese Alliata and half Scottish half Italian Herbertson wanted to find a house in the historic center of Rome in order to get acquainted with Rome’s traditions and habits.

“We immediately fell in love with our house — which is a very simple apartment under the roofs of one of Rome’s most ancient palazzi — the Palazzo Istoriato,” Alliata said.

The light, coming from the windows on both sides of each room, gives one the feeling of being on the top of a mountain, overlooking the walls and balconies and the overlaying of architecture from Medieval Rome.

The Palazzo Istoriato was built by the famous architect Baldassarre Peruzzi between 1532 and 1536 and is part of a network of palazzi owned — at the time and until today — by the Massimo family. 

The facade of the palazzo is entirely frescoed and was decorated in 1523 by Daniele da Volterra. In the rooms on the ground floor that now host Roi du Lac’s offices, in 1467 Arnold Pnnartz and Conrad Schweynheim created the first print house in Rome.

The couple love intense colors and fanciful patterns. They have decorated the house, painting the walls with colors created by themselves and laying their own wallpapers and fabrics from the Roi du Lac collection.

Paolo Leone / Ti Gong

The corner of the entrance is an exotic spot of wallpaper and pillows from the Roi du Lac Chiinoiserie collection.­ 

“I was brought up between our family’s estate house in Sicily, Villa Valguarnera and the Moroccan city of Fès where I extended my knowledge of the Muslim world and the Arab language,” said Alliata.

That unique upbringing has allowed her to work for several years in the Middle East in the filed of business development for well-known European cultural institutions and museums (such as the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the Spoleto Festival or the Paris Museum of Salvador Dalì).

Her husband, Herbertson, created his first brand Kinloch in 2011 for the production of scarves and accessories based on his hand-made watercolor prints.

After selling Kinloch to a Milanese entrepreneur, in 2016, they founded Roi du Lac together.

The distinctive element of the brand, once again, is to be found in its prints.

“Except for the distinct patterns and prints everywhere in the apartment, we love to buy furniture and paintings during our travels,” Alliata said.

“Most of them are connected with our love for Orientalism and the interest for the Western interpretation of the Eastern culture.

“Wherever we live — and whatever the dimension of the apartment — whether in our house in Munich, where Marco and I spent our university years, our stately home in Sicily or our apartment in Rome, the feeling of our home remains unchanged.

“It has a very specific and well-defined mood — international and traditional with a twist.”

The couple loves to combine unexpected colors, brave colors with antiques or a mix of the contemporary artworks that their friends have created for them with the tapestries they design.

“It’s certainly a formal house, organized in a way to be comfortable but at the same time able to host over 200 people for parties and happenings,” she said.

The house is animated by one single vibe, that is Herbertson’s vision of interior decoration.

Max Catena / Ti Gong

The dining room features the stunning wallpaper Turquerie green version from Roi du Lac. ­

“Of course, as we are passionate about wallpapers, each room tells a different story. We go from the entry corridor which is decorated with Chinoiserie wallpapers and pagoda lights from the Deco period to the living room, that is a wide, relaxing space with a clear blue color on the wall,” she said.

There, on the left, one enters the dining room with Ottoman-inspired bicolor wallpaper to the bedroom in which the walls are decorated with a classic Japanese motif.

“We have a few pieces at home dear to our hearts,” she said.

“The wax sculptures are by Giuseppe Ducrot for Roi du Lac. Giuseppe works on baroque styles and motifs in his own very special way and the wax candelabra he created for us always surprises. We also have two wall tapestries that recall a lot the designs typical of the Aubusson carpets: For this reason we use them as carpets,” Alliata said.

Other highlights include some ceramics the couple bought in Italy and abroad, representing animals or classical elements of the ceramic production in Bassano.

“In general, we try not to buy expensive pieces, but those that have more of a graphic, unexpected interpretation of that specific artistic moment or style,” she said.

Alliata said the key to making a home welcoming is to strike a fine balance between the character and strength of the people living in it and how well the decor and style of the house reflects that same character.

“It is often hard to have both. After that, a house is mainly made for people to live in it and must therefore be comfortable. At the same time, for it to be elegant, it should reflect some rules and architectural or historical guidelines. Ultimately, it is the repetition of the most fundamental elements of our culture, reinterpreted in a new and unexpected way that we find ourselves most at home.”

Paolo Leone / Ti Gong

Antea Brugnoni Alliata and her husband Marco Kinloch Herbertson, founders behind home decor brand Roi du Lac, appreciate things “look real but not.” 

Ask The Owner

Q: What’s the best thing about living in Rome?

A: Sun, trees and the scent of history

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Sunny, messy and full of life

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?

A: I turn all the abatjour lights to see the shapes and colors coming to life.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: By taking my dog for a walk along the Tevere river.

Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?

A: Between the children’s room and the living room. Although most of my time is spent on the ground floor of the Palazzo, where we have the office.

Q: What’s the view outside your window?

A: Middle Ages at 360 degrees. And a beautiful church with stained glass windows.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: With Laura Bosetti Tonatto’s scents and our Roi du Lac candles.

Q: What’s your favorite object at home?

A: A new one: a small bell in the shape of a turtle, recently bought at Gusto’s new Emporium in Piazza Augusto Imperatore.

Q: Where do you source furniture in Rome?

A: A few shops around the area where we live. Rome’s most famous flea market in Trastevere, Porta Portese.

Special Reports