With a prolific career as an actor, writer, collector and gallery owner — Lorenzo Ciompi is living la dolce vita. His passion for Italian design — Gio Ponti, Ico Parisi and Carlo de Carli just to name a few — comprises his private collections that appear in his several homes in Italy, Triennale Design Museum in Milano, and his Compendio Gallery in Rome. Ciompi is also a RubyLUX dealer who just happens to be a three-time winner of the Telegatti — the Italian version of the U.S. Emmy. Join us as we share a conversazione with one of Italy's most accomplished — and handsomest — Renaissance men.
LUXPOP!: You have a very diverse background in terms of entertainment and design. How did the two professions come together? And how did you make the transition from star to gallery owner?
Lorenzo Ciompi: There is actually no transition; I'm still an actor but in this part of my life I prefer to develop my passion for style and design. I think this is a passion that comes from childhood. Because I was born and raised in Florence, I think I have naturally cultivated a sense of taste as do many Florentines. The same sense and development happened in my family as, for example, with my grandparents who commissioned their own house to an important architect and designer. My own interactions and regular contact with master carpenters and talented artisans have helped me a lot. I have been a gallery owner for five years, but I have been a collector for more than twenty-five years.
LP!: We are intrigued with your entertainment background. How did you break into television and film?
Lorenzo Ciompi: When I was very young and living in my parents' houses in Florence and Sardinia, I lucked out and met iconic international movie directors and actors such as Franco Zeffirelli and Helmut Berger who visited our homes often. My first small role was in the nineteen-seventy-two film Ash Wednesday only because we were staying in the same hotel in Cortina as Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Fonda — the stars of the film — and my mom invited them to one of our parties.
After fifteen years and a long apprenticeship in theatre, I was lucky to become very popular thanks to my being a regular in two of the most important Italian soap operas. My more important successes are probably Vivere and Incantesimo 6 as a lead actor — two popular TV serials that were sold in more than twenty different countries. (Editor's note: American audiences might recognize Lorenzo in the popular U.S. soaps "Beautiful" and "Santa Barbara.") My last film was a remake of the famous film Travolti Dal Destino — in English called Swept Away — released in two-thousand-two, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Madonna.
LP!: Leonardo Da Vinci once said, "La semplicità è 'ultima sofisticazione" or, in English: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"— which best describes the clean elegant lines of Italian design from the forties and fifties. What do your clients specifically look for, and what is trending in Italy right now?
Lorenzo Ciompi: My gallery, Compendio Gallery, specializes in Italian design from the end of nineteen-thirty to the beginning of nineteen-seventy. This was the "Golden Age" of Italian production in furniture. In many ways it was a new Renaissance. It was a period in which famous Italian architects invented new ways of living and when Italian design meant the research of lines, materials and colors with honor to proportion and symmetry. Our clients are looking for original and beautiful items that inspire emotions as does an art masterpiece. Sometimes we find a unique item that was created for a private furniture collection, or on other occasions, an impressive industrial work in limited edition.
LP!: What advice do you have for collectors?
Lorenzo Ciompi: My suggestion is to collect what you like if the price is reasonable. In this moment, the level price of unique pieces of Italian design is customarily still very low compared to their fair value. The market is growing but still very far from its equivalent in French masterpieces of the fifties. Furthermore, and very importantly, Italian design pieces fit perfectly with contemporary living and lifestyle.
LP!: Tell us about a few of your other creative exploits as I know you are book author and television host.
Lorenzo Ciompi: My book, A Garden on the Nile (Editor's note: Sitcom Editore, 2011) is a romance inspired by the true story of my family at the dawn of the twentieth century in North Africa, Capri, Florence and Versilia. I'm very proud of the production Le Case di Lorenzo which is a factual television format produced in four series in the last six years for the style channel Leonardo in the Sky in Italy. In any episode, I walk inside a house with the interior designer to discover all the secrets. From Milano to Roma and Porto Cervo to Forte Dei Marmi, it's really a style anthology of the Italian interior design.
LP!: We know that you have an idyllic farmhouse as well as an incredible apartment in Rome.
Lorenzo Ciompi: My farmhouse was designed by Maurizio Tempestini in nineteen-thirty-eight, and the garden by Porcinai in the same year. It is my private paradise in Versilia near Carrara e Pietrasanta where I have met and worked with the best artisans in the world. My house in Florence, "Palazzo Scalini" is located between the Giardino della Gherardesca, which is now the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence, and the Giardino dei Semplici in the center of Florence. It is a very intimate place and furnished with select Italian design items. My house in Roma was in the face of "Chiostro di Michelangelo" in the center of the city; very contemporary living, but I'm moving to another house with another style — but that is another story!
LP!: And lastly, from one movie buff to another, what are you favorite Italian films from a design perspective?
Lorenzo Ciompi: Il Gattopardo di Visconti and La Grande Bellezza of Sorrentino, winner of the Oscar for the best film in two-thousand-thirteen.