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Inside Eva Düringer Cavalli’s Maximalist Florentine Home Replete with Abundant Taste

Eva Düringer Cavalli. Vogue Living Arabia, Spring/Summer 2022. Photo: Francesco Dolfo

A few steps from Palazzo Pitti lie chic and lively streets, noble residences, and the Arno River, flowing through Florence. The Santa Trinita bridge enchants. As always, the view of the Ponte Vecchio is a heart-stopping experience. All around is a neighborhood full of art and antique dealers, precious artisans, and small boutiques for a niche audience. Here, the air is full of personality. And it is here that Eva Düringer Cavalli has made her home. Cavalli, Austrian by birth but Florentine since the age of 20, is the wife of Roberto Cavalli, mother of three children – Rachele, Daniele, Robert – and first runner-up at the 1977 Miss Universe pageant. Artistic director, muse, and creative tout-court, she has been behind the design of memorable shows, iconic campaigns, and unforgettable parties. A collector of contemporary and modern art, Cavalli – eclectic and free-spirited – has always been cited as the “secret weapon” behind her husband, Roberto.

In 2018, she moved to a new home in the historic center of Florence, in the heart of Santo Spirito. “For more than two years, I searched for the right place to start my new life. When I entered this house, with its evocative charm, I knew immediately: the house had found me. This is the ideal place for my ‘renaissance.’ It was perfect, with its powerful natural light, the beautiful garden, the relaxing and lovely atmosphere, all enclosed in a kind of labyrinth, with one room after another,” she recounts. “A place spacious enough to allow my mind to continue to wander, and create, without limits. As I am used to.” The area of Santo Spirito in Oltrarno is not a random choice: after years of living in the countryside, Cavalli now loves being in the city, in one of the liveliest neighborhoods in the center, especially now that her children are grown, and have all gone to live on their own.

The large hall is dominated by an original period chandelier, with an Enrico Castellani piece above the marble fireplace. Vogue Living Arabia, Spring/Summer 2022. Photo: Francesco Dolfo

“Rachele lives in Dubai with her husband and my nieces, Daniele has taken a house here in the city, and Robert, after years in London, now resides in Bali. Now that I live within reach, I receive friends at any time, I take the dog out and I always meet someone, if I need anything, everything is at my fingertips. This part of Florence is lovely, full of beautiful antique shops and galleries, restaurants that I love, including the one opened by my son Daniele, the Atelier de’Nerli, a five-minute walk from home. I always walk, it’s comfortable and relaxing.”

Cavalli learned to be a consummate host in her early twenties and she still loves to welcome her large, globetrotting family for dinners or lunches, and the house is always open to receive friends. This new residence lends itself perfectly, and, like a set, changes its nature depending on the event. There is always something about to happen. It can be a party, or a colorful and scenic fashion presentation, like the ones she hosted for her son Robert’s line, Triple RRR. Each room in the large flat is made to suit different moments: the main living room becomes the place for intimate and informal dinners, the large table in what Cavalli calls “the Wunderkammer” – a frescoed room where many wonders, crystals, and works of art are mixed together – can serve as an office desk with thousands of photographs from the past, art books, and Polaroids from fashion shoots, and then turn into an elegant, yet still bohemian and flamboyant, set dining table.

The Wunderkammer, with a vintage brass ginko leaf lamp and portrait of Eva Düringer Cavalli by Julian Schnabel, a friend of the Cavalli family. Vogue Living Arabia, Spring/Summer 2022. Photo: Francesco Dolfo

The way Cavalli experiences this new home is always a work in progress. The garden itself – she loves to take care of her plants, trees, and flowers – is the scene of summer picnics and turns into a playground when her three granddaughters arrive in town from the UAE. “Living here is liberating,” she states. “I can breathe in a creative energy and still spoil family and friends with the lively artistic mood that has always characterized my fashion events, social dinners, and private parties. At the same time, because I am so close to the bell tower of the Santo Spirito church with its chimes, this house reminds me every day about spirituality.”

She furnished it following her sensibility for rich textures and colors and embracing style contrasts. “The house already has a strong soul of its own; I made sure it matched mine. For me, the idea of a perfect space has nothing to do with a studied concept. I like to mix the vibrant colors of nature with more classic shapes, always combining lively wild prints. This is my idea of aesthetics. More is more.” She is more than comfortable with the sumptuous vibe and ornamentation of her home decorated with animal prints and certain pieces of contemporary art. “I collect masters of minimalism. Quite a clash when you think about it,” she comments. “I would say that my aesthetic is a reflection of my mind, which never stands still. A mix of strong concepts, all authentically feminine and visually rich. A world that is equally wild and classic, vintage, and contemporary. Baroque and antique. Sacred and esoteric.”

The entrance to the internal courtyard, with original grit floors and trompe l’oeil walls. Vogue Living Arabia, Spring/Summer 2022. Photo: Francesco Dolfo

Through a large entrance, and almost a lush winter garden, where the macaw parrot Tommy lives, lies a corridor with period marble, stucco, and frescoes. Opposite is the central hall, with its antique fireplace and original crystal chandelier. The side facing it leads to an intimate lounge with a round table and a large lampshade designed by Cavalli.

The lounge overlooks the private garden, with bright windows. On one side there is a small study and the guest room with en suite bathroom. A lively living room is dressed in shades of purple, red, and violet; here lies the Wunderkammer, with narwhal teeth, 17th century wooden consoles, antique fireplaces, giant glass balls and semi-precious stones, and a Schnabel portraying the lady of the house. Then it is the turn of another living room, dominated by a boiserie bookcase in a tasty mint green palette, which can be tilted and hides a wardrobe. Meanwhile, Cavalli’s bedroom area features a frescoed bathroom, stucco work, and original marble bathtub.

One of the bedrooms with frescoed ceiling, with the dog Kate. Vogue Living Arabia, Spring/Summer 2022. Photo: Francesco Dolfo

Like most of the furniture and objects that decorate the house, the sofas and tables in the living rooms have been made to measure and are exclusively for Cavalli. There are many objects that come from distant travels and exotic places, but most of the pieces that form the decor of the room are designed by her and made by specialized craftsmen with whom she usually collaborates – as Florence has plenty.

Among Cavalli’s treasures is an abundance of precious stones and crystals. “I’m a compulsive collector; they’ve always been a passion of mine. Even in some of my tables, I used rock crystals as place cards where I wrote the name of each guest. And then I love spheres, I have hundreds of them in glass, amethyst, marble, jasper, every color. I use them as decorative elements, for the table, to create atmosphere, and I observe them because they are perfect, they give energy, light.” Cavalli arranges her objects in groups. “The exhibition has a stronger impact when you create groups of colors and styles. I believe in the power of stones, in their energy.”

A small lounge featuring a bookcase in neoclassical boiserie that opens to reveal a wardrobe. Vogue Living Arabia, Spring/Summer 2022. Photo: Francesco Dolfo

For Cavalli, “good taste” is a personal concept. “For me, it means surrounding yourself with objects that give you a good feeling, things you are attracted to because you know they give you pleasure – flowers, plants, a painting with a color you like, that makes you feel good when you look at it. Beauty is part of my life and my style, even in simple things: there is nothing better than good food served on a nice plate, perhaps wearing my beloved home uniform: black silk trousers and a cashmere sweater.”

Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Vogue Living Arabia

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