Anglo-American decorator and antique advisor, Remy Renzullo, is making waves on both sides of the Atlantic with his distinctive, layered aesthetic. As he prepares to unveil his redecoration of Castle Howard in Cabana Issue 20, Remy sits down with Camilla Frances to share his career-defining moments, fondest memories and guilty pleasures - and why, at 31, he is finally grateful for his unconventional childhood.
INTERVIEW BY CAMILLA FRANCES
The most memorable trip I’ve taken:
I’ve had a long-standing fascination with the Levant, and have wanted to visit Petra for as long as I can recall. Somewhat on a whim, I booked a trip at the beginning of the spring this year and travelled through Jordan on my own for five days. It was an extraordinary experience. My guide took me through Petra just as dawn was breaking, and after hiking through slot canyons, we arrived in front of the famous Treasury - which, much to my amazement, was completely empty. A moment I’ll never forget.
The best party I’ve ever been to:
It may sound like the height of narcissism, but I hosted a weekend for my 30th birthday at a place I love, called La Foce, in the Val d’Orcia. It was the home of the author, Iris Origo, and has the most extraordinary garden in Italy (in my opinion). I hosted two dozen close friends for the weekend, culminating in a dinner on Saturday night in the famous garden, designed by Cecil Pinsent, with everyone dressed sensationally to my theme of ‘come as a pastel by Liotard’.
A moment that defined or changed my career:
At the height of Covid in the opening months of 2021, I was given the opportunity to begin working on a project that I could have only ever dreamed of: the redecoration of parts of Castle Howard, one of England’s greatest country houses [to be exclusively revealed in Cabana Issue 20, published October 2023]. Nearly two years later it still feels surreal to be working on a house of such beauty and significance.
The greatest challenge I’ve overcome:
Overcoming the death of someone very close is never easy, nor quick.
I would describe my childhood as:
I’ve become very thankful for the unconventional childhood I had. My house, like my family, was mad and eccentric, bristling with imagination and charm - all of which I found highly embarrassing. Now that I’m older and have lived a bit, I’m immensely appreciative for the experience. I’m someone who relishes in paradoxes, undoubtedly a result of my upbringing. Nothing was perfect, nor was there ever the illusion of it - I find artifice exhausting. It was just as possible that I’d come home from school to a container of my mother’s latest acquisitions being unpacked, as it was that a painting was coming off the wall to be sold. I come from a family with a lot of history, both good and bad, and while aware of that from a young age, I was very privileged to never feel the need to conform to an expectation, or a precedent - but rather encouraged to be as interesting and creative as I desired.
Remy's former home in London © Remy Renzullo
My proudest achievement:
I’m not one to self-congratulate. Six years into my business I’m still a nervous wreck before I present to a client, which I think is proof of how much I care about what I do. For me, there’s no achievement as meaningful as that.
An object I would never part with:
I have a sofa, covered in my favorite fabric by Geoffrey Bennison, that my father had made for my mom’s study in my childhood home. It was my favorite room in our house, and the room that has always stayed with me, and is the encapsulation of my aesthetic. I’ve taken the sofa with me to nearly every house or flat I’ve lived in - and, like all good furniture, it’s only got better with age.
The best gift I’ve ever received:
I had a very strong intellectual and cultural connection with my late grandmother. When I went away to school, and then when I was living on my own, she always sent me books she had just read that she thought I’d like. She was spot on every time.
My guiltiest pleasure or greatest extravagance:
I’m an obsessive collector, and in the long run will surely bankrupt myself as a result.
My next weekend-away destination:
I’m constantly on a plane, traveling for work, so I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend at home in my horribly unfinished flat; I’ve been camping out for over a year with an odd assemblage of furniture and pictures that I’ve been accumulating. I used to be a voracious reader, but life always seems to get in the way, so, really, I’d just love to spend the weekend reading in the bath, with some decent wine.
My favourite flea market or antiques fair:
I spent much of my early life in a remote part of coastal Maine, where sheep frequently outnumber people. Remarkably, especially when I was young, there was an excess of wonderful antique dealers. Every Wednesday and Saturday, there’s a brilliant flea market called Monsweig where my mom and I picked up countless treasures.
Redecoration in progress at Castle Howard © Remy Renzullo
I feel most confident when wearing:
I’m not a fussy dresser. I live in big, oversized turtlenecks and coats. Great friends of mine have a London-based brand called Connolly, and they make clothes that are both ineffably cool and exceedingly comfortable. No matter how much of a slob I am, I always feel pulled together in their clothes.
My signature scent:
I loathe scents on people.
My go-to recipe:
I joke that I haven’t properly flirted with someone until I make them my faultless roast chicken - an old family recipe, refined by each generation.
Ideal Interiors in three words
Unselfconscious, layered, thoughtful.
Distasteful interiors in three words:
Self-promoting, contrived, devoid of quality.
The person I call for good advice:
My friend Angelica always tells me what I need to hear, rarely what I want to hear. There’s no better person to get advice from than that.
The person I call for a good time:
My friend Olympia lives her life with the same passion and zeal as me; both prone to spontaneity and flights of fancy. She’s not only the person I call when I want to have a good time, but the person I call every time I’m excited about something - which, unfortunately for her, is about ten times a day.
My dream dinner party companion:
I wish I could have had a dinner with Caroline Blackwood. She’s my literary heroine, immensely beautiful and fascinating, and through the course of a dinner could easily have drunk and smoked more than me - not an easy feat.
An artwork or exhibition that took my breath away:
When I was 18 I saw a show of works by Anselm Kiefer. It was the first time an exhibition of a contemporary artist had a profound impact on me. The works included several massive shadow boxes filled with birch trees, layered atop his impasto canvases. Never had I seen history so visually apparent in an abstract way. When I was in boarding school, Sally Mann, an alumnus of my school, came to speak and showed some of her latest work. Her series ‘Deep South’, haunting images of the decayed grander of the American south, is the visual personification of a Faulkner novel - the southern gothic come alive. I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetic of loss, something which was intrinsic in both of these shows.
A new artist or designer whose work excites me:
Esme Hodsoll is an English artist, about my age, who is brilliant beyond measure.
Just One More Thing
One master: Geoffrey Bennison
One muse: Christopher Gibbs
One city: Naples
One artwork: A Constable cloud study
One book: The Last of the Duchess, Caroline Blackwood
One museum: The Prado
One shop: Connolly
One song: A Horse With No Name, America
One color: Brown
One flower: Queen Anne’s Lace
One word to describe your style: Thoughtful
One word to describe Cabana: Layered
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THE NEW ISSUE
To see Remy's much-anticipated redecoration of Castle Howard, revealed exclusively in Cabana Issue 20, pre-order your copy now.
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