T’s Design & Luxury Issue: Editor’s Letter

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ON THE COVER The bedroom in the interior architect and furniture designer Vincenzo De Cotiis’s Milan apartment is featured on T’s Sept. 24 Design & Luxury issue.

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Simon Watson

Of all the surprises that greet an American on her first trip abroad, the most transformative may be an understanding of how differently we conceive of time. ‘‘Old’’ in American terms is not old anywhere else. (‘‘This sketch was done in the 1800s,’’ I remember telling a Chinese college friend, awe-struck by the work’s provenance. ‘‘Oh,’’ she said, ‘‘so not too long ago.’’) We are a young country, and like most young entities — be they people or states — our internal metronome ticks a little faster; the land we inhabit may in fact be home to ancient civilizations, but America itself is new, with a sense of impatience, adventure, excitability and a cheerful lack of perspective (either charming or dangerous, depending on your point of view and the circumstances) that only the young possess. When you are immature, every bad thing can feel like a crisis, and every good thing like ecstasy; the rest of the world watches us with a sense of weariness and unflappability that is earned only after many centuries of witnessing governments and empires and civilizations and self-styled saviors rise, crescendo and tumble. The accretion of history is relentless, and endless.

Our admiration for this kind of equanimity may explain in part why T has long looked for design inspiration from countries that wear their histories with ease. Any first-time (or hundredth-time, for that matter) traveler to Rome can’t help but marvel at how lightly, and with what matter-of-factness, the Italians live among antiquities: A walk down the street is a stroll across thousands of years; the 2,000-plus-year-old Largo di Torre Argentina, excavated in the late 1920s, was where Caesar died, but it is also where the city’s cats congregate for a sun-drunk loll. Other cities would have placed such a monument in a museum, behind walls and off-limits — here, though, there is so much history that such an approach is impossible. Instead, the Italians have learned that every building, every structure, is a palimpsest, and that their lives within it, superannuated or brief, contribute another layer to its long narrative.

Certainly this is true for the interior architect…

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