Settled in the bustling corner of via dei Serragli and via Sant’Agostino, you will find a capsule of timeless interior pieces dating from the mid-century to the end of the millennium. Domus Aurea, a gallery unlike any other in Florence, offers a modern take on Italian interior design, with lighting and living pieces hand-picked by the distinguished creative, Paolo Tozzi. An interior decorator for over 20 years, Tozzi travels throughout Italy and France in search of captivating pieces to offer to his clients. From working on Medici villas in Tuscany to exclusive five-star hotels in Asia, Paolo’s creativity is sought for different projects throughout the world, old and new. I had the pleasure of discussing all things design, passion and “New Renaissance” with Paolo Tozzi over coffee in his studio.
Born and raised in Florence, Tozzi completed his bachelor’s degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. After deciding to stay in Manhattan for several years to follow and pursue a career in the textile industry, he worked in the city’s prominent fashion district. Paolo established a name for himself among locals and found himself travelling the world for his work. While based in SoHo, he was constantly drawn towards flea markets and in search of unique pieces as his thirst for curation only grew. “I went to every flea market I came across and it was something that came naturally to me to be drawn toward interiors. I really enjoyed putting pieces together,” explains Paolo.
As a Florentine in New York City, his search for artisanal pieces was something that came naturally to him and organically led to the opening of his studio, Domus Aurea, back in the heart of Florence. “I decided to slow down, and I said to myself that I must do something that I have a strong passion towards. For your purpose in life you need passion, otherwise it makes no sense and you become unhappy doing something only for money. I always had two ideas: one was interiors and the other was modern contemporary art. I decided to go with interiors.”
When asked why he chose Florence rather than cities like Milan or Rome, Paolo simply says, “I like this rendition of life here in the Santo Spirito neighborhood. The Oltrarno is pure Florence and full of creatives.”
When one thinks of Italian collectibles, we often imagine a Renaissance theme, but how about a more contemporary take on artisanal work? This happens to be Paolo’s forte as his work facilitates the immersion of modern and traditional. His studio exhibits pieces of a space-age design, where just by visiting you could see the explosions of round shapes and carvings carried by traditional Italian materials. Paolo illustrates the “New Italian Renaissance” of interior design by bringing these two worlds together. “I keep away from any plastic. I like glass, brass, iron and wood. I search for these concepts and fit them together, so there is a common effect for my clients to purchase a collection of pieces that tie together.”
Part of his work is building relationships with artisans across Italy and refurbishing pieces that need be. “I chose pieces that speak to me. It’s in the belly. It’s a matter of the wavelength, the feeling, the character, the strength of something. You must interrelate pieces with each other. I like this idea that this universe is evolving and changing constantly, like life, and that I can fit each piece back into eternal movement.”
Out of all the elements of a design project, the one that Paolo is particularly keen on is lighting, where his gallery displays an array of captivating light installations. “I have a deep passion for lighting, as you can probably see. Lighting is one of my strengths because I research and put pieces together. There is very little beyond the industrial names, or there is a lot and it is very difficult to grasp. This is because lighting is subtle and it really depends on different factors, such as the right proportions. Perceiving enlightenment in life is one of the most important things; it is about seeing clearly.”