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A Charming Swiss Home That Respects, and Reimagines, the Past

With its old master paintings and Baroque antiques, one might imagine that the house isn’t welcoming, but the design has the opposite effect: The deep armchairs and down-filled sofas, worn rugs and large fireplaces make the home an inviting place to return after a day on the slopes. The property even has a skiraum — a sort of mudroom — off the garage where skis and boots can be stored.

WHEN PEREGALLI, now 58, was a young man, he was told by a family friend, the legendary Italian architect Renzo Mongiardino, known for his richly decorated interiors and liberal use of trompe l’oeil, “If you like what I do, don’t go to architecture school.” Decoration was anathema to architects who were at the time enthralled with Modernism, and so Peregalli studied philosophy instead. While earning his degree, he worked for Mongiardino’s firm, where he met Sartori Rimini, now 54, who had studied architecture. When they founded their own studio in the ’90s, they diverged from other designers and their more austerely contemporary leanings: Studio Peregalli introduced architecture and decoration to both hide a space’s flaws and accentuate its attributes. For example, when they realized they couldn’t replace a pair of awkward columns in the main sitting room of the Swiss home, they moved one to create symmetry, then covered both with faux fluting. Vaulting, which they employ even in very small bathrooms, makes their spaces feel larger; their preferred coffered panels in pine and oak turn oppressively low European ceilings into an architectural feature.

Where other decorators might rely on whimsy or grand gesture (a statement pendant light, say, or a lacquered wall in a bold color) as a signature style, Studio Peregalli’s aesthetic is born from deep knowledge of places, buildings and the objects placed within them: They obsessively study the region and its local structures before beginning a project; every decorative detail down to the knobs and handles is based on a historical document. Given the current trend of blowing out walls to open up spaces, flooding them with light using plate-glass windows and integrating contemporary art or furniture for fear of seeming stodgy, the studio’s work is radical in its respect and reverence for the past.

In fact, the most striking aspect of any Studio Peregalli interior is its complete absence of present-day signifiers. In the kitchen of the Swiss house, even the light switches are painstakingly painted to match the patterned, 20th-century Tuscan tile beneath them. Contemporary objects “ruin the illusion,” Peregalli says, and it’s difficult to imagine a cellphone charger or a poorly placed vent in one of their interiors. Detractors of the studio’s work say it sometimes resembles a stage set, but for Peregalli and Sartori Rimini, the question of authenticity is more complex than that — and also entirely beside the point. What it’s like to be in the space, to experience it, is more important than conforming to an arbitrary notion of verisimilitude. “A house should re-create the signs of a world that is sometimes lost but which might return,” Peregalli and Sartori Rimini wrote in “Grand Tour.” “As in a recollection that gradually emerges in the light of memory.”