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Inside Skye McAlpine’s Venetian apartment: a 17th-century Italian palace

Cook and author Skye McAlpine welcomes us into her 4,000 square-foot Italian apartment — part of the 17th-century Palazzo Gradenigo — just off the Grand Canal in Venice. Layered in history, Skye McAlpine’s Venetian sanctuary maintains plenty of the palazzo’s original details, such as the 18th-century fresco in the living room and the decorative flowering of rocaille in the breakfast room.

As we’re guided into the light and airy kitchen that is set apart by its high-beamed ceilings, Skye McAlpine reveals a staple festive treat… a snowy panettone cake from her cookbook ‘A Table For Friends’. In the grand dining room, Skye’s dinner table is layered with a mixture of small plates over larger plates from her ‘Tavola’ tableware collection, which is inspired by ‘la dolce vita’ or ‘the sweet life’. The snowy panettone takes centre stage as it is served on a cake stand which towers above the rest of the festive treats, to complete her “over-the-top” Christmas table.

“Life is slower here. It’s unchanged, it’s like a time capsule,” McAlpine explains as she contrasts between her life in London and the Venetian way of living. “I think that’s part of the charm, it really is like stepping back into a different era”. Watch the full episode of Design Notes with Skye McAlpine, as we tour her slice of an Italian palace that is expertly decorated for the Christmas holidays.

Released on 12/16/2022


[fire whirring]

[gentle music]

I moved to Venice when I was six years old

or my family moved when I was six years old

and brought me with them and I grew up here.

I went to school here and then when I was 18,

I went to university in England,

which is where I met my husband.

My work has always been very portable 'cause I write

so I'm lucky that I divide my time between London

and Venice cause I feel like it's two absolute opposites.

Life is slower here, it's unchanged.

It's like a time capsule

and I think that's really part of the charm.

It really is like stepping back into a different era.

We moved into this flat, my husband and I and our two boys

about four years ago now and we'd been looking for years

and years and years to find somewhere that worked for us.

I literally kind of walked

through the door and it kind of, something spoke to me

I was like Oh my god, it's my spiritual home.

When we first moved in, the flat was kind of,

hadn't been lived in for years and a lot of the furniture

that's here now was already here

but it was sort of in different rooms,

kind of like opening up an old treasure chest

or like a dressing up box or something.

I didn't know what was going kind of come out.

So we moved things around.

It was quite fun.

Little touches and books and slowly with time

like the room and the flat started to feel more lived in

and started to feel like ours.

The walls here are kind of this beautiful fabric

but it is faded in patches

and fraying in corners and I kind of love that.

I think it's really romantic and like the ceiling

is kind of beautiful frescoes but again,

it's sort of cracking in parts,

so it's kind of imperfect perfection.

I love Christmas,

Christmas is like my favorite time of the year.

I'm absolutely obsessed with Christmas.

I love the buildup.

I love thinking about what I'm gonna give people.

I love wrapping presents, I love the food.

So this is our living room

and it's where the real Christmas moment happens.

It's where the tree is.

You can see in terms of decorations,

it's not that much but everything is like very homemade

and that's not particularly like perfect or snazzy

but it all carries some kind of sentimental value.

So like these stockings I really love,

my mother actually tapestry each one.

This was me, little thing of me in a toy shop

with my name and then she's done one for each of the boys.

I love these stockings.

I mean I've had mine for 30 plus years now

and the boys will grow up with theirs,

so they're really special.

I made these chains with marbled paper.

The mantle piece,

the decoration is really simple so I've kind of got

these glass candlesticks with green candles.

I love them.

They're Murano glass candlesticks

from my range for Tavola.

And then some sort of scented candles

with like touches of gold.

I love pomegranates.

I just feel like there's something innately Christmasy

and kind of special and festive about them.

So I've just kind of scattered the pomegranates

and some little pears and just really use

like fruits and nuts and stuff for decoration.

Bris of yew from the yew tree

in our garden that I just like cut and added in.

Candy canes, which I'm like completely obsessed with.

I have like all our Christmas cards

that friends send us that mean so much to me.

These baubles on the tree are actually,

were my mother's and they're all old Murano glass ones

and she's had them for years and years and years.

I kind of grew up with these on the tree

so I love that they're like on my tree now.

It's definitely a room that we use a lot more in the winter

because it's a really cozy room

I think 'cause of the kind of lovely rust colored walls

that feel very kind of cocooning and dark

and at Christmas, it's kind of perfect

'cause they almost have a slight gold sheen to them,

which I think feels very christmasy.

They're fabric, they're the sort of really old

and you can kind of see it's like it feels so thin

when you touch it and it's kind of fraying.

But I love them.

Most of the furniture was here when we moved in,

like these big sofas and stuff.

Just kind of moved them around

to slightly different configuration

that feels a bit cozier.

And then with time, we just started adding our touches.

I have my cushions that make it feel really cozy.

So theses were embroidered by my mother,

I have that cushion over there that I love

the sort of like yellow and green one

that's by my friend Luke Edward Hall.

And I just, every time I look at it it makes me smile

and feel happy and I feel like it brings

like a pop of like playful fun to the room because the room

can always just feel a little bit like formal.

Every year, my husband gives me a family photo

usually in these frames

from this paper shop that I love where they do

all the marbling and they do it all by hand

and they're like a really sweet couple.

These old lamps were already here

and then they just added the lampshade, the bits of orange

sort of pick up the rust color of the walls.

And I love the rich green,

I think it's really nice like kind of contrast

with the orange and then just

like various Murano glasses that we've collected

or been given over the year and they kind of colorful

I feel like they really add just a shimmer to the room.

We'll usually do like Christmas breakfast here at our flat.

Have like a really cozy breakfast with like coffee

and tea and maybe panettone and pastries and usually a pot

of hot chocolate or something yummy like that.

So this is our kitchen

which is definitely my favorite room in the house.

And I'd say it's definitely the room

in the flat that we spend the most time as a family.

It's definitely where I spend the most time.

It's where I work.

There's just an energy to this room.

This is the first room I walked into and I just knew

I didn't care what the rest of the flat looked like.

This was where I really wanted to be.

A lot of the furniture was kind of already here

so this lovely old table with its massive slab

of ancient scratched marble was here

and we haven't moved it,

almost never put a tablecloth on it.

It's just such a beautiful surface to eat off.

This was like basically when we moved in,

it's like a really ugly plastic lamp

and we just pinned these linen cloths

over it and I think it's sort of quite charming

and the ceilings are really high in this room

so it's quite nice having something quite grounding

like the light that comes low above the table.

I have lots of these jars that are made

in Bassano del Grappa and they're old pharmacy jars.

So I use this like to store coffee, or to store salt in.

I've got one for flour, one for pepper.

Finding more creative ways of storing things

so it's not hidden away in a cupboard

and so it's lovely to have it in a jar

and then that becomes something of beauty

that makes my day happier.

I love, this was a present from a friend

and it's like the most perfect present

anyone's ever given me.

It's a toast rack that's shaped like a gondola

and it even rocks like a gondola.

One of the things that I make every year

for Christmas is my snowy Panettone cake,

which is basically,

it's like such a cheats recipe and there's a version

of the recipe in my booker table

for friends as well, I make it every year and I love it.

I love the way that food brings people together.

Everything can be kind of collapsing and crumbling

in your world and you can have a million emails to reply to

but somehow you can kind of lay a table

and invite friends or your family

or whoever to sit down to that table

and prepare a simple meal.

And in that kind of little space

is just this perfect magical world.

I just think, I just love that.

I just think that's like such a brilliant magic trick

to have up your sleeve.

So this is our breakfast room.

It feels like a chocolate box.

I love the walls.

They're all stuccoed and they're these kind

of perfect pale pastel colors that I absolutely love.

And the decoration is incredibly kind of rococo

and feminine with like bows and flowers and swirls,

which is just kind of like the dream for me.

We usually have breakfast in here

on Christmas morning, we'll always have like a pot

of hot chocolate and a hot pot

of like fresh ginger tea with honey.

My husband usually likes coffee and then we'll have

like lots of pastries and the Panettone, toast, jam, butter,

kind of like a really big, indulgent breakfast.

Like it's kind of always like a really

over the top kind of meal.

But I always like it to feel really cozy as well.

So even though the room could be quite formal

'cause it's kind of over the top,

the table's just like really kind of cozy

like kind of gingham check tablecloth and like chunky mugs

and piles of pastries, just very cozy and indulgent.

We'll always do a special supper on Christmas Eve

and my favorite thing in the world is to like have friends

over for lunch or for dinner.

So I was like, this room has to be our dining room

and I love it 'cause it kind of feels very grand

and like a party room.

Walls are peeling away and you know, kind of cracking.

But I kind of love that about it.

It feels very ramshackle.

I also love that the stucco

is all kind of in ice cream colors.

It just feels like I'm kinda sitting

in a room of Neapolitan ice cream.

This is where we'll have Christmas lunch

and I like to really go totally over the top

with the table always at Christmas,

it's something my mother has always done

and I think I've inherited that from her

for like a proper, proper Christmas table,

you want lots of candles 'cause everyone kind of looks

more glamorous by candlelight.

I love to really like layer things up

so like small plates over like larger plates

different heights down the middle of the table.

So like cake stands and small plates

and larger dishes just piled high

with extravagant sweet treats.

And then I love adding like sweets and chocolates

to the table because I think if there's a time

of year to do that is 100% Christmas gold coins, biscuits.

I love this thing that we have in Italy called Cotognata,

which is like a really sweet sugared quince paste.

It's really delicious.

Just anything that feels,

anything that feels like delicious and spoiling

and then more is 100% more.

I don't think you can kind of go too overboard

or put too much on the table.

[gentle music]

I love old things.

Like I love, I'll always choose a vintage dress

over a new dress, like collect like 1950s

or sixties, seventies, even eighties cookbooks

like old editions, the older the better.

I love rediscovering older things and in a way,

kind of bringing them back to life

or making them a part of my life today.

And I think that's what's most magical

about Venice is it should be a museum but it's not.

You get to live in it and it's kind of like a dream.

Starring: Skye McAlpine

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