When you own several homes around the world, plus a stunning 213-foot yacht, as Giorgio Armani does, finding days throughout the year to spend at each of those residences can be challenging—especially for an in-demand, workaholic fashion magnate. Yet no matter how stretched he gets, Armani always manages to make time to escape to his pistachio-shuttered stucco house in the leafy hills above Saint-Tropez, just a short stroll from the Mediterranean’s turquoise waters.
“I go four or five weekends in late June and July,” says the designer, who carves out his time in Saint-Tropez with his usual exactitude. Mornings begin with a walk or a workout, followed by a visit to the beach for a swim with the locals. He typically has lunch at home, or, when he’s feeling more social, he’ll head to the sceney, Champagne-soaked Cinquante Cinq beach club and then spend the late afternoon winding around the charming Place des Lices open-air market. “I love to go into the town, take my walks around, see all of the flowers, food, and bars. I find it very fun, even though it’s touristy.”
Modest in comparison to some of Armani’s other homes—such as his cliff-hanging retreat in Antigua (Architectural Digest, November 2006) or sprawling compound on the rocky Sicilian island of Pantelleria—his two-story house here is sheltered by a forest of palms, eucalyptus trees, and cypress hedges and doesn’t look directly onto the water. “I didn’t want the sea in my face,” remarks the designer, who relishes the property’s unobtrusive, laid-back quality. “When people come to visit me, they are always very surprised,” he says. “It isn’t a house to show off in—it’s to live in.”
Armani’s principal residence is a grand four-story palazzo in Milan, the city where he presides over a lifestyle empire with annual revenues topping $2 billion. It’s also where he has built a museum, called Armani/Silos, to showcase and preserve his body of fashion work. Located in the Zona Tortona district, across the street from the Tadao Ando–designed theater where he holds his runway shows, the 48,000-square-foot museum just opened with an exhibition of Armani’s most iconic ready-to-wear creations—timed to the company’s 40th anniversary and coinciding with the start of the Milan Expo.
While the world’s attention turns to Milan this summer, the lure of Saint-Tropez will be as irresistible as ever for Armani. He was persuaded to buy his retreat here in 1996 by his younger sister, Rosanna, who owns a home in the area. “I was also shown a very big American-style house with great views of the Mediterranean,” the designer recalls. “But I wanted something cozier, something that felt like a country house by the sea.”
Initially Armani did only modest updates to the dwelling, which he believes was built in the late 19th century. Though he has hired celebrated architects like Peter Marino and Massimiliano Fuksas for his stores and for some of his residences, he takes pride in personally overseeing the interiors of many of his homes, including this one. “I like to do my own things. I don’t have anything against architects,” Armani says, “but if you can design yourself, it’s better.”
Immediately following a health scare in 2009, he decided to undertake an ambitious renovation, which involved adding guest quarters and a swimming pool and creating a glass-enclosed loggia along the back of the house. “I got out of the hospital, and in the arc of about four days the plans were all done, in every detail,” he says. “It was a big stimulation for me. I did the Saint Moritz house [AD, March 2012] at the same time. But I think that’s enough, no? Otherwise, every time I have a headache, I’ll design a new palazzo!”
Though he left the traditional façade and Portuguese tile roof intact, Armani redid the interior walls with the same blond-hued Saint-Maximin limestone that lines his Giorgio Armani boutique in Milan. He also installed polished floors and beamed ceilings of dark African teak. The rooms here have a decidedly sleek, Asian-tropical feel that’s in keeping with the aesthetics of a designer whose name is synonymous with a minimalist style deeply influenced by the Far East.
Softening the spaces is an array of colorful pillows and traditional carpets. Silk wall coverings sheathe the bedrooms, and cotton sheers are elegantly swagged across the glass ceiling of the loggia. For the house’s furnishings, Armani chose a mix of antiques found at the Saint-Tropez flea market and pieces from his own Armani/Casa label, most clad in muted, monochromatic upholstery.
One spirited exception to the visual serenity is a pair of vintage armchairs in the entrance hall that he fished out of a warehouse and covered in a spicy tiger-striped velvet. “This is the great folly of the house,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a bit kitsch, but I can have a little fun with exotic things.”
And what of the Armani/Casa desk sitting in his tranquil studio? “I put it there thinking, I like this corner,” the designer explains. “Who knows, maybe one day I’ll want to sit down and write something.” For now, however, any autobiography is on hold, though the first monograph on his brand will be published by Rizzoli in the fall.
“People always ask me how I have fun,” Armani says, alluding to his unrelenting schedule. “I have fun with my homes, which have been my greatest investments. I don’t buy Picassos, I buy houses. This is a passion I’ve had since I was young—creating ambiences that make you want to stay.”
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