John Saladino’s Romantic Modernism Relies on Oushak Rugs

Oushak rugs, John Saladino

Venetian statues and tall fog shrouded eucalyptus create an ethereal mood at the entrance to the 13 acre Monticeto, California Villa John Saladino restored from the ruins of a 1920’s structure by Wallace Frost. Saladino humorously named it di Lemma as it took twice as long and cost many times more than he planned.

“In Rome is where I learned to overcome my guilt about theatrical effects and theatrical scale. I fell in love with the grandeur of Rome and the sequencing of streets that open into huge piazzas with water fountains, and it is also where I fell in love with the corroded surface. So I took those romantic releases, because I believe I was born a romantic, but trained basically as a minimalist……” Saladino told Claudia Juestel.

Oushak rugs, Oushak rug, John Saladino

A weathered burgundy and gold Oushak rug supports a modern Saladino sofa and antique velvet and leather covered chairs. John Saladino wrote in his book Villa, “Any fragments from the past, especially those that you can touch, connect you to the makers of those pieces, making you aware that we are threads in a great tapestry of time”. Image courtesy John Saladino.

Oushak rugs, Oushak rug, John Saladino

Saladino has a deft touch with modern interiors. A cream, yellow and gold Oushak rug warms this living room in a Manhattan high rise showing Saladino’s masterful mix of the modern and the historical. Saladino wrote “…. I am a romantic by nature, a minimalist by training, but by choice, a classicist. Rome released the romantic in me…”. Image courtesy John Saladino.

Oushak rug, Oushak rugs, John Saladino

A cream and blue Oushak rug supports antique and contemporary furniture and art in the master bedroom in Villa di Lemma. “….my training makes what we do very painterly, and every elevation is meant to be a painting. So every room you walk in is actually a walk-in still life. I always tell people that I am not interested in merchandising a room or furnishing it. Of course we are going to make the room comfortable, but what I am primarily interested in is the room in the abstract. I see every sofa as a rectangle, or a lamp table as a drum…” Saladino in an interview with Claudia Juestel. Image courtesy John Saladino.

You cannot enjoy the fully beauty of an Oushak rug or a painting if the lighting is wrong.

Saladino told House Beautiful Magazine in 1987 that there are three spheres of light in a room. The first of the three spheres of lighting is ambient light that illuminates the interior – the architecture – of a room and makes you aware of the shape and dimensions of a space.

Work light is the second kind – the light you read and sew by. This is what lamps supply.

Finally there is art light – built-in concealed lights in the ceiling that bathe paintings.

“In my view, no space without natural light is worthy of human occupation” says Saladino.

Oushak rugs, oushak rug, John Saladino

The Drawing room in Villa di Lemma has Saladino’s hallmark mix of Oushak rug, his own modern sofa and exceptional antiques and masterful lighting from several sources. “Make the largest piece of furniture in the room the same color as either the floor or the walls so its bulk does not intrude”, advises Saladino. Image courtesy John Saladino.

Oushak rugs, oushak rug, John Saladino

Another view of the drawing room with the red and taupe Oushak rug. Notice the wonderful texture play between the stone walls and the ancient urns. Saladino asked the workmen to have a few beers before they started to sand the dining room walls — he didn’t want perfection. Image courtesy John Saladino.

Oushak rugs, Oushak rug, John Saladino

We romanticize Tuscan interiors, but I have never seen an interior in a Tuscan Palazzo or Villa that has the subtlety, romance and artistry of a Saladino creation. The Oushak rug defines an area of light on the dark wood floor. The rough stone walls shimmer with a golden light, exquisite antique furniture mixes with modern pieces of Saladino’s design and round and square shapes, smooth and rough textures, soft and hard surfaces endlessly surprise and delight our senses. “I see furnishings firstly as geometry – as squares, cubes, drums, triangles, and rectangles, which also happen to be sofas, chairs, tables, lamps, and paintings” says Saladino. Image courtesy John Saladino.

Oushak rugs, Oushak rug, John Saladino

“The most important thing about color is that it cannot be isolated…Every color is only ever seen in juxtaposition with other ones” says Saladino who designed the daybed for the Villa di Lemma bedroom of his partner Betty Barrett in her favorite aqua tones. Since it is impossible to find an antique Oushak rug in aqua tones, this is one of the few Saladino rooms without an Oushak rug. Image courtesy John Saladino.

Oushak rugs, Oushak rug, John Saladino

A beautiful cream, yellow and gold Oushak rug warms a modern bedroom in a Manhattan high rise and shows the range of Saladino’s style. …”I try to get them to see the relationship of the wall to the sofa. We are never taught how to see in school; we are only taught how to read. So it is a real problem because all the art classes were the Mickey Mouse course at the end of Friday. It is some sad indication that we still don’t have a minister of culture in the United States, and there are three hundred million of us. So I feel I am on a crusade every day…’ Saladino in an interview with Claudia Juestel. Image courtesy John Saladino.

Villa di Lemma Garden, John Saladino

Image courtesy John Saladino.

Garden, Villa di Lemma, John Saladino

Can you see Saladino’s design principles at play in these sublime Mediterranean gardens in Villa di Lemma? Image courtesy John Saladino.

Blue Oushak rugs, Villa di Lemma, John Saladino

Image courtesy John Saladino.

Oushak rugs, Oushak rug, Asmara Lycia Oushak rug

The changing surface of Lake Como inspired the blue, green and aqua of the Lycia Oushak rug.

Oushak rugs, oushak rug, Asmara Marmaris Oushak rug

The Asmara Marmaris Oushak rug’s colors are inspired by the ancient yellow, ochre, gold and honey colored walls of Volterra, Tuscany.


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