Out of the Blue

Bianca Fusco Zanatta and her husband, Marco Zanatta, were dining alfresco in the French Riviera when inspiration struck. 

Views from the hilltop village of Mougins were breathtaking, but it was a cigarette package at the next table that caught the Vancouver-based home designer’s attention.

“I want that blue,” Fusco Zanatta recalls telling her husband. Together they design and build homes around the world for an exclusive clientele. “I knew at that moment our next home would be Mediterranean-style with tall Palladian windows and French doors all trimmed and painted that blue.”

It took three years for the magnum opus to materialize, but today a coat of arms beside an iron gate designates the 7500-square-foot estate as Ville de Shaughnessy. Perched on a hilltop, the home expresses a Renaissance revival in its columns, arches and formal gardens, while the splendour of French architecture exudes from limestone masonry, tiered outdoor terraces and a stone fountain. The symmetrical windows trimmed in blue are striking.

“I love the Italian Renaissance — the music, art forms, rich palettes and textiles. It’s a life of luxury where colour heightens the ambiance and makes architecture sing,” says Fusco Zanatta, adding that all materials in her home come from the earth.

As guests enter the grand hall through handcarved African sapele doors, a French rock crystal chandelier cascades from the frescoed ceiling, and a wrought-iron staircase sweeps to the second floor verandah where the British Columbia Boys Choir have performed for a charity event.

Underfoot, grey Italian limestone is etched with a cream motif to impart the illusion of a Persian rug, one meticulously cut to follow the oval silhouette of the room. 

The family’s panache for entertaining is served with three kitchens — one on the patio where the grill is king, a hard-working spice kitchen, and the showpiece kitchen, which took a dramatic veer from Fusco Zanatta’s original vision for traditional French whitewash cabinets when she discovered gorgeous olivewood in her travels. Its exotic oil-like grain pattern makes it distinguished among woods, sealed here with gleaming French polish.

“I can just let my mind go when I’m travelling. There’s so much inspiration out there,” says Fusco Zanatta, who secretly admits to having a storage locker brimming with architectural antiques and furniture she’s acquired in her travels. “If I see I piece, I get it, or I’ll have it recreated,” like the hand-carved Carrara marble fireplace in the living room, a scaled-down version of the one she spied while visiting the refined hotel Villa Cora and its magnificent Hall of Mirrors. 

There’s deep sentiment in the designer’s voice as she takes a seat on one of the antique sofas. The trio of settees belonged to her grandmother, the woman who raised her, who was “most instrumental” in her life. The furniture displays masterful wood carving from the 1900s on gilded Rococo Revival frames, the horse-hair-stuffed cushions now recovered in glorious new silk. To her grandmother’s set, Fusco Zanatta added a custom yellow velvet ottoman, vibrant with chic button tufts and a kick pleat skirt. 

“My grandmother taught me that if I was blessed with two hands, then they were meant to do something. If I have both eyes, they were meant to see something,” reflects Fusco Zanatta. “I have this property, and it was meant to speak for itself.”

Text by Janine Mackie  Translated by Rui Chen  Produced by Brett Price  Photography by Carsten Arnold