When you visit the Rome apartment of Marco Kinloch Herbertson and his wife, Princess Antea Brugnoni Alliata, you might be a bit surprised if you had not met the couple before. You might think it’s the home of some distinguished countess who downsized, bringing only her choice pieces and wrapping her walls in Old World but fanciful chinoiserie-print wallpapers—one with blue-and-white porcelain and peacock motifs and another embellished with cherry tree blossoms and birds.
But instead, Marco and Antea are young with three small children and own Roi du Lac, the wallpaper and ready-to-wear lifestyle collection. The line represents a convergence of history and design, timeless color, and classic style that reflects its owners. Marco is the company’s co-founder and artistic force. The business and editing mastermind is Antea, whose family has made an indelible mark on the decoration and style of Italy’s most sumptuous estates.
The scenic wallpapers they create together celebrate with witty exuberance and occasional subtlety an East–West influence that has endured for centuries.
Their complementary approach to style walks a fine line between inherited art and antiques and a youthful spirit. “Houses should reflect one’s history and personality,” says Marco. “I like to know where things come from.” They have a house full of significant period pieces, but contemporary art displayed throughout the house tells a modern tale of artistic friends and eclectic influences. “Now what we collect are things I’ve found around the world and gifts from our creative friends,” he says.
The couple’s partnership is truly cosmopolitan. He grew up in England, she in Italy (among other places), and they speak French at home (their children go to French school). Their multicultural household, buzzing with three languages, and their extensive travels inform their designs. One of the panels includes peacocks, inspired by Marco’s experiences as a child. “I love peacocks,” he says. “I remember them wandering around the house in the country where my mother grew up. They were horrid and fascinating.”
The pair were inspired to create Roi du Lac in response to their love of scenic wallpapers and the 21st century expectation of access to everything with a click or swipe on a digital device. “Life is so fast. It’s so full of question marks. We don’t live like we used to,” Marco says. The collection aims to respond to the way we live now, producing papers that don’t require a several-month waiting period and are less expensive and more versatile.
With their first collection, called Chinoiserie, Marco used his home— as he does with every design—to try out the papers. “My house in Rome is like a bazaar. We change a room whenever we design a new paper,” he says. “I have to see the pattern in a real setting to know if it will work, and then decide what can make it better.” The bedroom is a case in point, with its soft-green shade enlivened by cherry tree blossoms and birds.
Typically 4.25 feet wide by 13 feet high, the scenes are not so literal that they can’t handle a little abstracting. Marco compares the application to assembling LEGOs, cutting and configuring the papers to fill a space from floor to ceiling. In the corridor of their apartment, the wallpaper acts as virtual windows. It gives a sense of expanse and transparency to the hall.
Marco finds inspiration in the best of what is around him. “The English have an excellent taste for color, and the Italians know luxury,” he says. As such, he melds the two to create papers that are distinctly Roi du Lac. He draws the scenes after visiting and studying a location multiple times. The exercise is more to capture the feeling of the space than to literally re-create the image. For the Chinoiserie papers, he cites the Casina Cinese in Palermo as his inspiration. “It’s a Chinese temple that dates to the 18th century, but it’s a Western interpretation of China,” he says. He applies that Western lens to all cultures with a rich decorative history, such as China, Japan, Turkey, and Rome.
Roi du Lac’s creative ambitions don’t stop at the ceiling plasterwork. The company also has a successful line of accessories and ready-to-wear available at bespoke boutiques all over the world, including Bergdorf Goodman. Marco calls them postcards of sorts because of the imagery that decorates the skirts, dresses, ties, and pocket squares. The designs include a women’s smoking-style jacket in a lively calla lily print, a skirt scattered with tropical flowers and foliage, and handkerchiefs in rose and leaf prints. Men’s ties sport flora and fauna motifs, including one with geckos hiding in cheerful blooms.
For devotees following on social media, the process feels ever dynamic. The team may be attending markets or getting together with colleagues, friends, and family, but the ideas and connections ricochet among them. The couple finds inspiration in the exotic and then distills dreams into designs that bring the world into the intimacy of the home.
By Frences MacDougall | Photography by Fabrizio Cicconi | Styling by Chiara Dal Canto