“It's all about irony,” Tanja Solci says rather matter-of-factly about Carlo e Camilla in Segheria, the Milan restaurant she opened last year. From its name—translated to Charles and Camilla, of royal British fame—to its location (segheria is sawmill in Italian), nothing about this dining experience is straightforward.

The building had been around for nearly a century, and, in the hands of Solci's grandparents, was operated as a sawmill from the end of World War II through the 1970s. After letting the industrial facility sit vacant for decades, Solci's father—also, not coincidentally, named Carlo—entertained offers from the likes of McDonald's and Dolce e Gabbana to rent and refurbish it. But the scion convinced Carlo to hand the structure over to her and, in 1999, oversaw its complete restoration. “I was in love with the atmosphere,” recalls the youngest Solci, still in her 20s then. “The idea was to stop time.”

Treating the neglected facility as if it were an “important historic building,” according to Solci, restorers painstakingly cleaned the masonry walls and replaced the wood roof. For nearly 15 years, Solci, an artistic director, used the renovated 10,000-square-foot space as her office and as an occasional venue, particularly during Milan's annual Design Week in April, for special events and exhibits she orchestrated for clients including electronics company Bang & Olufsen, designer Ross Lovegrove, and architect Claudio Silvestrin.

As Solci contemplated a change in career and scenery, she, like her father before her, considered renting the building to someone in the food or fashion industries. Instead, the creative spirit in Solci led her to once again opt to reinvent the space. She partnered with another Carlo—Cracco, a Michelin-starred restaurateur she first encountered by watching Italy's version of MasterChef, who runs a popular eponymous Milan establishment. (“This place would be like his mistress,” Solci jokes.)

The resulting restaurant is less an architectural achievement than a brilliant work of scenography. Two rectangular tables—one 82 feet long—intersect at the center of the main space to accommodate over 60 diners, seated communally—on one side, on angular “masculine” chairs, along the other, curvy “feminine” ones. On the tables, food is served on 25 different out-of-production patterns by historic Italian dinnerware brand Richard Ginori (now owned by Gucci). Over them, vintage crystal chandeliers set the stage within the soaring space but actually provide no illumination. A modular metal grid of theatrical lighting above the chandeliers houses the real luminaires. “The idea was to have these bodies floating for a magical atmosphere,” says Solci. “That's exactly the concept of the whole project.” By the windows, more trompe l'oeil lighting fools diners and guests seated at the bar, in a room adjacent to the dining space, into thinking sunlight is pouring in during the dark of night. Less formal areas for eating and drinking are located across a wide courtyard, the whole complex giving off an air of “aristocratic decadence,” as Solci describes it, shielded from the street by a rather imposing gate.

With the major restoration completed years before, construction this time around focused on transforming an office space into a professional kitchen and replacing the pavement to accommodate under-floor radiant heating. Solci took a hands-on approach to make sure the new surface looked exactly as it did after the 1999 renovation, personally dispersing the soft white quartz dust during the pre-dawn concrete pour to achieve the perfect color blend.

Having played such an integral role in the creation and design of Carlo e Camilla, Solci has become accustomed to the nickname Camilla, though she admits, somewhat reluctantly, that the original inspiration for that moniker, aside from the Duchess of Cornwall, was her dog.


Formal name of building:

Via G. Meda 24, Milan — Italy

Completion Date:
First renovation; April - June 1999
Second renovation for Restaurant updating transformation; Dicember -February 2014

Gross square footage:
1000 mq

Total project cost:
First renovation: 1.000.000,00 €
Second renovation: 600.000,00 €

Carlo e Camilla
restaurant and cocktail bar

Owner of Carlo e Camilla:
Carlo Cracco, chef; Tanja Solci, creative director/designer; Nicola Fanti, manager

Owner of Segheria:
Tanja Solci

Tanja Solci Studio
Piazza Cinque Giornate, 10
20129 Milan — Italy

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Elena Casati

Interior designer:
Tanja Solci

Engineer Umberto Montorfano. Company: Montorfano Renato & C. S.A.S — Cant', Italy

Landscape and Style:
Tanja Solci, creative director
Roberto Da Pozzo, graphic and Art Director
Elena Casati, style assistent
Gianluca Biscalchin, illustrator

Light Designer:
Tanja Solci Concept. Theater light system
Consulting: Giambattista Buongiorno, Theater light designer

Company: Volume srl, Milan — Italy; light and sound for theater and fashion staging.
The company is owned by Giambattista Buongiorno

Floor finishing: concrete and quartz
Geom. Fisichella. Company Tecnicem Srl

Underfllor heating:
RM Impianti

General contractor:
Ing. Umberto Montorfano

Nathalie Krag

Completion Date: March 2014



Structural system
Primary building materials
Roof: Tile
Ceiling & Walls: Air brick
Cladding: Concrete and lime (Lime was often used as an ingredient in mortar for construction in the ancient world).
Doors, Some walls finishing: Iron
Cladding, outdoor deck: Wood

Interior finishes
Suspension grid:
Design by Tanja Solci Studio. Dry system made by iron tubes on beams for modular grids flexibility to hold light

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork and paneling:
Benfenati Allestimenti spa - Milan

Paints and stains: Farrow & Ball

Special surfacing:
CemTech srl . special panel to cover air-conditioning machine

Floor and wall tile:
Cocktail bar tile: Florim-Cerim (Rice D'cor, della vintage collection)

Resilient flooring:
Geom. Fisichella. Company Tecnicem Srl . concrete and quartz

Special interior finishes unique to this project:
Hydro-cleaned walls and matte varnish to repair and stop time walls, to make industrial historical space clean and reusable.

Office furniture:
Tanja Solci Studio private collection

Reception furniture: Tanja Solci Studio design custom-made by Benfenati Allestimenti spa - Milan

Fixed seating: Chairs:
One side dedicated to “Carlo”: Fronzoni 1964 design by A.G. Fronzoni, colors blue and white
Opposite side dedicated to “Camilla”: Tate design by Jasper Morrison, colors blue and green

Long cross-shaped wood table (25 meters) designed by Tanja Solci
Black glass round Tables and seating designed by Tanja Solci: custom-made by Benfenati Allestimenti spa - Milan

Interior ambient lighting:
Theater light system
And Antique Chandeliers of Maria Antonietta age, Antichit' San Marco, Milan — Italy

Dimming System or other lighting controls:
Volume, Milan - Italy