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November 2007


FEATURES

Amusing the Eye
By Peggy Tagliarino
Photographs by Michael Partenio

UNUSUAL COLLECTIONS TAKE CENTER STAGE AT AN HISTORIC HOME IN LITCHFIELD COUNTY

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Years ago, a young Joseph Cicio was plucked from art school in New York City to work two days a week in Lord & Taylor's window display department.

"It was showbiz," Cicio says. "Every Thursday night the windows were changed. Valentino would come to tie a sash on an evening dress, Salvador Dalí drew designs on the back walls and famous chefs catered our dinners. When the curtains were drawn on Friday mornings there was a real audience waiting for that week's visual show."

Today, according to Cicio, the way he designs interiors is very much like the way he created those Lord & Taylor windows. Each space is a precisely composed vignette that tells a story while delighting the eye. A Cicio-designed home is a wildly romantic and varied combination of elements that together create an enormously rich tapestry informed by exotic cultures and centuries of style. And every object counts.

A Connecticut resident for over 40 years, Cicio has had an unlikely melange of homes, ranging from a 1740s saltbox in New Milford to West Cornwall's fabled Cornwall Castle (a 350-acre estate with five stone buildings built in the 1920s). "When a project is finished, I get bored," he admits. Currently, he lives with his teenaged son, Christopher, and terrier, Asta, in an expanded three-bedroom farmhouse on eight acres in Litchfield County.

A stroll through the home reveals the amazing variety of vintage objects Cicio has amassed during a lifetime of collecting. Aside from mountains of new and vintage books stacked or shelved throughout the house, his largest collection is a vast array of French, Italian and English intaglios dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Hand carved with portraits of royalty, mythological figures and the like, these astonishingly detailed plaster medallions were used as molds for buckles, coins and commemorative medals. Cicio has framed groups of them for display on the walls, but he's also arranged them individually in neat rows on tables in the library, living room and in his bedroom.

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