After Ilaria Bulgari had spent a year studying Chinese at Shanghai University, her parents, quite rightly, decided it was time for her to return home to New York. Somewhat unwillingly, Ilaria, only 17, conceded.
However, as soon as she got back to their Park Avenue flat, she hung a 7ft red communist flag out of her window. 'All the phones started ringing frantically,' she says. 'It was a small scandal.' Which serves to illustrate that the polite and thoughtful daughter of the vice-chairman of Bulgari, the third largest jewellery company in the world, is not your typical society girl.
She and her husband, the writer William Cash (they married two months ago in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Mayfair), live in a very elegant and spacious threebedroom mansion flat near Hyde Park.
But it isn't as traditional as you might suppose; as soon as you enter you're confronted with an enormous black and white photograph of Camilla Parker Bowles enjoying a gin and tonic with the Queen, by Alison Jackson of Doubletake fame. 'I never thought of it as antiestablishment.
I just saw it as humorous,' says Ilaria, 34.
What attracted Ilaria to the flat in the first place was the light and the proximity to the park.
As someone who spent 15 years in New York City, the concept of running up and down stairs all day did not appeal. 'I wanted lateral space,' she says, 'and well-proportioned rooms. What attracted me to the flat was that the reception rooms all lead off the hallway, making it perfect for entertaining.' The apartment is an ideal backdrop for William and Ilaria's combined possessions, though it soon becomes obvious what belongs to whom.
The living room, for example, boasts a 19th-century lacquered cabinet which opens to reveal a mirrored drinks cabinet ('Whose do you think that is?' she asks).
The 17th-century Flemish tapestry is also William's (from his parents' - the MP and Shadow Attorney General, Bill Cash, and his wife Biddy - manor house in Shropshire). The old brown leather study chair, however, came from Ilaria's house in Rome. Most of the other possessions, including the Nicky Haslam lights, the Seventies glass and steel coffee table by Bettinzolli, and the artwork by Howard Hodgkin and William Wegman, they bought together.
Before moving to New York with her family when she was eight, Ilaria lived in Rome, in a smart residential area near the Villa Borghese.
It was a house full of art and modern objects, where artists and writers such as Cy Twombly and Francesco Clementi were frequent visitors. …