Happy counterpoint

What thoughts are suggested by the images of this interesting residential space created by the prestigious Italian architecture firm Vudafieri-Saverino Partners, a creative atelier based in Milan since 1999, also with offices in Shanghai since 2012?

We asked Tiziano Vudafieri and Claudio Saverino, when we met with them in the new headquarters on Via Rosolino Pilo, as they were preparing the concept and exhibition design for Artissima 2017, held in Turin from 3 to 5 November.

TV: “The first consideration, banal but not to be taken for granted, is that all projects, and above all houses, are successful if you are in tune with the client. The client remains an abstract entity if I think about the new office building of Miele Elettrodomestici in Bolzano, the Sonia Rykiel boutiques, the BIG Hotel in the center of Milan, several of the works we are doing right now. Here our role is to interpret and represent a brand, or collective expectations.

It is very different when you are making a project to measure for a client who is the protagonist of his space, coming to terms with the private and social dynamics of his life. Having established shared intentions on the plane of taste, without mannerism, our task becomes that of provoking, of putting the capacity to listen to the test. Even to be daring.”

CS: “We have to recognize the fact that in interior design two levels increasingly intertwine: intervention on space and decorative aesthetics. On one side we have the body, on the other the garment. This work done for a young couple with children grew up on fertile ground: two clients trained by a family history to appreciate the value of art and design. Sensitive reading of the genius loci did the rest.

We are talking about a high-profile apartment, over 400 square meters, in the historical center: a 19th-century layout, L-shaped, a long corridor, with the classic sequence of rooms to the left and right, and the kitchen separated from the zone for receiving guests. A very traditional, very Milanese identity. We have respected this and enhanced it, keeping the physical intervention on the space quite limited.”

TV: “The house has its own original architectural DNA, which had luckily been kept intact. It has rediscovered its wonderful creaky wood floors in a herringbone pattern, the brass doorknobs, the white casements. But in parallel with the renovation of its original guise, we have redesigned the layout of the living area, together with the fireplace built into an archetypal structure enhanced with a charred marmorino finish. And we have revised the kitchen and bathrooms in great detail, designing all the fixed furnishings, like the wall panels. With great attention to detail and visual perspectives.”

CS: “You can retrieve a message from every story, as long as you avoid uniformity. In this project the spatial organization was done above all with the furnishings, not the walls. The new plot relies on different stereometric approaches, balanced relationships among the parts. It plays with precious materials and daring combinations.

A few, selected pieces of cultured Made in Italy, historic and contemporary, juxtaposed, amalgamated and reworked, also in a casual way, with their variety of backgrounds and thoughts, establish a dialogue with a figurative-materic-chromatic palette of heterogeneous works of art, enhancing the perception of the space. With new perspectives, restoring the idea of composure and warmth, with a large dash of intimacy in the domestic landscape.”

TV: “Doubtless, the focus was on the relationship between things, rather than the single parts. For example, in the entrance zone an antique bench near works by Andy Warhol creates a strong visual tension, avoiding a monotonous effect. But our touch can be seen everywhere.

Especially in the master bedroom, a large space organized in multiple zones, with a closet and a bath, thanks to a dynamic system of boiserie-frames. In the kitchen, which remains relegated to the back, far from the living and dining areas. To reach it you still have to walk down the long corridor, passing by the bedrooms.

This layout was the cause of much discussion, but in the end the idea prevailed that this arrangement could create interaction with the whole house, at all times of day. The clients also agreed with the proposal of making it into a hybrid place, simultaneously open and closed, thanks to a base combined with a portion of glass above it, which can be concealed on command, adjusting the permeability between the separate spaces of the stove-work area and the breakfast-dining zone. The passage between them is underlined by an optical-effect ceramic carpet that interrupts the uniformity of the wood flooring, while the figure of a sofa-bench covered in red capitonné velvet, with its extraneous character, reinterprets the role of signified and signifier of the space. Finally, the children’s bathroom was our best divertissement.

With the client, in an old furniture warehouse on Via Morimondo we found a series of pieces that clashed with each other in terms of form, material, age, etc. They have been rearranged in the rigorous but carefree order of a structure in raw iron and white wooden boxes, built for the occasion.”

TV and CS: “What would this interior have been like had we been in Shanghai, with another client-protagonist, in line with our linguistic expression? It would have been equal, in depth, but utterly different on the surface. Our local clients are still obsessed by showing that they know about Europe and contemporary western design. But they are Chinese, and they have a very strong culture, very distant from ours. So the project would have played out completely in the pursuit of a delicate balance between East and West.”

Photos Santi Caleca – Article Antonella Boisi