architectural design Silvia Monaco
photos Max Rommel
text Antonella Boisi

“I work on design, but on the scale of the object, and I don’t have the ambition of also designing space.

Nevertheless, I could never feel comfortable in a gaudy house”, says Giulio Iacchetti. He has a clear look in his eye and a relaxed approach. Born in Cremona in 1966, from the start of his career he has seemed anything but banal in his work as an industrial designer. He observes all the little things around us, in the hope of improving them. According to Iacchetti, an industrial designer, first of all, should create objects with a certain dose of innovation, made available to the largest number of people possible. How can we forget the Moscardino, the multiuse biodegradable utensil he designed together with Matteo Ragni, winner of the Compasso d’Oro 2001 and now part of the permanent design collection of MoMA New York? He has kept faith with its promise, though over the course of time there have been other encounters, greater status among the ranks of leading designers, successful projects for the likes of Caimi Brevetti, Coop, Guzzini, Casamania, Foscarini and others. His home, shared with his wife Silvia, also active in the world of design, and their very young son Tito, presently in the phase of discovering the world, cannot help but convey an autobiographical narrative far from pre-set schemes, in intelligent, ironic atmosphere. The place, where they have lived for about six months, has something magical about it: “We’re in the city, but it feels like the country”, he says. A very luminous ground floor, all white and wood, full of presences and meanings, with an almost Nordic flavor, were it not for the context, which is that of a typical Milanese courtyard building from the early 1900s, part of a zone that has not yet been overwhelmed by real estate speculation. The building has been conserved, with its structure around a classic U-shaped courtyard that orders all the parts. In the back, where in the past there were spaces for a metalworking shop, the world of Iacchetti has the advantage of independence. “First I bought the volume set aside for the studio, and later I was lucky to find another neighboring part that has become the house. Two complete, clear episodes, but communicating thanks to the courtyard. Home and studio in the same place, but without mixing, is a very convenient situation, especially if you travel a lot”. At the back of the house the private courtyard even becomes a garden, closed off by a new pergola covered with vines, organized with greenery and old railroad ties. The renovation and restructuring were done by the architect Silvia Monaco. “I think it is a successful work”, she explains, also because of the process of getting to know the clients, which has led to friendship. They asked me to design a house to suit them, and after simplifying my initial proposal we reached the idea of a neutral container, without definite stipulations, an open project capable of containing multiple stories, and of evolving with them”. The potential of the space, the large openings, the high ceilings all suggested compositional choices. “The most complex part”, the architect recalls, “was to balance the layout and proportions of the spaces to the height of the volumes. The transformation attempted to conserve some traces of the original place, leaving the brick vaults in place, cleaning them up and painting them white, as was also done with the existing beams. The openings were also renovated. Those on the courtyard still have their original iron casements, but we have also added new steel frames with chamber glass and larger segments”. For the facade towards the garden and the rail line, on the other side, the openings have remained in their original position, but have been extended to reach from the floor to the ceiling, with gray casements, to bring more light into the rooms. The fluid perception of light is accentuated by the pure white of the enclosure, and by the hues of the flooring in large oak planks, finished with pigment and oil. The composition focuses on an open sense of continuous space. The daytime area combines living, dining and kitchen functions, with the latter zone also connected to a service-laundry area created in a volume that extends into the courtyard. The nighttime area is more articulated, with two bedrooms and a bathroom along a corridor that communicates directly with the entrance, equipped on one wall with custom wardrobes covered with sophisticated wallpaper, to create a visual axis that orders the whole composition. “This rather dark space has been designed by paying particular attention to the rhythm of its full and empty parts, and gains luminosity thanks to a long rectangular glass opening made in one wall of the bathroom”, the architect explains. Another square glass opening has been placed in the loft built in the child’s room, toward the entrance, which in turn is optimized by two large transparent glass portions that frame the entrance door. The project conveys the sense of pleasure of well-gauged details and skillful craftsmanship, while the careful choice of furnishings by Giulio Iacchetti completes the picture. “The selections are a tribute to the designers I love”, he explains, “and form a sort of album of memories, also using pieces designed by others: a compendium of colors, materials, varied signs open to life like aromas, flavors, spices, a personal take on the world”. Thus the curious totem-bookcase made by assembling different colored shelves from Ikea is “a tribute to the unforgettable Carlton designed by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis in 1980”, while the wooden Sciuscià cabinet “has been conceived to put you in an ergonomic position when you are putting on your shoes”. In the dining area the 1950s chairs by Hans J. Wegner, the timeless Danish designer who mixed the lessons of the Bauhaus with organic and sculptural accents, are “a compromise between me and Silvia”. The kitchen is a prototype by Gabriele Centazzo for Demode/Valcucine, in wood and metal, with essential lines, without embellishments; the counter is in porphyry, and the space has an accessorized wall and a large central island that also features a snack zone around the counter. “We have added an induction range and a sophisticated Elica exhaust hood, the most technological presences in the house, because this space has to be a very efficient cooking machine. This is our favorite spot, a great place for socializing and spending time, to talk with friends and relax. When the spring comes, we’re also counting on making extensive use of the garden for entertaining and relaxation”.