PHOTOS BY ALICE FIORILLI
TEXT BY ANTONELLA BOISI
“Designing your own home is an exercise everyone should try, because only by thinking about your living space can you understand the quality of your life, how you want to relate to others.
It is like designing your own clothing, which after all is the first space in which we live. Taking care of your home means taking care of yourself”. Alberto Biagetti, with professional roots in the avant-garde of Italian design (Alchimia first, then Memphis), deus ex machina of Atelier Biagetti since 2003, an aesthetic factory that focuses on design, architecture and interaction (outstanding works include the image of Yoox, where he has been creative director for 12 years, and collaborations with Memphis Milano, Venini, De Vecchi), has no doubt about it: “It is an interesting exercise, but a very difficult one, because it dredges up fears, insecurities, repressed spontaneous things – doing it with someone else makes it easier, because you can talk things over”. So when his gaze met that of his wife, Laura Baldassari, musician and painter – creator of a series of enigmatic-liquid portraits and landscape-fragments of nature, interpreted with a ‘botanical view’ in evocative oil paintings – the story of this house in the canal zone of Milan had a chance for a different evolution. Light years away from the ostentation of certain architecture and the ‘coordinated’ taste of standardized product design. Beyond the new functional features – on the ground floor, the living area communicates with the kitchen (the most important part of the home, for this couple), while a loft level contains a separate bath, below the bedroom area and Lauraìs studio on the upper level – the house has become a vision, a shared scenario of two creative people: “A sort of forest that constantly changes (also because in some ways it is a place of work) or, if you will, a kind of diary, in which the objects are our notes”, Biagetti explains. “In fact, between our bodies and our home there are objects, that make up the inhabited space – a ‘map’ that can be constructed with passion, always a sort of theater of ourselves. Because the object is an extension of the body. We have taken over this stage, which we discovered a few years ago, in a gradual way, and that is an interesting part of the story. The house already had potential, an open, fluid layout, plenty of light. We started on the ground floor and the loft level, underscored by the rhythm of a courtly colonnade with full-height arches. Then we took over the space upstairs, for the bedroom zone, but had to come to grips with the lived-in dimension of the interior that was already ours. For me and for Laura, the house is still a white backdrop, a page on which to write, a favorite place of discussion: we continue to think about how to organize the objects and paintings, their relationships, the warmth and humanity of the materials, the measurements of spaces already built or yet to be built”. But the two sensibilities do differ, as Alberto acknowledges: “I lived for many years in 45 square meters, the problem was not the space, but where to put all the things I had accumulated. I tend to design, compose and redesign space, starting with the premise of the objects inside it. I have the spirit of a collector of images, memories, trips, which I can use to construct a possible project. I do not necessarily become fond of pieces, but they belong to me. A dense presence, expressing the pursuit of formal and emotional depth, charged with everyday symbolism, driving an aesthetic tension. Certain memories are indelible. A very beautiful object, like that chair by Charles Eames, for example, in the living area, is an archetypal form, conveying ethical, anthropological, social values that cannot be surpassed – because it grants us a truly innovative way of sitting. Laura, on the other hand, has a different attitude – for her the house comes first, and she tends to see objects starting with the space, and the leitmotiv of the materials used for connections between aesthetic and intrinsic qualities”. Two complementary gazes, a successful compositional synthesis of body and setting: while the objects may prevail over the architecture, it is also easy to sense a fil rouge in the materials, which link a global vision to the fragments: oak, already there, but also new oak flooring, laid in a herringbone pattern, upstairs; teak for the small bathroom on the mezzanine, with porthole; onyx to darken the window in the shower zone of the main bath. A strong point produced by a suggestion: “Laura was painting on onyx, a material that is already extraordinary in its own right”, says Alberto. “We thought about the churches in Ravenna with the little alabaster windows, dark at night, magically illuminated during the day – and about light that transforms material, making it transparent, penetrable, something else”. As if to say that in this scenario no room is an end in itself, limited to functional performance: “It would be lifeless. ‘Disposable’. We like to see it as unique and precious, like a work of art. The renewal of residential design culture starts here. The fundamental question is: what has been produced to date, and what do we really need? This is why design is still a disruptive force – we establish a sort of psychological relationship with objects, as with clothing, only clothes are consumed more quickly, while the house will survive you: it is the idea of a contemporary aesthetic based on grafts”.