What are we talking about when we talk about affection, sometimes even passion and falling in love with houses? How do you fill your heart by living the space we inhabit (by choice but often also, more prosaically, only by necessity?)

“Inhabit”, Emanuele Coccia writes in his Philosophy of the house (Einaudi) “does not mean being surrounded by something or occupying a certain portion of the earth's space. It means intertwining a relationship so intense with certain things and even certain that it makes happiness and our breath inseparable. A house is an intensity that changes our way of being and that of everything that is part of its magic circle”.

You can fall in love with a house at first sight, and then leave it when our relationship has had its day. Or learn to love it over time, building a relationship of osmosis that lasts forever. Whether they are apartments in early 1900s buildings, bioclimatic residences in the open countryside or studios on the seventh floor without a lift, what are we talking about when we talk about affection and love for the places we live in?

Between 1920s floors, Etruscan-style bathrooms and red cedar tile roofs, three loving testimonies that, like any self-respecting story, do not always end with a happy ending.

Lightning strike in Normandy

A sudden feeling united them: the love at first sight between Ionna Vautrin, French designer and illustrator, and her house in the greenery of Normandy is almost textbook. “I had been courting this atypical house designed by Jean Basptiste Barache for more than a year and discovered on the Architecture de Collection website” explains the designer who, after an experience for Camper in Spain, an Italian interlude in George J. Sowden's studio, five years with the Bouroullec brothers, in 2011 she founded her own studio. “I chose to change my life, I wanted something more peaceful, which is why I looked for a house not far from Paris, but in the open countryside”.

Today he lives in Auvilliers, in a bright 170 square meter bioclimatic house, a sustainable pine plywood structure with a red cedar tile roof and a large vegetable garden for gardening.. “It seduced me because it was atypical in the material but also in the arrangement of each space. An architectural experiment that made her imperfections a strong point”. The space is furnished with pieces of furniture that have become personal icons, such as the Bouroullec brothers' sofa, Jasper Morrison's table and Kostantin Grcic's lamps, a swing in the middle of the living room. “Ho mollato tutto per amore, tradendo la bellezza e i ritmi di Parigi” ammette. “Of course I will return both for work and for nostalgia, but I would like to start from here: redesign the aspect of life today, find harmony with space and recover time”.

The pains of the young tenant

“At first I didn't even like it. On the contrary, I found some things about her unbearable” says, still annoyed, Francisco Xavier, the Mexican photographer about the small house, a studio flat, on the seventh floor where he lived as a student in Rome. “The view of the railway yard, the constant noise of the nightlife, the confined space of 50 square meters: disastrous”.

However, Galeotta was an influence: “I stayed in bed for a week and those four walls – the mezzanine made from a high ceiling, the 1920s tiles on the floor, the view of the tracks – began to become familiar, almost intimate. The details of the space were the setting for a story that I deeply loved: the old counter that recalled the black and white dramas, the peeling walls that smelled of melancholy decadence, on the terrace cloths to dry during the day and cats meow at night”, says Francisco today back in Mexico City.

For someone it may be the light of Rome, for me it was all this set of things”. But then the owner breaks the news: the house is for a relative, it's time for eviction. “I am crazy. I even wanted to buy it, even made a desperate call to the owner promising cash that I didn't even have. The no was categorical. I decided to leave immediately. From the house, from the neighborhood, even from Rome “closes the new Werther with a little irony. “I forget everything, except to see her again, sooner or later”.

Odi et amo

“When I am in my house, I often feel like Captain Kurtz in Coppola's Apocalypse Now when, towards the end of the film, he talks about horror”, confesses Giovanni Agosti, one of the most important Italian art historians. 450 square meters in the center of Milan, a sort of house-museum where grandparents and parents lived and from which he fled for a study and work tour of Italy. “Here I lived all my childhood together with my brothers. Then, in 1980, I ran away to go to the Scuola Normale in Pisa; I returned to Milan twenty years later” he explains.

“Over the decades the house has been populated and colonized by papers, books, manuscripts, archives, paintings, furniture and has therefore become a kind of jungle. It is now a protection towards the outside but also an orientation compass in time: past and future. Even if it remains a place that continues to frighten me, especially at night, I can't think of myself in any other place than this”.

Inside a building built in the early 1900s, the apartment was designed according to a multi-stylistic idea of the interior, a consequence of the eclecticism of the second half of the 19th century, and remodeled at a later time. Each room is characterized by a different style, from the ethnic one to the more exotic one: the Sardinian-style anteroom, the kitchen that refers to the American ones of the 50s with golf players illustrated on the walls, the bathroom that evokes an Etruscan tomb of Tarquinia and the columns of the Palace of Knossos in Crete.

“It is as if this house has redeemed itself from its past, becoming a creative machine and a place where my students come to study.”Agosti tells us that on 3 July the exhibition on Fede Galizia, curated together with Jacopo Stoppa, opens at the Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento. “The house has become an intrinsic element of my life: perhaps it is a mirror, a self-portrait of all my contradictions. There is no air conditioning (only in my room), there are no showers (only bathtubs), some furniture needs fixing. And suddenly, almost at the edge of life, ghosts vaporize: it's up to me to deal with it and it's not always easy”.

The photos in this article are by Francesco Sambati  who launched a crowdfunding campaign for the creation of the book Aphasìa - see some of the shots of the photographic project; you can contribute and purchase the volume at this link.


Cover photo and below, photos by Giorgia Bellotti - Giorgibel in which the domestic environment, made up of everyday details, becomes the co-star of the scene, poised between hiding and merging.