There is an enchanted corner of Liguria, extending from Santa Margherita to Portofino by way of Paraggi, on the Levante riviera, where the water is crystal clear and important historic mansions are set into the marvelous nature reserve of Monte di Portofino, high above the sea of Tigullio. This stone house on two levels with direct access to the sea has a beautiful belvedere terrace on the bay, with a particular long narrow form, like the deck of a ship, nestled into the hill on one side. The roof with grass and plantings has been part of the extraordinary setting from the start of the last century. The location is Paraggi, near the buen retiro of the Bonomi Bolchini castle, and the structure was originally a guesthouse for two villas with a higher profile on the hill, separated over time.
A tunnel-grotto with a length of about 100 meters was dug into the stone as a shared access, leading to private elevators, for an entrance a bit like a James Bond movie, completed by a very precious parking area on the road. After the radical renovation by Milan-based m2 atelier, helmed by Marijana Radovic and Marco Bonelli (with an international portfolio that includes works in the nautical sector), and after revising the structures and the physical plant systems, the former guesthouse has become a simple, refined dwelling for vacations, in an even stronger osmosis with the spirit of the place, the aromas and colors of the landscape. Its body is camouflaged perfectly between the coastline and the green terraces, three zones of maritime pines, age-old olive trees, agaves, palms, bright flowers, connected by stone steps that descend to a diving platform.
“It was almost natural to let ourselves be guided by the surroundings, in pursuit of an intense indoor-outdoor relationship,” the designers say. “Outside, the beauty of the emerald bay, with all its colors. Gray and green, all the shades and tones,” they continue. “It all began with Puddinga, a local limestone used to clad the outside of the building. With its warm shades of gray, it has been restored by local artisans with traditional techniques and local materials, also to restore the stone embankment walls.”
These choices have led to others, all in tune with the environment. Luserna stone in a large format, also very frequent in the zone, adds other gray tones, hammered and sandblasted for a soft touch effect and a natural appearance, for the indoor-outdoor floors of the main level containing the living area and the levels of the kitchen and bathrooms. Dark slate brings unity to the floors on the lower level, for the nighttime, composed of two large bedrooms with bathrooms, one of which has a loft for two additional beds. Pale gray has been applied for all the walls, in contrast with the white of the niches that underscore the depth of the spatial construction. These were the guidelines.
Then, in the core of the house, a living area communicating with the evocative terrace facing the sea, the designers have opened perspective views, demolishing partitions and making the space continuous, also in the perception of the long stone wall that comes to terms with the architecture of the hill. In its irregular geometry, shaped by a stylish sequence of original classic windows and glass doors, English-style squares that frame the landscape, the architects have inserted new vanishing green shutters for seamless opening and closure. The suspended ceiling has become an inclined veil with an opening for light at its perimeter, creating more atmosphere and a new dialogue with the old arches of the entrance zone. Reflecting and mutable surfaces cover the custom fixed furnishings to produce ulterior effects of light and shadow.
Panels of green back-painted glass form the doors of the base and hanging cabinets of the kitchen, enclosed in a niche and set between two white reflecting hideaway doors. The bookcase is in milk white with green borders, containing shelves and compartments, while the technical fabrics in extra-green also protect the padded seats with curved forms against winter dampness, defining and concluding the residential landscape before the encounter with the wall in Luserna stone at the back, leading to the bedroom zone below. All details of an essential, well-balanced design, where special care has gone into the implementation.
The most often utilized space during the day, in an ideal dilation of the outdoors, in any case remains the terrace, receiving sunlight until the evening and sheltered by large electrified awnings in case of bad weather; this is where people sunbathe, eat, go down to the sea and await the sunset over the bay. It is the house’s jewel, but not the only one. An annex immersed in the garden, a sort of Cabanon created in an old toolshed, reinterpreted and clad in chestnut wood, becomes an unexpected and even more evocative refuge. It contains a bedroom, a bathroom and a small living area with a kitchen corner.
A microcosm. Large sliding glass doors and wooden sunscreens with automated slats close the unit completely. “The light there is truly beautiful, and the sensation of being on a ship is even more intense, because below we see only greenery and the sea,” the designers say. The idea of an oasis of peace and intimacy, cooled by a sea breeze, gets even stronger.
Project m2 atelier / Marijana Radovic and Marco Bonelli - Photos Lorenzo Pennati