Were it the interpretation of a woman, this house would embody the spirit of Coco Chanel. Because as the famous French fashion design (1883-1971) said, “fashion passes, style remains.” And the style of this dwelling reminds us of Mademoiselle, with its air of austere, contemporary elegance, white and almost black, welcoming and serene, sophisticated in its forms, well-balanced in its proportions, in the composition of volumes and spaces. Like a bespoke garment it has been designed down to the millimeter, the smallest details, by the famous architect-designer Carlo Colombo, for a client who is a lover of high-quality Made in Italy. A villa immersed in the well-groomed greenery of a lush private garden at the gates of Milan: “it took three years to build,” the designer says.
This is a new construction, in an exclusive residential zone, reprising the footprint and height of a previous house, but radically updating its architectural and compositional language. The new villa also takes a green approach, with climate control systems placed in the floors, from the ground to the flat roof, and with an array of solar panels.
The emotional setting of the house comes from a solid connection with the context. The building has an area of about 1000 square meters, on a sloping lot excavated to make room for a large swimming pool and a basement containing technical spaces and parking. The level of the pool, with southern exposure, is completely occupied by zones for socializing, including studio spaces, a TV lounge, guestrooms and services, in direct contact with the outdoors. The reflections off the pool set into the grassy lawn are surrounded by a large terrace equipped for outdoor living, paved with large slabs of the same Fossena stone that clads the pool itself.
At street level, corresponding to the ground floor entrance, the living, dining, kitchen and service zones are organized in a fluid way. The first floor contains the nighttime spaces, facing north, composed of three bedrooms with baths, in a situation of greater privacy. Giving volume to the void, seeking the value of geometric purity, Colombo has custom-designed everything – from the doors to the paneling, the cabinets to the wardrobes and bathrooms – mixing industrial prowess and fine craftsmanship. Each space reflects a precise composition that applies reduction of forms in relation to selected design pieces (mostly by Poliform) and precious works of contemporary art.
These presences colonize every space, without any repetition of uniform finishes and schemes. The factor that truly sets this structured layout apart, enclosed in a compact, essential total white architectural monolith, is the supply of full-height openings. The large windows become viewing points for the city of Milan and its new skyline, seen from the upper levels on clear days.
They deliver exceptional light, allowing the house to establish an intuitive, deep dialogue with its natural habitat. “It is undoubtedly a house that thrives on transparency and light,” Colombo says. “Transparency plays a fundamental role. As in all my projects, actually. The green surroundings, an oasis of psycho-physical wellbeing, have stimulated the pursuit of continuous interaction between outside and inside, enhancing the compositional rhythm of the volumes, the context itself and the pleasures of life, with all their multiple nuances.” Material as an expression of emotion, visual and tactile experience, does the rest. In the interiors it takes the form of a linear staircase connecting all the levels.
Almost a sculptural abstraction, the staircase is made with blocks of stone, gathered inside a bronze structure: it is particularly striking in the evening, when its image shifts from different vantage points, lit by LEDs that punctuate the paneling on the walls. During the day the rays of sunlight pour down thanks to a skylight on the roof, triggering other soft tones, chiaroscuro effects, contrasts of light on surfaces.
To add dynamism to the visual perception, the absolute white that indicates a neutral materic-chromatic approach on the outside is joined in the interiors by the contrasting hues of dark stained wood for the floors and walls, treated as perimeter frames. Presences that grant rigor and refinement to the domestic setting, adding aesthetic and narrative impact to the inhabited archipelagos of the composition. Because as Giovanni Michelucci (1891-1990) said: “Architecture is not just a craft… it is a way of thinking and living.”