The sequence of large double windows overlooking the scented lindens in the park, the fine friezes and stucco decorations of the rooms, the cast iron radiators, the herringbone wood floors in all the spaces: the DNA of this historic residence with an area of over 300 square meters inside a Milanese building designed at the start of the 1920s by Emilio Lancia (a protagonist of the Novecento movement in Milan), was undoubtedly work renovating and conserving, while creating a new functional layout.
After the restructuring carried out by Park Associati, the architecture firm founded by Filippo Pagliani and Michele Rossi in 2000 in Milan, the apartment is barely recognizable with respect to the classic sequence of spaces typical of bourgeois apartments of its period in this part of the city. “The challenge was precisely to redefine the functional program in relation to an irregular plan that had been complicated by previous renovations performed for a range of different uses,” says Filippo Pagliani.
“We wanted to open things up, to bring light to all the spaces, especially the central corridor, taken as a hinge between the ‘public’ life of a family in the publishing business, the studio-fumoir, the bedroom zone and the kitchen. Every space has is own autonomy inside a container with a forceful character that has been conserved.”
In the interpretation of these new dynamics in a place already full of stimulating features, the designers accepted the possibility of allowing a certain distance between the areas of the kitchen and those of the dining-living area, which remain separate, at the extremities, with respect to the views of the private internal terrace, facing north, transformed thanks to a project by the landscape architect Anna Scaravella.
In spite of this anomaly, it was decided to focus on the proximity and communication between the kitchen and the terrace, a marvelous urban jungle of jasmine, camellias, roses, calycanthus and citrus trees, around a pergola outfitted for more intimate dinners, because the terrace, like a second living room, is used for the most part in the everyday life of the clients.
“We should not forget that a home has to reflect the tastes of those who live in it, which can lead to a collision course if the choices do not completely jibe with the technical project,” Pagliani explains. “This is why Park Associati has not designed many residences in the past. However, in this case we could count on very receptive counterparts, open to dialogue. And the limitations posed by a radical option have become the strong point of the entire project.”
The large kitchen is the focus of the whole design: structured and characterized by a series of formal, materic and chromatic elements, it thrives on the dualism between the technological-contemporary style of the furnishings and the cementina tile floors, forming a traditional pattern in white, gray and blue, and walls covered with geometric wallpaper.
The same painstaking attention to detail and finishing can be seen in the gallery, the large central space of connection – between the kitchen and the bedroom zone, but also between the entrance and the living-dining area – that has become the core of the layout. Its enclosure echoes the green tones of the surrounding foliage, and the ceilings ‘embroidered’ by white intersecting lines reflect – in negative version – the geometric motifs that decorate the rooms.
At the back, two custom symmetrical doors open to a bedroom and a bathroom. A double suspended bookcase, made to measure, runs along the length of the whole space, in front of a large glass door with an iron structure leading to the studio-fumoir. This space, created where the kitchen used to be, has abundant natural light that is shared by the gallery thanks to the glazing.
Other bookcases with a minimal, bespoke look appear right from the entrance as a recurring feature of the domestic landscape, precise vectors of its fluid spatial composition, underlined by the uniformity of the wood floors. They return in the living areas, conceived as pale backdrops enhanced by the light from the windows facing the park; in the dining room, with an elegant adapted oval table; and in the studio of the lady of the house, communicating with the other spaces of the living area but easily closed off thanks to a system of sliding partitions.
The bookcases are placed against the walls like low perimeter frames, in order not to interrupt the dialogue of the works of art, the absolute protagonists. With remarkable tact, the custom furnishings never overshadow the erudite, hybrid composition of antiques, objects of affection and design – some brought from a previous home, others introduced for the occasion – assembled by the clients.
“From our viewpoint,” Pagliani says, “the most complex part of the project was the bedroom zone, which has been totally reconstructed in terms of layout and physical plant, to create three large rooms with their own bathrooms, including bedrooms for grown-up children and visiting friends.”
Photos Andrea Martiradonna/courtesy Park Associati - Article Antonella Boisi