Carefully curated with design classics, art works and a minimal palette, this elegant Milanese apartment is the perfect exhibition space for its Italian architect owner.
There’s something undeniably Italian about Luca Cipelletti’s apartment in Milan. From the palazzo-style architecture, glamorous 1940s furniture and minimal decoration, this meticulously elegant home shows how the understated and the grand can work harmoniously as one. And it’s not surprising Luca has a talent for display. For an architect who specialises in the design of museums, the result is a 175 square metre space that resembles an Aladdin’s cave for any lovers of 20th Century Italian design.
A stone’s throw from the lavish Dolce e Gabbanna headquarters in the vibrant Porta Venezia area of Milan, this sixth floor apartment is the perfect backdrop to showcase Luca’s passion for art. Wanting a home with lots of light, period features and a specific layout that suited his idea for the design, Luca transformed a typical bourgeois dwelling into a contemporary spatial experience.
“Whenever I work on a project, whatever the scale, I always start with the historic identity of the building and add contemporary layers,” says Luca. “It was certainly part of the design process here. I wanted to maintain the sober and formal identity of the apartment without losing any traces of the past, but to give it a new lease of life.”
Which is what he did. In a building that dates from the 1920s: the moulded ceiling, exquisite parquet floor and glass-paned internal doors have been preserved. In fact, the only structural changes made are to the walls. Basing the scheme around a prized series of prints by the Italian photographer Ugo Mulas, Luca reinvented the space by knocking through the walls between the bedroom, dining room and living room so the photographs could be seen from every room. “In my opinion, it’s important to start with a concept,” explains Luca. “Collectors of art and design often have something important that they want to base the apartment around. In my case it was the photographs. Decoration comes later.”
As an ardent admirer of the Surrealist artist Georgio di Chirico, for Luca, playing with symmetry and strange perspectives comes naturally. Creating an optical illusion, the holes in the wall, which frame the Mulas photographs, Norman Foster dining table and Guglielmo Ulrich console table in the lounge, also instill a fake-mirror effect to the home. Although you can see from one end of the apartment to the other, the eye is fooled into believing it is seeing a mirror image instead. This is emphasised by the iron frames surrounding the openings, lightly polished in a white glaze to contrast with the matt white finish of the walls. That, along with the symmetrical curved windows flooding sunlight through the apartment and the glass vases on the Ulrich table, which are perfectly poised as though on a mantlepiece, give the overall effect of a mirror-image. It certainly makes you look twice.
Although the walls are unadorned and frivolous decoration is eschewed to allow Luca’s collection of designer furniture to take centre stage, the finished result is far from that of a museum. “I like the bright and warm together’, says Luca. “There are three different whites in the house. If you use the same white everywhere the finished result can look cold. The ceiling is a bright white, the walls are warmer and the window and door frames are ivory.” Touches such as the 1920s Bohemian chandelier, which used to belong to Luca’s grandmother, give a sense of intimacy and the soft tan leather sofa and slubby textiles in the main living space add a homely warmth.
Living alone, Luca wanted the apartment to serve as both a peaceful retreat and an elegant venue for entertaining. “I like to cook for my friends. I find it relaxing,” he says. “I also like to see their reactions as they walk through the space. When friends come to visit who haven’t seen the apartment before, the first thing they do is walk over to the Ulrich table and try to figure it all out. It’s like a game. It’s fun.”
“My job definitely effects how I display objects in my home,” he continues. “It was important to me that the design related to my favourite pieces. I wanted to be able to see the six photographs in the bedroom from everywhere in the space.” Boasting a fabulous sixth-floor vantage, sit on the leather Cassina sofa and you get a view of the mountains and Gio Ponti ‘Pirellone’ building outside. From the white sofa, you see right to the Ugo Mulas photographs at the very opposite end. Which is by no means an accident. “Because everything here reflects my personal taste, I appreciate every single corner and wouldn’t change a thing.”
Words: Claire Bingham
Photos: Chris Tubbs
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Emily Peck, Editor
View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor