Dreaming of Capri
Fabio Novembre's Bisazza showroom is a Mediterranean island in the heart of Milan
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Fabio Novembre's showroom for glass mosaic tile leader Bisazza is a multifaceted two-level surprise, even for a city as design-conscious as Milan. Here, smack in the center of the dense, gray metropolis, Novembre has produced a brilliant paean to the sun-drenched southern Italian island of Capri. The otherworldly quality of the installation suits its intended use. "A space for Bisazza is a very special situation," says Novembre. It's a "presence" piece, meant for gatherings and changing exhibitions—suggesting the product's potential all the while. "For me, it's not about displaying," he adds. "It's about storytelling."
Novembre's installations are lavishly ornamental, and his preferred medium is mosaic tile. (Fitting, then, that Bisazza should name him art director in 2000.) He tiles the surfaces of an interior the way an artist covers a canvas in oil or acrylic. "Tiles are always architectural elements for me. They are the skin of my spaces," says the designer, likening his architecture to the "body of a woman, sensual and full of curves."
Milanese trendsetters have undoubtedly hooked up with Novembre's exotic, erotic interiors: the bar-restaurants Shu and L'Atlantique, Bar Lodi, and the outrageous new discotheque Divina. In London and Hong Kong, fashion forays demand a trip to his Anna Molinari and Blumarine shops, if not for the clothing at least for the decor. Appreciation of these fantastic interiors—complete rooms clad in jewel-tone tile, an elaborate mosaic of dancers encircling a glass chandelier, structural columns transformed into voluptuous torsos through armatures and pink Lycra, a ceiling plane covered in glass roses—requires no purchases. Stateside, his limited presence is tamer. In New York, an intricately reptilian mosaic running through the Tardini shop picks up on the crocodile and leather of the goods for sale.
The Bisazza project, 1,800 square feet in fashion central on Via Senato, opened with a splash during April's Salone Internazionale del Mobile, but the dream of Capri entailed a significant architectural prologue. "The underground floor was originally more like a storage area," Novembre says. Rebuilding, he divided the street level in three for merchandise display, an office, and the showstopper, a heated pool.
"From an architectural point of view, the most complicated thing was to break down the floor of the third room and fill it with water," he continues, noting that less imaginative clients than Bisazza would never have accepted such a "waste" of space. The manufacturer was also willing to devote an additional 86 square feet to an underwater viewing room with a glazed rectangular aperture cut in the curved ceiling, offering a sardine's-eye view of the pool.
The pool isn't the only dazzler. A ceremonial tiled stairway's configuration and color reference the form and Pompeian red of Capri's famed Casa Malaparte, completed in 1943 for Tuscan writer Curzio Malaparte—its grand trapezoidal stair leading from the ground to a roof plane overlooking the sea from a craggy promontory. On the ceiling above Bisazza's stairway, says the designer, the "constellation of the golden fish that Curzio Malaparte praised in the sky of Capri" finds its interpretation in a fiber-optic network.
More references to Capri's starlit skies and faraglioni (rock masses) also appear within the Bisazza landscape. The entry's curvilinear wall covered in blue-and-white mosaic is meant, Novembre says, as a "cloud embracing the villa," and the cream, beige, taupe, and terra-cotta tones of the camouflage-pattern floor evoke the terrain of the island. A 19-by-20-foot mosaic after a commissioned Sandro Chia painting emerges from the pool. "I asked Sandro to imagine Adam and Eve in the sea of Capri, a chance for humanity to start over again in a paradise on earth," says Novembre. The Capri metaphor continues in the street-level office. Atop a tiled base rising seamlessly from the floor, a sinuous briar-wood tabletop echoes the isle's outline. The location of Casa Malaparte is symbolically marked with an inset red diode.
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The entry’s camouflage Opus Romano tile floor.
Novembre in the underwater viewing room.
The ceremonial Casa Malaparte stairway is covered in Metron tile. The ceiling recess is tiled to resemble the sky. Wall panels of briar wood punctuate window frames backlit with white neon tubes.