On a Grand Scale
This residence in São Paolo, Brazil, qualifies as truly palatial—even by Alberto Pinto's standards
Nadine Frey -- Interior Design, 2/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Like Brazil itself, everything about this house in São Paolo was overscale. All that was needed to complete the picture was a designer with a confirmed penchant for large volumes. When Alberto Pinto saw the 32,000-square-foot interior, he knew he'd found a canvas sized to taste. The client profile—a couple and their three grown children, each needing independent living space with a personal aesthetic—was also a good fit for the French designer, whose talent runs so authoritatively to the eclectic.
Built by the current owners, the house tops a hill in a fine residential district that commands a sweeping view of the city, Brazil's industrial capital. The four-story modern structure comfortably holds two reception rooms, two kitchens, five bedrooms, a wine cellar with a tasting room, and an indoor pool and lounge that connect to an outdoor tennis court. Pinto's task was to come up with a decorative solution that could stand up to the magnitude of the place. The owners requested an interior that could adapt to both family living and extensive entertaining while accommodating their impressive collection of Brazilian art. In addition, they expressed a preference for mixing furniture and objects from the 1920s, '30s, '40s, '50s, and '70s.
The entry's 21-foot-high bronze double doors, designed by Pinto, set the tone. Bold, resolutely modern, and patinated to resemble sculpture, they announce the widespread presence of fine craftsmanship inside. Throughout, Pinto employed a mixture of pieces by contemporary artisans, often from his base in France, and outstanding examples of style-setting 20th-century furniture, also often French.
In the two-story foyer, cream stucco walls set off the floor's massive, 6 1/2-foot squares of cream-colored marble. From this starting point, a marble stairway—with a forged-iron balustrade supported by huge marble globes—sweeps both upstairs and down. The imposing stair grandly frames equally outsize furnishings, such as a majestic Macassar ebony pedestal table with a base encircled by French designer Hervé Van der Straeten's signature bronze figures. Van der Straeten also designed the foyer's alabaster appliqués, whose stylized tongues of hammered and gilded metal flame climb high up the walls.
The main stair leads up to a mezzanine, which overlooks the main living area and provides access to the family's private quarters. Bedrooms, baths, and dressing rooms show off the contrasts in style that have become Pinto hallmarks. In the master bedroom, a yellow-and-black striped curtain fabric designed by Pinto harmonizes with pale yellow stucco walls. In the wife's bathroom, a '30s sycamore armoire with silver handles was transformed into a sink vanity, silhouetted against a mural of leaves and birds painted by Dominique Derive. One son's more traditional tastes are evidenced by his bed and end tables in the style of 19th-century Russian. His brother prefers a bright red armchair and sycamore bedside tables.
Left: Custom love seats and ottomans, slipcovered in toile, are paired with coconut matting in the pool area.
Downstairs in the L-shape dining room, reached by descending the grand stairway from the foyer, Parisian artist Stéphane Mocaanu decorated the walls with a stone-and-plaster bas-relief representing stylized vegetation à la 1930s. Lively yet low-key, the bas-relief sets off a 1930s Jacques Adnet table in Macassar ebony and a 1927 art deco chandelier by Charles Lemaresquier. The room can accommodate a buffet for a large number, but the short end of the L can be used by just family members on more intimate evenings.
To reach the pool, two levels below the dining room, one traverses a gallery where four large wengé pedestals support astrolabes lacquered in black, white, yellow, or red—Pinto designed them to represent the continents. A series of lithographs by Marc Delré carries the colorful theme toward the pool area.
Left: In a son's suite, the armchair is covered in broadcloth, and the bedside table is sycamore. Derive painted the screen.
On one side of the pool, Pinto coaxed the cavernous space into a series of seating groups between a row of travertine pillars. Armchairs are upholstered in sea grass, and exceptionally high-backed love seats are slipcovered in white toile. (A nearby kitchen can provide poolside snacks when parents or children entertain here.) Along the wall behind the seating, Pinto hung curtains of parachute material on steel wire; four French chandeliers from the '40s form a row in front. Across the pool, three enormous mirrored portholes bring a touch of luxury ocean liner to a sculptural marble wall. The pool itself is long and narrow, almost the only thing on the premises that can't properly be described as Olympic size.
SLIPCOVER TOILE (POOL AREA): PIERRE FREY. PLEATED-FABRIC FIXTURES: 10 HEURES MOINS 10. CARPET (MAIN LIVING AREA): EL TAPISERO. ARMCHAIR FABRIC (OFFICE): NOBILIS. CHAIRS (WIFES BATHROOM), BEDSIDE TABLE (SONS ROOM): COLOMBO. CHAIR (SONS ROOM): CASSINA.