The Mirror Has Two Faces
Julie Taraska -- Interior Design, 1/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Often a designer's greatest challenges on a renovation project are to develop an understanding of the client and the space to be transformed. Neither of these proved problematic for architect Federico Delrosso on his latest endeavor, a loft conversion in a former grappa distillery in Milan. First, the owner, Alessandro Sartori, the creative director of Z Zegna menswear, is one of Delrosso's closest friends. And second, Delrosso was so taken with the raw space's soaring height, barrel-vaulted ceiling, and abundant natural light that he immediately bought its twin next door. Approaching both lofts as one project, he aimed at creating two customized versions of a basically identical space.
Given Sartori and Delrosso's similar needs—both are bachelors in their early 40's who entertain periodically—it made sense that the apartments should have the same layout. "I showed Alessandro two or three ideas, and we decided together what was best," recalls Delrosso. "He likes my style, so it was easy to do." The mirror-image plans maximize the 33-foot-high shells by dividing them into two full floors, each with its own mezzanine. The ground floor and first mezzanine are public spaces, comprising the entry, the kitchen, a full bathroom, and living and dining areas. The upper stories are more private, containing the sleeping quarters, the master bathroom, and either a guest bedroom or exercise space. A staircase connects each 1,400-square-foot loft's four levels.
With the framework in place, Delrosso began tailoring the aesthetics of each apartment to its occupant's personality. "Alessandro is very sophisticated, very stylish," the architect notes. "So in his space we used materials that were more ethereal, with more glimmer." Take the staircase. Instead of making it heavy and sculptural, as he did in his own unit, Delrosso dematerialized the one in Sartori's loft, using glass treads and risers set in a skeletal structure of white-painted steel. It's as incorporeal as a hologram, a virtual stair that seems nothing more than a simple white outline projected in space. Since the ground-floor bathroom is partly under the transparent stair, the landing allows a clear view into the shower stall directly beneath. (In both apartments, there's a less risqué view of the kitchen through a glass slab in the first mezzanine floor.)
Although both lofts are predominantly white, the men's individual taste is expressed through color and furnishings. Ground-level flooring is poured resin, dark brown for Sartori, architectural gray for Delrosso. The fashion designer's glossy-white high dining table is not contemporary in style like the architect's severe counter, but modern baroque, its curving, cabriolet legs softening the rectilinear surroundings. The gesture is repeated in Sartori's sleeping quarters, where a round, freestanding soaking tub stands across from the platform bed. And his stainless-steel kitchen adds a gleam that Delrosso's minimal white Corian one eschews. Other metallic accents in Sartori's loft, including nickel fixtures and mirrors framed in silver glass mosaics, offer a counterpoint to the darker palette, providing a subtle flash to the chocolate-colored walls in his downstairs bathroom and the wengé storage units placed throughout.
In all, the double conversion took a total of two months to design, eight to construct, and two to furnish. Delrosso believes the mix of commonality and customization achieved its ends, noting that "the spaces share a lot of similarities, but the feel of each is completely different." The experience of working for someone so close to him was positive, with Sartori's trust allowing him to push creative boundaries that many other clients would have rejected. And did the process put any strain on the duo's friendship? "You can ask Alessandro," Delrosso says with a smile. "He's on his way over now."