Piero Lissoni keeps reinventing his Milanese apartment

PIERO LISSONI IS nothing if not precise. The 65-year-old Italian architect and designer has micromanaged everything in his new Milan apartment, from the stark steel window frames to the irregular puzzle pattern to the Carrara marble floors in the master bathroom. He is quick to point out that the walls of the apartment, located on the ground floor of a 1950s building, are not just white, but something known as 9010, or pure white, depending on a design-industry color chart dating from Weimar. -era Germany. However, he hesitates when asked how he managed to ensure that the two-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot home –– marked by formal arrays of austere objects and a palette best described as cold — somehow feels comfortable, before finally deferring to his wife, 47-year-old Italian photographer Veronica Gaido.


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Really, “she’s the architect,” he says, even though Lissoni works as creative director for several Italian furniture brands, including B&B Italia and Living Divani, as well as Boffi, the kitchen and bathroom company. baths, and runs his own multidisciplinary design studio. with offices in Milan and New York. A tall, understated Milanese, he cites Italian mid-century modern masters Achille Castiglioni and Vico Magistretti as mentors. But his latest home reveals a passion for the postmodern work of his friend Ettore Sottsass, the Memphis Group founder whose 20th-century experiments — like the multicolored Christmas tree-shaped Clesitera vase circa 1986 — seem surprisingly understated when shared a space with Lissoni’s collection of dark, timeless and centuries-old East Asian pottery. The designer also collects mid-century modern Danish vintage pieces, including the Poul Kjaerholm black leather daybed in the living room and the wooden Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs around the new glass dining table of his own design.

He and Gaido — whose oversized, long-exposure photographs of a human torso and Chinese terracotta sculptures are the show’s main sources of color — wed in December 2020, a few months before moving in. says Gaido, a lively brunette from Tuscany, where the couple have a summer home near Forte dei Marmi. “He wanted white concrete. But in the end, I won,” she said, pointing to the long-planked oak. Treated with a traditional combination of oil and wax, the floors have a “sculptural” quality, says Lissoni, who planned their pattern with precision.

But it’s their softening, soothing hue that really sets them apart. For his previous apartment, located in a 1950s building just over a mile away and finished before he met Gaido, Lissoni chose cast resin floors in stark white. Many of the rooms in the new apartment are remnants of this life, including the Le Corbusier and Kjaerholm armchairs in the living room, pieces that can usually be seen in an office. But oak floors, offset by Moroccan rug, give the understated furnishings a warm, residential feel — “and they’re comfortable to walk on without shoes,” Gaido adds.

IN A MINIMALIST home marked by subtle combinations of distinct pieces, Lissoni aims above all for eye-catching repetition. “I don’t like having an isolated object,” he says. The lounge’s signature armchairs each come in pairs, along with two nearly identical Donald Judd side chairs. Even the apartment itself is arguably two apartments: the one inside, split between a bedroom wing and an open-plan common space that includes the living room, dining room, and kitchen; and another space, on the 3,000-square-foot terrace, which features two areas bounded by a perimeter of star jasmine vines and walkways lined with potted hornbeams. Modern Milan apartment buildings, in homage to the city’s historic palaces, typically have interior courtyards filled with gardens shared among residents, while the apartments themselves often block the exterior. A private green space like this, visible from much of the apartment, is a rare luxury.

Both the flat and the terrace needed updating, says Lissoni, who knows little about the previous owners except that they seemed to have abandoned it: The latest incarnation of the terrace – which looks like now at a small park, even on a rainy autumn day — was a concrete ledge; the interior was divided into a maze of small rooms. Lissoni knocked down all but the load-bearing walls, then added sliding glass screens between the kitchen and dining room and an array of doors in the bedroom wing. The couple uses the second bedroom as their home office and the new doors allow them to open up the private spaces to create a loft effect or seal them off completely.

The building itself is an oddity: an 18-story brick-clad skyscraper designed in the early 1950s by Alessandro Pasquali, an Italian modernist architect who flourished during Italy’s Fascist period. These days, with its massive masonry facade and streamlined balconies, it vaguely suggests a Brutalist experience of a decade or two later, but Orsina Simona Pierini, professor of architecture at Politecnico di Milano, the alma mater of Lissoni, says he is rooted in the pre-World War II era, adding that the building’s location, set back from the street, creates a sort of island in what is effectively the heart of the city. . The building’s unusual architecture reminds Lissoni of Le Corbusier’s work of the 1940s and 1950s; indeed, modernism in all its forms has been a beacon for him since he began collecting highly modernist design in the 1970s.

In the office of the apartment, place of honor at the end of the 1940s La Chaise in white plastic by Charles and Ray Eames. As elsewhere, surprising combinations abound. Just outside the main door, in the apartment’s private entrance, there is a rare blue version of Sottsass’ Ultrafragola mirror; beyond the threshold, a 300-year-old gray ceramic Chinese pot is perched on a raw steel stand designed by Lissoni. The master bedroom’s sitting area features a 1980s neo-modernist armchair by Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata and a marble table by Eero Saarinen from the 1950s, but the bed itself – for now just a mattress – is precisely placed on a rich blue Chinese carpet made around 1900.

Such accuracy belies the fact that Lissoni likes to change his mind. The apartment has two anchor pieces – a monochrome late 19th century Japanese folding screen, now in the hallway, and an 18th century Japanese cabinet, currently in the living room – which the architect says he kept not to move in his mind from room to room. Now, when asked what he would change in the apartment, he replied: “Everything”.

However, he unequivocally praises a recent acquisition: a white ceramic cougar, an apple-esque ornament given to the couple as a housewarming gift. Considered lucky charms in southern Italy, pumi usually come in pairs to be placed on either side of a home’s front door. Here there is just one, used as a centerpiece on the dining table. Although Lissoni had to ditch the idea of ​​pure white floors, and even compromise with his wife on their new Living Divani sofa, which is off-white at best, he got his wish with the pumo, which is 9010, if it’s something. .

Who knows how long it will stay on the table, though. One can imagine the owners continuously reassessing and readjusting these artifacts, until the immaculate apartment wears a bit. Milan have been hit hard by the pandemic, which has led to delays in finishing at home – which, in turn, has given Lissoni more time to experiment and rethink. “Fortunately,” he recalls, “someone said, ‘Piero, basta!'” And so for now, at least, the house and its inhabitants stand still.

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