The villa offers views of sylvan and hilly terrains all around.
Can you count on a male architect to introduce design flair and an appreciation of furniture and accoutrements into a home? Very often, architects are very nonchalant in furnishings and would relegate that role to a proper interior designer or decorator. Not in the case of Marco Corti, a trained architect from the Politecnico of Milano – a polytechnic university in Milan, Italy renowned for Architecture and Engineering.
He was referred by a client to take on an architectural and interior design job for an existing villa in Switzerland, in the village of Vacallo close to Lake Como in Italy. Even though it was not his own home, he decided to give 110 per cent of his ideas and effort in creating a cosy, chic and comfortable family home for the client’s wife and young child.
Chinese and Buddhist art create a tranquil look in this European home.
The villa offers beautiful views of Lake Como and its surrounding lush landscapes with undulating hills nearby. The 3,877-square-foot domicile offers five bedrooms, four bathrooms, two living rooms, two study rooms, one kitchen, one kitchenette and one playroom for the kid. The existing villa has an L-shaped layout but the interiors were drab and jettisoned all aesthetic relevance to modern living. “The client spent six arduous months house hunting. They liked the location very much, and saw the potential to transform it” explains Corti.
Purchased in 2011, the two-storey home with 14,000 square foot of gardens needed a serious overhaul. “The homeowners wanted the space to be modern contemporary with a “less is more” approach. Basically, it had to be minimal and chic but also child-friendly and purposeful.” opines the architect. Given carte blanche to create an intriguing property is always a dream for most architects and/or interior designers. As the client’s previous home in Lugano, Italy was executed by the architect, some level of trust had obviously been built up, so work commenced very quickly once the contract was signed. “I guess I was very lucky to have a client who remembered me for the work I had done for him! I didn’t have many constraints to work with, just some preference for colour and materials, so you could say it was a dream to work on this property.” laughs Corti.
Ode to the Chimney
A cow rug softens the look of the living room.
The home’s surfaces were done up in a neutral colours: off-white for the flooring and a lick of light grey for the walls. The client particularly like the white cement flooring called “Mapei”, so it was deployed into the project to extend a subtle look that is deservingly timeless. The trick executed here was to make the furniture and objects stand out, hence a neutral canvas bode well in its visual totality. One of the living rooms accommodates a chimney where it immediately becomes visually arresting for any guest stepping into the space. The chimney’s regal look is achieved by way of its emerald-hue marble festooned with white swirls. The strip of wall where the chimney presides is painted in a mid-tone grey paint that gives it a masculine appeal. On each side of the chimney are floor-to-ceiling shelves to hold the homeowner’s collection of books. A “Shelford” armchair in ochre-brown fabric designed by the architect for Italian furniture brand Nube, sits on one side of the shelves to provide a place for some page-turning moments. Corti has been art director of Nube since 2001 so it was natural for him to introduce the armchair into this villa.
The interior designer is constantly inspired by Chinese art.
This living room is the homeowner’s favourite spot in the home because it provides the perfect respite for him to unwind with his family or catch up on some good reads at the end of the day. The living room also affords a spacious balcony so the family enjoys excellent views of its hilly surrounds. Corti also created a very chic and low-cantilevered shelf to prop the LCD TV, and it is complemented by an interesting framed calligraphy art work of the Chinese word “fu” (i.e. which means luck) written in many iterations. “I like to include Chinese art into the homes I design because I travel very often to Asia and I’m deeply influenced by the things I see there,” says Corti. There is also another Chinese-style console in another room paired with a “Rest” armchair and “Turn” coffee table both designed by renowned designer Carlo Colombo for Nube. The love for “East meets West” is tastefully peppered throughout the home without going overboard. The resultant look is one that cohesively mixes modern, classic and ethnic pieces sourced from around the world.
The homeowner’s second favourite spot in the home is the commodious bath tub in the master bedroom where he takes long soaks during the weekends, all thanks to the spa-like feel. “I was told by the homeowner that bathing and soaking in the tub is now a pleasure he appreciates even more at home,” beams Corti. While the family enjoys biking and skiing, a lot of time is spent relaxing at home and entertaining friends.
Tackling the Challenges
A fair share of challenges arose during the villa’s eight months of refurbishment but they were tackled by the architect’s good sense of visualisation and planning capabilities. Corti emphasises, “It had a bomb shelter to be torn down on the ground floor and I had to plan the spaces in the right way so it provided a proper flow for its denizens to move around. I also removed all the unsightly decoration at the balcony left by the previous homeowner.”
The previous kitchen was disorganised and cluttered but it was re-imagined as a simple and linear gallery design with better work flow. Today, the all-white kitchen is primed for cooking and food preparation, and is a breeze to keep it tidy and clean! Kitted up with plenty of cantilevered shelves and soft-close drawers, it keeps all cutlery and kitchen equipment out of sight.
The vision of a modern, contemporary, clutter-free and purposeful family home has been achieved all thanks to an architect that looks at the bigger picture without missing the smaller details. It is a home that proudly displays modern paintings on its wall, well-chosen furniture, a nod to Western spatial sensibilities and complemented by Eastern curios that add character and charm.
The vivacious and creative architect Marco Corti.
This article was originally published in Home + Living issue 20.