The project involves the interior spaces of a villa situated in the lush hilly context that, developing behind the city of Prato, opens up to the view of the Florentine plain and the mountains of Calvana. Here the studio DEFERRARI+MODESTI of Javier Deferrari and Lavinia Modesti has created a domestic environment that plays with the differences in height present in the valuable original building of the 1980s to create an interior characterized by lively and detailed spatial connections but also, at the same time, able to define autonomous zones each enjoying its own privacy.
Project name: Apartment for a young couple
Project location: Prato, Italy
Project designers: DEFERRARI+MODESTI
Project design team: Javier Deferrari, Lavinia Modesti
Contractor: GBR Servizi s.r.l.
Photographer: Anna Positano
The clients are a young couple. He’s a chemist, PhD student at the CNR (National Research Council) in Italy. His family has an important printing plant in Prato, specialized in photoengraving and well established in the rotary textile printing market. She is Italian-French and descends from the family of Parisian perfumers, the Gellé Frères. Her great-grandfather was the painter George Lecaron. She studied Japanese, lived between Italy and Paris and then moved to Japan where she perfected her linguistic training. They both love to travel, are sports enthusiasts and climbers.
The sophisticated spatial connection that characterizes the project by DEFERRARI+MODESTI is not only accomplished through interventions on the structure of the walls. It is in fact the design of an integrated furnishing system that connects different areas of the house, giving each one its own identity. The living area consists of four large connected areas: the living room, the reading and music corner, the dining room and the kitchen. The piece of furniture therefore performs various tasks: it is a bench, a container, a music record display, a bookcase, a divider between different areas. The cabinet is made of open-pore ash wood lacquered in blue, to highlight not only the color but also the veins of the material. It has inserts and open elements in matt lacquered wood with a touch of electric blue.
The bookcase, which is the focal point of the room, is made of teak wall panels. Horizontal milling helps to integrate the shelves made of painted sheet steel which give a sense of lightness and solidity. The cabinet under the bookcase, with concealed drawers, acts as a bench and container. An element, designed to store music records and to put a selection on display, acts as a divider with the dining area. In the project by DEFERRARI+MODESTI technical details have been concealed and tend to disappear. The main feature remains the spatial composition and all the technological solutions are never celebrated.
“In our projects technical details disappear. The main elements thus become the composition and the space. We follow with scrupulous care the selection of materials and details, we work closely with artisans to identify the solutions that seem most suitable to us and then we bring them back into our own idea of architectural space.” – Javier Deferrari
In the living room area there is a wall furniture that, thanks to a system of vertical sliding and tilt doors, makes you discover the bar cabinet inside. The use of integrated lighting and the mirror on the back give prominence and value to the matt mustard-colored lacquered wooden cabinet, which contrasts with the blue color of the ash wood components. The contrast between the colors highlights the bar nook and brings it out. Here, as in the dining room area, there are Eames chairs combined with carpets and paintings chosen to match the architectural sensibility with the owners’ passion for Far Eastern culture. If, in fact, in the reading area there is a print by Chinese artist Wensi Zhai, in the dining room we can recognize a silkscreen print by Enzo Mari, for whom Lavinia Modesti worked as an assistant.
“In Enzo Mari’s studio I learned passion and an obsessive attention for every phase of the project. He taught me to see the process as a whole but also in every detail. To have a broad yet very focused gaze. I learnt to develop a project as if in a spiral, going forward and then going back, broadening my gaze.” – Lavinia Modesti
The dining room, characterized by a long table and touches of gray that counterpoint the blue and wood, is encircled by a long cabinet that serves as a container and shelf. Here, separated by an island with stools, stands the kitchen which, like the rest of the furnishings of the house, has been completely custom designed. In this case the furniture is made of matt lacquered midnight blue wood, the kitchen consisting of a system of drawers with foldaway handles at the bottom and a wall unit at the top.
The staircase is the real fulcrum of the house, the point where the different levels are connected, highlighting the various passages of altitude. The staircase becomes a sort of micro-architecture inside the house, a playful space to live in. Circulation element, but also rest area, reception area, container cabinet, filter and separation device, frame for climbing. Like other furnishings, the staircase also offers elements of surprise; gradually, as it unfolds, the structure becomes lighter and changes its appearance. The first ramp consists of a monolithic wooden element faced in teak, an element that anchors the staircase to the ground and invites one to walk down it safely. While in the second ramp the staircase seems to dematerialize thanks to the slender powder-coated iron structure, up to the last portion where the staircase is made of painted perforated sheet metal. The staircase, from being extremely solid, becomes permeable to light and movement and, as it ascends, it almost seems to float in a void.
“The function of the staircase is central to the house. Not only does it represent the connection between the various levels and zones, it becomes the fulcrum and the element of spatial articulation. The staircase also speaks of one of the most vivid passions of its owners.” – Javier Deferrari
In this informal and welcoming house, characterized by a strong presence of wood and natural materials, the living area is defined as a fluid space. The same materials and the same sensitive approach also apply to the most intimate area of the house, which is located behind a flush-to-wall door. Here are two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The upper floor is used as a living/study area and accommodates an additional bathroom, as well as a large terrace overlooking the surrounding green landscape.
This house speaks of the passions of its owners and the intellectual background of its designers. Moreover, it offers a new testimony to the skills that DEFERRARI+MODESTI have demonstrated in recent years in projects for commercial venues, such as the Brac Bookshop in Florence or the installations at the PALP and the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera. In these cases – as for example in the projects developed for the industry, among which the recently completed Targetti concept showrooms in Florence, Shanghai and Changzhou – a lively creativity is constantly counterpointed by the ability to define exact and controlled solutions at every stage of their production. This apartment in Prato, Italy can be looked at as a small manifesto through which Javier Deferrari and Lavinia Modesti identify spatial and qualitative criteria on which to base the continuation of their brilliant career.