Heart and sole
An inimitable creative pair push the boundaries of design and friendship while transforming a former shoe factory in Italy.
If it weren’t for a shared love of ’60s music and ’50s furniture, fashion photographer Andrea Maino and his friend, interior architect Giacomo Totti, might not have survived their otherwise impassioned collaboration in northeast Italy. The old journey-destination adage is infinitely more true for creative souls, so when Maino chose his good friend Totti to help him transform an old shoe factory into his home, he ensured a roller coaster ride. Says Totti: “Andrea and I chose all the furnishings and artworks together, and every single piece was a motive for endless dialogues and comparisons, sometimes even arguments.” Maino knew this place was worth fighting for. Built around 1910, it had been restored by a local architect in the ’50s and exemplifies the retroindustrial aesthetic that characterises Maino’s personal taste. “I’ve been observing this factory for a long time,” he says. “I knew it had been restored and that its interiors were wonderful.” After years of negotiations with the previous owners, he was allowed to transform a portion of it into his home and art studio. He’s done more than that, as it happens. “It’s now also a studio for other creative people; the entire former shoe factory is very lively,” he says. “We aim to make it the creative hub of the area.” Indeed, the offbeat backdrop establishes a creative environment in itself, partly fuelled by the pair’s mutual ideas on mid-century culture and contemporary art, partly by their distinct ones.
“The mood of the house was played on contrasts,” says Totti. “It had to be a dialogue between my taste and Andrea’s, as he has a more harsh and formal aesthetic criteria than me and loves the dark side of things. My thought was to preserve this dark mood and at the same time to hide it with a sequence of unconventional colours and combinations.”
The area that encompasses Maino’s home runs over two levels and is made up of the former factory owner’s apartment plus two other rooms that were previously part of the factory itself. On the ground floor is a large atrium-cum-lounge area from which ascends an imposing marble staircase. Three French doors with leaded glass — the frames as wavy as the lead’s fish-shaped patterns — open onto Maino’s studio, which he uses for both photographic work and to host events, openings and concerts. Upstairs is all his own, a living and sleeping area that is no less steadfast in its singularity.
“It all aimed at creating a sense of exoticism, with references to psychedelia, which we both love,” says Totti. “The mix of the artworks and objects were at the same time in dialogue and in contrast with each other and with the environment.” There’s a predominance here of Italian ’50s design, space-age shapes on layers of bold rugs, contemporary artworks, exotic plants and “flowers everywhere”. Original structural elements enhance the eccentricity of the decor. Bohemian French windows are left with the patina of peeling paint, pink marble skirtings and architraves rise splendidly from marble tiled floors. Minimal renovations include a bathroom transformed into a walk-in wardrobe, and two of the factory’s archive rooms, now the kitchen and utility space. The light touch of the restoration honours the vintage and soul of the place.
Maino and Totti were keen to showcase local artists; pieces by Lino Bettanin, Alberto Caregnato, Gian Battista Sperotto and Alessandro Trentin can all be found here. But their insatiable appetite for design also saw the pair hunt out highly sought-after pieces by such great masters as Lucio Fontana and Gio Ponti, as well as cult designs signed by Nanda Vigo, Angelo Lelli, Carlo Hauner and Giuseppe Pagano, to name a few.
A collaborative curation verging on obsessive, the collective contents of this artfully industrial home and studio represent the conflict and ultimate harmony that happens when great tastes collide.