Heart and sole

An inim­itable creative pair push the bound­aries of de­sign and friend­ship while trans­form­ing a for­mer shoe fac­tory in Italy.

VOGUE Living Australia - - HOMES - By Sara Dal Zotto Pho­tographed by He­le­nio Bar­betta

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.

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