Zen master

Home­owner Dario Vi­tale's pas­sion for Eastern phi­los­o­phy guided the sen­si­tive restora­tion of this 1930s of­fice space in Mi­lan


Home­owner Dario Vi­tale’s pas­sion for Eastern phi­los­o­phy guided the sen­si­tive restora­tion of this 1930s of­fice space in Mi­lan

Op­po­site Home­owner Dario Vi­tale in his living room. The green rug is from Al­berto Levi Gallery, while the dec­o­ra­tive Ja­panese screen and rustic din­ing ta­ble and chairs are all vin­tage pieces. Above the ta­ble hangs the string of ‘Light My Ta­ble’ bulbs by Stu­diomie Stock­ist de­tails on p213 ➤

with it right away, but I found it hard to see its po­ten­tial,’ says Dario Vi­tale of the 170-square-me­tre for­mer in­sur­ance of­fice he bought in the up­mar­ket Porta Ro­mana dis­trict of Mi­lan. The ini­tial ex­cite­ment that Dario had felt af­ter spot­ting the ‘for sale’ sign on the beau­ti­ful 1930s build­ing he passed every day on his way to work was dented when he stepped in­side to dis­cover linoleum floors, a false ceil­ing and harsh neon light­ing. He needn’t have been con­cerned, though – this build­ing’s orig­i­nal fea­tures, from pris­tine par­quet floors and dec­o­ra­tive bath­room tiles to glo­ri­ously high cor­niced ceil­ings, were wait­ing pa­tiently to be re­dis­cov­ered.

This is an apart­ment with his­tory – it was once home to the cel­e­brated Ital­ian play­wright Dario Fo – and, thanks to a chance en­counter with the pre­vi­ous owner, Dario was able to fully imag­ine its splen­dour. In­spired, he started to recre­ate that grandeur, be­gin­ning a year-long ren­o­va­tion with the light­est of touches.

To­day, the flat is bright and spare, sparsely dec­o­rated with ob­jects se­lected for sen­ti­men­tal rea­sons and dis­played with a min­i­mal­ist’s re­straint. ‘I have al­ways been fas­ci­nated by two things: the aes­thet­ics of monas­tic aus­ter­ity and Eastern philoso­phies,’ ex­plains Dario. ‘This is why I have or­nate Ja­panese screens, as well as paint­ings and pho­to­graphs by Gandhi.’ The in­flu­ence of Eastern cul­ture sits com­fort­ably be­side more rustic el­e­ments, such as the large cherry wood din­ing ta­ble lit from above by the school fete-style ‘Light My Ta­ble’ string of bulbs by Bel­gian de­sign firm Stu­diomie, as well as clas­sic 1950s de­signs by Ital­ian light­ing firm Stil­novo. The key to blend­ing these dif­fer­ent eras and ideas is keep­ing ev­ery­thing else sim­ple. The neu­tral colour of the walls cre­ates a calm, mu­seum-like back­drop that un­der­lines the im­por­tance of the few dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments on dis­play.

The apart­ment’s serene look is bro­ken up only by splashes of green – the rug in the din­ing area re­sem­bles a per­fectly tended lawn, while im­ages of fo­liage play across Dario’s Ja­panese screens, and ferns and ar­range­ments of dried flow­ers are dot­ted art­fully through­out the space. It is not just an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the nat­u­ral world that led to this pal­ette choice. ‘As a kid, I read in a news­pa­per that not many peo­ple choose green for their homes be­cause it’s a dif­fi­cult colour – it’s risky, but one that fas­ci­nates in­tel­li­gent peo­ple. Since then, the shade has be­come a sort of ob­ses­sion of mine.’

How does Dario feel about his home now that he has suc­cess­fully un­cov­ered its many con­cealed charms? ‘It’s a house. That is all. It ful­fils real, shared and prim­i­tive needs: there’s a living room, a kitchen, a din­ing room, a bed­room, two bath­rooms, a guest room,’ he replies, us­ing his fingers to count out the prac­ti­cal mer­its. It’s a typ­i­cally zen an­swer, but one that un­der­plays Dario’s part in the his­tory of this apart­ment.


Hall­way Wall-mounted vin­tage lamps by Artemide are placed above a stack of well-trav­elled suit­cases and trunks Living room The strik­ing chan­de­lier is a de­sign by Stil­novo from the 1950s – the sofa and cor­ner ta­ble are also orig­i­nals from the same era. The pieces on the ta­ble are from Mi­lan-based Sto­ries of Italy, which sells Ital­ian crafts Stock­ist de­tails on p213 ➤

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