It isn’t always easy practicing restraint when reviving a home, even when one is naturally wired to do less than more. And it takes a willingness to accept a void, an appreciation of absence, almost, to enter gladly into a home that isn’t defined by the usual hallmarks of design. But when apprehended by a sensitive eye and tended with a sure hand, the basics alone – millwork, plaster and stone – can be visually fulfilling and physically comforting.
Marina Maturanza flips houses. But for anyone accustomed to the near rabid updating that constitutes real estate re-shuffling on this side of the pond, the images of the apartment she restored in Genoa might seem ‘before’ rather than ‘after’ pictures. There is a refreshingly unfinished aspect to these interiors, as if they have been suspended between concept and execution. They are pervaded by a sense of anticipation, as if Maturanza might take her design scheme ever so slightly in a different direction. Of course, this is all a captivating illusion, because these spaces are not manifestations of designs deferred but rather the fully realized visions of a designer whose touch is light but sure.
Situated in a house on an exceptionally steep street lined with 19th-century palaces erected for the merchant class, the 2,368-square-foot apartment had not been too terribly altered by the time Maturanza acquired it. The graniglia floors (a kind of terrazzo made of marble chips, pulverized marble, and cement) were in good shape, the original doors and windows were still in place and the rooms had not been radically reconfigured. “When there is important demolition to perform, I usually resort to the help of a structural engineer, but as there was no significant structural work to do, I planned and oversaw everything myself,” quips Maturanza.
Even when Maturanza requires an assist, she prefers to hew as closely to what’s before her as possible. In this case, that meant a conservative restoration of the existing elements, the introduction of a revivifying color palette, and a mingling of minimalist furniture and 19th-century art and objects.
Playing off the rosy hue of the floor in one moderately-scaled space, Maturanza covered the walls and coffered ceiling with Farrow & Ball’s “Radicchio,” a color that telegraphs both a hint of formality and a slightly irreverent, outside-the-box color sense. She boldly underscores the sense of enclosure in a corridor with Farrow & Ball’s “Tanner’s Brown.” One of Maturanza’s most dramatic but felicitous interventions are the repoussé-like wall decorations in the foyer, created by artist Fabio Prati. All enveloping, the panel-like paintings ride appealingly between decorative propriety and an almost Baroque excess.
“When I can, I seek to find a balance between the period of the apartment and a contemporary sensibility,” shares Maturanza. That approach is evident in the furniture she has chosen. A hulking sacristy cupboard dominates one room; an aluminum four poster anchors the primary bedroom. A vintage table painted Farrow & Ball’s “Calke Green” practically blazes against the high-gloss white cabinetry in the kitchen. The primary bath sports sleek ceramic fixtures and a vintage crystal chandelier you’d expect to see anywhere but here. Elsewhere, contemporary pendants – Glo-Ball by Flos, Studio Job’s Paper Chandelier from Moooi – contrast discreetly with the historic profile of the rooms.
Although arguably austere to some eyes, these spaces are too lively in their details and colors to be deemed truly minimalist, too expressive to be characterized as downright conceptual. There’s a wonderful moody drama to the dark corridor that forms the spine of the apartment, a critter-like quality to the herd of houseplants grouped below a window in mirrored cubes. There is, in short, grace in the straightforward and unadorned.
Photography by Fabio Lombrizi.
For more like this Genoa apartment, be sure to check out the subtle exuberance of this apartment in Italy.
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