“Books make a room” is an age-old design axiom. Even today, when much of what we read comes to us via pixels, not print, books figure in many an interior scheme. But for true bibliophiles, the decorative arrangement and presentation of their tomes is not so much a concern as where to put them. Like quantities of anything people collect, books can overwhelm a room and, in their space-hogging disarray, read more like tchotchke than treasures.
When architect Paula Krugmeier went apartment hunting in Milan for herself and her husband, she never wavered from her must-haves, which included lots of natural light, a terrace or garden, and “space for 15 linear meters of bookshelves” to accommodate Gianmaria’s library. After inspecting dozens of places, the couple settled on a 1,300-square-foot apartment that had barely been touched since it was built in 1958. “It was a wreck and could only appeal to an architect,” admits Krugmeier.
Delighted with the unit’s location on a quiet street across from a park, Krugmeier set to work with an assist from her friends, locally-based architects Elisa Evaso and Luca Guglieri of Monostudio Associati. “Over several decades of practice in multifamily housing, I honed my skills to make every square foot count,” relates Krugmeier, who was a principal at BAR Architects in San Francisco. “The traditional Milanese plan with its central corridor and cell-like rooms had to go. We tore down three walls, leaving three others intact around the bedrooms and bathrooms. I maximized long, diagonal views and sightlines from front to rear facades by incorporating the hallway into the living area and visually connecting the kitchen with the street-side living area and terrace.”
Eager to help accommodate Gianmaria’s books, Evaso came up with the idea of removing the ceiling in the living room and converting the attic above into a loft library. This new space is accessed via a Bauhaus-inspired staircase, painted a riveting red. In the living room, Krugmeier installed a wall storage system her father-in-law designed decades ago, removing most of the cabinet’s doors to create more bookshelves. Dispersed handsomely throughout the apartment, the collection offers a visual and textural richness to these spaces, forming a pleasing partnership with classic pieces by Gio Ponti and Franco Albini, as well as tribal Turkmen carpets and textiles of Central Asia and beyond, a passion Krugmeier and Gianmaria share. Scanning these rooms, it is hard not to recall the joy Longfellow expressed when he wrote, “The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books.”
Photography by Monica Spezia.
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