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It was two years ago when Italian architect and sculptor, Vincenzo de Cotiis and his wife,discovered their 18th-century palazzo apartment in the old neighbourhood of Corso Magenta. Prepare to be knock out by Cotiis’s apartment decoration.
Magenta traditionally attracted nobility and has long been known for its small artisan workshops. It feels like an oasis, just 10 minutes from the touristy centre of the Duomo. The palazzo stands behind discreet gates on a quiet street, its wide, soaring stairwell leading from the central courtyard to de Cotiis’s first-floor home.
If the designer attributes his love of art and architecture to his mother’s impeccable taste, then her influence is apparent in their home in the heart of Milan.
Originally from the north of Italy, de Cotiis set up his design practice more than 20 years ago and has become known for the interiors he creates for high-end stores such as Excelsior Milano and Antonia, as well as his sculpting and, more recently, a limited-edition furniture collection.
The 300-square-metre apartment — with its grandly proportioned, interconnecting rooms, high ceilings and rich parquetry floors — is awash with the most glorious natural sunlight that floods every room from the street-side balcony back to the courtyard.
What was beneath, in a wonderfully imperfect, worn state, was far more incredible,” says de Cotiis. “Mostly I wanted to preserve the history and positive atmosphere that already existed here. The idea was to maintain its character, but uncover the original paint colours, the ceiling and especially the light. I then worked out what needed my intervention in a contemporary way.”
To that end, each room reveals beautifully crumbling plaster and gently vaulted ceilings with original mouldings in an evocative state of disrepair, all in soft colours bleached by decades of sunlight. The effect is at once warm and inviting; it feels lived-in but luxurious — a trademark style for the designer, whose work reflects his love of surface texture, organic forms and light.
The interiors were treated with such clever devices as a deep, protruding brass skirting to reflect the light upwards; the apartment proved the ideal canvas for de Cotiis to display his own furniture designs and artworks, which make up the Progetto Domestico collection.
The room-sized, resin-topped platforms that feature in both his bedroom and the second living/library room add a great sense of drama. “It’s like capsizing the ceiling and creating a fresco on the floor,” he says. De Cotiis created a continual flow by removing all the doors within the apartment. “I like things to be really open,” he says. “This place has a lot of intimate corners, so it doesn’t need doors. Also, I love disorder, but a calculated, curated disorder, which at the same time creates a sense of order.”
His love of imperfection shows in his design work too, with a deft use of reclaimed, repurposed materials. Aged wood and a glowing patina intrigue on a chair in the mirrored dressing room he shares with his wife, while the rough surface of old fibreglass appears precious on a long, low cabinet in the dining room, which sits comfortably alongside his organically shaped, highly polished dining table and mismatched chairs.
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