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Transformed estate in Italy oozes creativity
2015-02-09
By Yang Di

GIACOMO Valentini has a deep connection with his hometown of Gallarate in the Italian province of Varese. An ancient estate with faded grandeur was gracefully restored and magically turned into a modern home reflecting the homeowner’s creative spirit.

Only 10 minutes from Malpensa Airport in Milan, the ancient city of Gallarate is full of history and charm.

“While walking around Gallarate one day, I immediately fell in love with this ancient estate. It appeared to be like a small island in the middle of the ocean, a hidden place in the heart of the town that I love the most, a historical treasure to restore and to give back to my hometown,” said Valentini, the founder and designer of Italian luxury lifestyle company Orobianco. “Estates like this are common in towns such as Gallarate because they are the legacies from a history filled with culture and rich families.”

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What he loved most about this property was taking part in the restoration process.

“Not only have I chosen this estate, but also I’ve entirely lived the planning of the space, giving birth to a house that fully represents me 100 percent.”

However, the designer paid much attention to its original structure, keeping it almost entirely intact.

“It is a real historical treasure, so even before the restoration it had its own dignity and charm. I didn’t want to deprive this property of its history and appeal, so I studied, together with my engineers and surveyors, a restoration of the spaces that would preserve the main characteristics of this house and amplify them,” Valentini said.

For example, he has left visible the original stone walls. Even the original houseplant hasn’t been moved.

Valentini surrounded himself with craftsmen and materials he personally chose for such key functions as the marble used for his office, for all the skirting boards and the fireplace. He chose some materials from the Montorfano cave (the same cave that supplied marble to the Duomo of Milan).

What remains is the interior design, some of which is still a work in progress, he says.

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“My home fully reflects me,” Valentini said. “It is, precisely, the material representation of my soul and lifestyle. In it you can sense a peaceful and torn atmosphere at the same time. Peaceful because I’ve conceived this house as a place to take refuge in and relax; torn because I wanted both modern and past to coexist, a result accomplished mainly by mixing materials such as carbon fiber and wood and by creating a visual dialogue made of exchanges and influences between pieces of furniture and materials of different ages and styles.

“The ideas behind the house come from the Apocope of Design, a design movement I created. It is based on balance between different materials, clear cuts and coexistence of past and future. It is a new movement where the completed work itself is an apocope — for example, the end result of a mutation which turns into a new shape. The idea is that of bringing together, breaking and reducing as a function of space and stylistic decisions. It means aiming at the purity and beauty of the form so it is first and foremost aesthetic design, where deprivation occurs for the sake of beauty.”

The Apocope of Design has led to creations in which shapes and lines combine to create ethereal works. The design movement won immediate praise after two presentations at the International Cultural Industries Forum in Chengdu and at the Best Producer Award ceremony in Osaka.

“I’ve based my house on it because this movement fully embodies all my beliefs and in it I’ve put all my know-how as a man and as a designer,” Valentini said.

From this concept, Valentini has created furniture pieces where high-tech carbon fiber contrasts with traditional wood and leather.

“The design movement also marks my return to the design field. In these latest years I’ve been completely absorbed by the fashion system, and it is for me really important to go back where it all started for me,” he said.

When he was in his 20s, Valentini had a company in Sydney specializing in sofas. “Designing furniture links me to a strong passion that I’ve rediscovered after so many years. The icon of this whole concept is Firmitas, a creation I’ve dedicated a lot of space to in my new home and that comes both as armchair and three sitting sofas.”

The home is the perfect union among all elements. “But if I have to choose, I would say that the most important part of this house is my studio, situated outside the main building, in a small dependence,” the designer said.

He’s chosen to use this space as a studio because it is an intimate place, illuminated by the early morning sun that creates an inspiring atmosphere. “It is a magical place for me, a refuge from everything outside,” Valentini said.

“When I want to relax with a book and some good music, I choose my living room that is filled with plenty of design pieces I personally created or chose, objects from all over the world and books.”

The home’s magical mix of modern styles and traditional furniture and objects includes family antiques and pieces he found and restored.

“I tend not to buy new furniture,” he said. “I want all the pieces in my house to have history.”


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