Ex oriente Lux

A single-family house with a British-style garden and brick facade, just a few steps from the Royal Palace in Monza, has been reconfigured by Icona Architetti Associati to permanently house the owner couple who had hitherto used it mainly as a back-up residence between more or less long periods of work spent in the Far East. The characteristic feature of the house is that it possesses a single and main overlooking the charming English garden placed in a very deep courtyard. The residence therefore presents itself as a cube on three levels that takes light solely from the main facade and from a skylight cut into the roof, which like a blade crosses the volume zenithally, causing light to fall from above into the different rooms. The client's desires were to change the atmosphere of the house by reshaping it to new requirements: to make it more comfortable, more modern, and above all brighter, drawing on all architectural devices to try to encapsulate the maximum possibility of natural light. In contrast, the existing volumetric constraints were complicated by the request not to intervene in the position of the walls and the internal distribution. The concept thus focused on the moodboard, going molecularly to identify the most sensitive points and organizing the elements and tactics that could amplify the amount of natural light, making the spaces more welcoming. The house was then emptied of furniture, furnishings, and all pleonastic decorations that interfered with the already sparse lighting conditions. Extremely light dominants were chosen in the colors of the upholstery and finishes, creating a white box that was then filled with selected pieces of international design and contemporary and exotic works of art, paying extreme attention to spacing and rarefaction of the furnishings, and this was done to leave as much space as possible for the light to diffuse and reverberate. On the ground floor, a large designed bookcase acts as a filter between the entrance and the living room. The bookcase is, like the floor, made of a light oak painted a shade of gray, also very light. Designed for the occasion, interlocking and with a slender and light structure, almost to be dematerialized, the bookcase is repeated with a similar module on the top floor, in the study. The presence of oriental culture, dear to the clients, emerges gracefully and quietly in very measured yet constant choices, for example in the use of rounded forms in almost all the furniture in the house: in the table with a conical base and in the set of vintage super-lighting units in the living room, which let light slip along their curved volumes. But also, in the entrance hall, in GiĆ² Ponti's oval armchair and the cerulean custom-designed console table, above which stands Emilio Tadini's mysterious painting. On the staircase, the sky-blue Japanese print wallpaper accompanies the ascent to the upper floors: the walls produce bright vibrations, offset in their glow by the large dark painting by Vermi, whose gold leaf inserts are allusively repeated on the very light satin brass railing, a material also present in numerous other details. The bedroom is significantly characterized by the striking green silk wallpaper and bedside table, a piece of traditional Oriental art. On the top floor, the study is a corner of tranquility and plenitude, with large windows screened by Venetian blinds overlooking the terrace, and with the workspace dominated by the understated Cappellini desk. In the overall management of the project, the solutions of rarefaction, selection, and desaturation of the rooms succeeded in achieving the initial objective: to give brightness and comfort to a habitat that was totally lacking in it. The subtle, delicate and never blatant Asian nuance of the interiors, brought by the clients' personal history and taste, is perceptible sometimes with coy mentions, sometimes with more explicit quotations, but always mediated and rearticulated through a rigorous and contemporary lexicon. It is said that light comes from the East since that is where the sun rises: perhaps it is the photons of that exotic light that have been captured and captured by the wisdom of Icona, to shine within the spaces of this small bourgeois residence, in the quiet of Monza.