For an Italian street-wear mogul, Pagani + Di Mauro designed a youthquake of an apartment in a Parma palazzo
Sheila H. Pierce -- Interior Design, 1/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
A doodle of a flower made Matteo Cambi's career bloom. In 1999, when he was just 22, he printed a six-petal daisy on the back of 20 T-shirts and sweatshirts, scrawled the word guru across the front, and gave them away to friends around Italy. Something about the shirts caught on instantly, and Cambi transformed the street cred into the multimillion-dollar casual-wear label Jam Session Group, a favorite of celebrities from Formula 1 race-car driver Fernando Alonso Díaz to actress Valentina Pace. Clearly, all this success called for a super-glamorous new home to match, a sort of personal club with a professional sound system and other deluxe gadgets required for hosting both business-minded public-relations events and the occasional rave.
In Italy, there's often no choice but to shoehorn the future into the past. And that is precisely what Pagani + Di Mauro Architetti did at Cambi's apartment, which takes up the three top floors of a landmarked 17th-century palazzo. Giovanni Pagani and Maurizio di Mauro had to retain the bones while modifying the skin. But short of knocking down the walls, almost everything changed. Pagani + Di Mauro catapulted Cambi's 6,500-square-foot space light years ahead of the antique furniture and 20th-century architecture he'd grown up with—replacing them with the minimalist yet energized style he'd first noticed at the firm's boutiques for the Italian women's clothing chain Pinko.
Pagani + Di Mauro kept most of the original oak floor, now ebonized, but replaced portions of it with anthracite-gray Brazilian granite tile. In the living room, walls painted a lighter gray soften the rigorous chiaroscuro of black leather-covered oversize sofas and ottomans on white shag rugs. Ingo Maurer's white porcelain Porca Miseria chandelier adds an explosion of high-style humor above a dark granite tabletop in the dining room. Seated there, on a high-backed papyrus-covered chair, Pagani explains his ' goal of blending shades of gray, black, and white: "In many ways, we envisioned the apartment as one gigantic photograph. And large-scale prints are, in fact, the first thing you see in the entry. They set the tone."
Standing in the entry, right around the corner from the dining room, is a mysterious brass box. Slim and 3 feet tall, it turns out to house the switches of a system that controls nearly everything in the apartment, from lights to the five plasma screens and 72 stereo speakers—hooking them all up, without a cord in sight, was no easy feat in a country where getting a phone line connected can take weeks. A lot of the state-of-the-art entertainment features come into play across from the living room, in a raised lounge that morphs into a DJ booth when Cambi pushes an ottoman aside and sets up his turntables. (This is no mere hobby. One look at the steel bull statue charging past, and you know Cambi means business.)
"This is a high-tech house, but it needed a soft soul," Di Mauro says. Because Cambi chose to have only one bedroom, ample space was left upstairs for a skylit spa to be that soul. The sauna, the rain showerhead, the Turkish bath, and the granite-clad soaking pool all address issues of physical well-being. Another element has a more symbolic importance: These enormous floral murals, a final variation on the black-and-white theme, are derived from Asian tattoo art—and similar to some that Cambi proudly displays on his own arms and chest. "They represent his persona," Pagani says. They're also a natural reference to the flower that launched his career.