Surprised by woolly creatures in the lobby? You must not know Fabio Novembre, designer of Li Cuncheddi on the Italian island of Sardinia
Donna Paul -- Interior Design, 1/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
It takes chutzpah and imagination to make the humble sheep a signature element for a boutique hotel, but Fabio Novembre did precisely that on Sardinia, at Li Cuncheddi. Covered in cuddly white fake fur, the life-size animals seem to pause, motionless, as they amble through the lobby or nap atop a headboard. The 36-year-old Milanese maverick architect, never one to follow the flock, explains that he was simply paying homage to the shepherding heritage of the Italian island, now a don't-miss stop on the international resort circuit.
The hotel's 1960s architecture didn't interest Novembre, so he let the Mediterranean's overwhelming beauty be his guide. "The space told me what it wanted," he says. "I focused on the sea and the landscape." Li Cuncheddi, meaning "rocks with holes," refers to those found on Sardinia's rugged coastline. The hotel interior is airy and vast, as if the sky had moved inside.
Color coding directs visitors within the space. Yellow horizontal elements, whether the opening above the reception desk or a purely ornamental niche in a curving corridor wall, lead to the elevators and guest rooms. Blue is for public areas. The lobby, for example, is punctuated by angular blue apertures outlined in white neon tubes. Using forced perspective, Novembre made each aperture smaller than the one before—culminating in a 20-foot-long blue-painted tunnel to the sea. At the end of the tunnel, on a direct axis with the hotel's entrance and therefore visible immediately upon arrival, Novembre placed a seductive device. It's a window 7 feet square, bordered in stainless steel and blue neon and revealing a framed tableau of the terrace restaurant and the sea beyond.
Red is the color for communication, aka combined phone booths and computer stations. For the benches and shelves of these cinematic chambers carved out of the wall, Novembre chose red lacquer. The back panels are covered in cotton and framed in neon. On the booths' continuous walls, ceiling, and floor, red grout secures white glass mosaic tile by Bisazza, the Italian manufacturer for which Novembre serves as art director.
Among his provocative, witty, even childlike ideas, a monumental rattan sculpture in the lobby is an abstract profile in the round, deriving from the totem concept. "To fabricate it without any seams was an extremely complicated process," he says. "It had to be made on-site, under my direction." To give the lobby's triple-tiered circular bar a wave motif also presented challenges. In order for the structure to curve where necessary, each centimeter-square glass mosaic tile had to be hand-set into the blue grout. Small details were subject to change at any time in an organic, instinctive process he calls "action designing."
The 70 guest rooms are generally modest in size. To maximize available space, Novembre painted the walls and ceilings pure white and coated the floors in white resin. Within this pristine envelope, however, the design becomes playful, romantic, and sexy—exactly what a resort hotel room should be. Drama matters to Novembre, especially concerning questions of the bed. "It's like a big stage in a small theater," he says. A proscenium simile comes through in draperies hung across the 2-foot-deep mirror-lined headboard. Fabrics introduce color: deep blue cotton for draperies, vibrantly orange Indian silk for bedcovers.
In the bathrooms, their walls and floors clad in white glass mosaic tile, Novembre continued to play with perspective. "I turned small bathrooms into big, multifunctional showers," he says. To incorporate a further touch of humor, he hung shower curtains from stainless-steel rings in the center of the rooms, the material intentionally short enough to reveal bathers' legs and feet. "The shower curtains are the length of a miniskirt," Novembre explains of his choice—once again following intuition where others follow rules.
PROJECT TEAM: LORENZO DE NICOLA; CARLO FORMISANO; ETIENNE THETARD. RATTAN FABRICATION (LOBBY): GERVASONI. SEATING (TERRACE): DRIADE. NEON LIGHTING: OLBIA NEON. GLASS MOSAIC TILE: BISAZZA.