Objects of affection
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 11/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Massimo Barracca knows how to spot a rare find. The owner of Miami gallery Senzatempo, he has long been considered one of the world's 10 leading experts on collectible watches. Then, more than a decade ago, he and business partner Matthew Bain began expanding their inventory to include unique furniture, decorative objects, and artwork. A few are displayed at Senzatempo, in South Beach. But the majority are kept in a 1926 military warehouse in downtown Miami.
Barracca and Bain originally purchased the 40,000-square-foot building simply for storage. Eventually, however, they decided that the industrial-chic loft space would make an ideal complement to their accumulating goods from Europe and both Americas, all available for rent as well as sale.
After minimal renovation, the partners opened by appointment only. The warehouse's original brick walls, 1920's skylights, and concrete floors still remain—though one 7,000-square-foot loft, known as the daylight studio, underwent a more substantial renovation, receiving a coat of white paint over its brick walls and a floor of pine laid over the concrete.
Sun-drenched and 7,000 square feet, the daylight studio features Barracca's most important pieces: an orange Gio Ponti lounge chair, several Verner Panton tufted-wool rugs, a 1967 Andrea Branzi–designed Superonda red vinyl-covered sofa, grasshopperlike blond maple Carlo Graffi chairs from the 1940's, and a 1930's prototype aluminum chair, to name a few. Achille Castiglioni's cow sculpture, covered in black-and-white paper, resides here as well. Commissioned by Cassina in 1975, the one-of-a-kind bovine has made cameos in the music videos and ad campaigns frequently shot here.
A second 7,000-square-foot space, designated the storage loft, holds out-of-the-ordinary objects as well as common collector's items. Charles and Ray Eames's Baltic birch elliptical cocktail table from the 1950's and Geoffrey Harcourt's 1973 Cleopatra red chaise stand alongside a 1940's aluminum fire engine bought from an amusement park in upstate New York.
Arranged on the warehouse's concrete floor are two groupings of Bruno Contenotte's 1970's disco-floor tiles, made of acrylic squares sandwiching a colored gelatinlike substance. "The tiles are amazing—their appearance is always changing," says Barracca. He purchased 3,500 square feet of the tiles, which used to cover the entire Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, eight years ago. Recently, he sold several of them to the W New York–Times Square hotel.