Architect: Piero Lissoni
Ask a child to draw a house and you can expect a rectangle dotted with windows, doors, and a chimney stack with gray Crayola smoke circling out of it. That rudimentary design was where Piero Lissoni, cofounder of the Italian firm Lissoni Associati, began when conceiving his private Tuscan retreat. Spread across two floors, the simple concrete structure looms on a green hilltop like a massive Monopoly piece finished with a sloping roof and a central chimney.
Despite the space's humble exterior, its cleverness is apparent once inside. The main floor opens onto an airy central living area that looks to a lofted workspace above, punctuated by a suspended, zigzagging staircase made of black-lacquered steel that calls to mind the simple squiggles you made at the kindergarten craft table.
A glass display case stocked with antique pottery separates the living room from the kitchen while allowing light to filter in from two back-facing windows, which offer sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and the covered outdoor entertaining area.
The prominent chimney is the focal point of the kitchen, with a central two-way fireplace that faces the dining area on one side and the terrace on the other.
To account for the region's chilly winters, Lissoni built the house with armored concrete walls and an automated climate-control system (which can be adjusted remotely from his estate in Milan). Our favorite design element, however, is best appreciated in the summer: a raised granite lap pool with infinity edges that slice razorlike through the grassy landscaping. That level of austerity could easily translate to aloofness in the hands of another architect, but Lissoni's addition of antique furnishings—like vintage carpets and African art objects—create an inviting, lived-in look.
—Blair Pfander, follow her @blairpfander
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