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The Italian Job

By mixing century-old interior details with of-the-moment furniture and art, rising architect Luca Bombassei has brought the concept of the Milanese apartment into the 21st century.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Italian architect Luca Bombassei has shaken up the concept of the classic Milanese apartment, starting with his own home. Located on the edge of Milan's chic Quadrilatero d'Oro area, the space mixes century-old architectural details with contemporary furniture and provocative art. But moving in wasn't simply a matter of uncrating modern accoutrements. The 44-year-old Bombassei, a founder of the firm Blast, first had to peel back layers of time (and undo misguided design decisions) to reveal the building's original, glorious shell.

"It was a fashion showroom before, and the company completely destroyed it with renovations," says Bombassei, who bought the 2,150-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in 2008. "It was ostentatious, very eighties, with pink marble everywhere." So he gutted it, preserving moldings and plasterwork where possible. Then he removed the floors, a dizzying expanse of long teak strips, and imported artfully worn oak boards from a building he was working on in Prague. Installed in a tidy herringbone pattern, the planks are a seamless triumph.

Next, to give the blank canvas some edge, he focused on creating contrast. In his bedroom, two asymmetrical bull-hide rugs, a curvy Arne Jacobsen Egg chair, and an expansive velvet bed of Bombassei's own design soften the hard lines of the flooring. In the kitchen, he played with light and dark, juxtaposing burnished metal cabinets against the pristine white walls; in his dining room, he mixed the beautifully aged with the brand-new. A twist on the classic Venetian glass chandelier—in a metallic finish—hangs above an Art Deco table and rigorously geometric chairs by Konstantin Grcic.

The one consistent element of the apartment is Bombassei's eclectic art collection—photographs, paintings, and sculptures are scattered in every nook (including the bathroom). "I choose artists who are at the beginnings of their careers and give them support," he says, aware that some investments (pieces by Bruna Esposito, Grazia Toderi, and Jonathan Monk) will work out better than others. "Some become famous, and some disappear, but I love all of them regardless."

The apartment also serves as a showcase for Blast, which specializes in contemporary projects in a country famous for its architectural traditions. Citing boutiques for the Italian furniture company Skitsch and research labs at the Jean Nouvel-designed Kilometro Rosso, Bombassei says his professional and domestic lives run on the same theme: "the contamination and crossover between the contemporary and the antique." And by the looks of the Milan jewel he calls home, it's a balance that works.

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To make the library the focus of the home office, Bombassei created a wall-mounted shelving unit that disappears once loaded horizontally with his collection.

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