The Milan-based architect Piero Lissoni is known for his luxurious minimalism: Witness the former music school in Amsterdam he transformed into a sexy hotel, or the atmospheric showrooms for Benetton, Boffi, and other Italian brands he has fashioned around the world. But Lissoni says he approached the design of a house in the southwest corner of Tuscany “like a child” rather than like an architect. With its simple rectangular shape, topped by a gabled roof with a chimney at one end, the two-story villa resembles nothing so much as a five-year-old’s drawing.
In the living area, the sofa by Living Divani and the glass-and-metal shelving unit by Porro were both designed by Lissoni; the white metal chairs are by Jasper Morrison for Cappellini, the floor lamp is by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, and the shelves are filled with heirlooms, antiques-store finds, and tableware from Ikea.
That childlike approach belies Lissoni’s canny and subtle craftsmanship. The expansive windows, he points out, are precisely positioned to take advantage of the surrounding landscape; one tall, vertical window spans the two floors. “Nature is the best TV screen,” he says. “Every minute, something happens. You might be sitting at the desk in the upstairs office and look up to see a herd of deer run past. Half an hour later, you might see foxes or wild boars.”
In the office area on the second floor, the vintage furnishings include a carpenter’s table purchased in Tuscany and a Charles and Ray Eames chair.
The house is on protected land in a region called Maremma, which Lissoni describes as “a wild, lost paradise.” Just south of Grosseto, a handsome walled city with a profusion of medieval architecture, the property is nestled between two hills—climb one of them, and you can see the Tyrrhenian Sea a few miles to the west. Roses and apple trees are planted close to the house; nearby are vineyards, olive farms, and fields dotted with sheep and goats. In the preservation area, new buildings are allowed only if they replace existing structures. The villa, which was completed in 2012, has the same footprint as a 1950s house that Lissoni tore down.
In the master bedroom, the bed and bedside table are Lissoni designs, for Living Divani and Porro, respectively.
Tuscany is mild in every season, so the house is used on weekends and holidays throughout the year. An outer shell is made of thin concrete, which ensures that the building stays comfortable without heating or air-conditioning. The inside layer is of plasterboard. (Lissoni, a music lover, praises the house’s acoustics; Debussy and Jimi Hendrix sound equally good, he says.) Interior walls are kept to a minimum.
In the living area of a weekend house in southwestern Tuscany designed by the Milan-based architect Piero Lissoni, the midcentury T chair is by William Katavolos, Douglas Kelley, and Ross Littell for Laverne International; the bench is by Lissoni, the patchwork rug is by Golran, and the flooring is bleached oak.
The lower floor’s living area, dining area, and kitchen gently flow into one another. A glass cabinet that Lissoni designed for Porro forms a transparent divider and is stocked with a wide-ranging collection of glassware and porcelain—some pieces were inherited from a great-grandmother, some were found at flea markets throughout Italy, and others were purchased at Ikea. “The richness is in the ensemble,” he says. “When you put them all together, they become magical.”
In the kitchen, the chairs are by James Irvine for Cappellini, and the Boffi vent hood is covered in glazed ceramic tiles by Domenico Mori.
Lissoni, who has designed furniture for Knoll, Living Divani, Cassina, Boffi, Kartell, and Glas Italia, among other brands, tried to keep his own creations to a minimum here. “When I plan a house, I don’t like to put too many of my things in it,” he says. “Can you imagine? It would be so boring.” Instead, there are chairs by Gio Ponti and Le Corbusier, Indian antiques, African artifacts, and a rug made from fragments of vintage Oriental rugs stitched together. That patchwork aesthetic extends to the terrace, where a table custom made from salvaged floor tiles looks out over the hills.
The upper floor consists of a master bedroom, a bathroom, a library, and an office furnished solely with a long table found in a junk shop. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom have a narrow balcony—with no railing. “I didn’t like the idea of interfering with the view,” he says. What’s more, there are no guest rooms. “The house is public during the day and private at night,” Lissoni explains. “Guests arrive, relax, eat, and in the evening they leave. The area is filled with beautiful bed-and-breakfasts.”
The kitchen’s stainless steel sink is a prototype of the one Lissoni designed for Boffi’s Aprile collection, and the countertops are melamine.
Not far from the house is a saltwater infinity pool—Lissoni prefers it to the nearby ocean, where the beaches are too crowded. But for the architect, water also plays a symbolic role. “It changes our relationship to space,” he says. “It creates a reflection and adds an element of sensuality. In Japan, water symbolizes life. You welcome someone to your home by placing a glass of water on the floor. So I say hello to everyone with water.” The pool is lined with local basalt, which makes the water “perfectly transparent—not fake blue,” he says. “It’s like a natural lake in a volcanic area.”
The infinity pool has a surround of Salvatori lava stone, and the gazebo of iroko wood has a bamboo-trellis ceiling.
The house, jokes Lissoni, is like a vampire: “It takes away your energy. You might be sitting on one of the sofas on the terrace looking at the view, and you realize the whole morning has passed. But you never feel that you’ve lost time. Instead, you sense that you’re in a perfect place.”
A sitting area in the library overlooks the Maremma parkland; the Le Corbusier chairs are from Cassina, and the rug is by Golran.
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This story was originally published in Elle Decor Italy and appears in the January/February 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.