A Garage in Milan’s Chinatown Gets a Chic Loft Update
With exquisite attention to detail, Italian firm Tomo Architects retooled a former auto repair garage in Milan’s trendy Chinatown into a fashionable home base for a luxury goods entrepreneur.
The two-story brick building, that dates back to the 1800s, had good bones, but all the walls and ceiling had been bafflingly covered up with white boards for the past few decades and the wooden ceiling was starting to deteriorate. The design team, led by company founder Tommaso Fantoni, peeled back construction layers to expose beautiful brick archways that ended up informing the entire plan.
“All edges are rounded where possible, including one of the casted concrete walls, to give fluidity to all movements, to the touch, and to the eye,” explained Fantoni. Even the master bed with its rounded-corner platform was given a custom semi-circular headboard to fit into one of the brick arches.
Though it has only two bedrooms, with 3,200 square feet, the area has been well apportioned for the owner’s large gatherings. “It’s a great space for parties,” Fantoni told Wallpaper. “They frequently get a hundred people here.”
The common rooms include the kitchen and dining room, as well as a spacious living room with a built-in set of tiered seating in flowing curves. There are also extra sitting rooms, one on the main level and one upstairs overlooking the entertaining area below.
Fantoni took a personal interest in creating a customized space for the owner, who is also a sailing champion. “I devised everything down to the toilet paper holder,” he said.
Using a materials palette of primarily wood, iron, brick, and concrete, Fantoni created special features like a circular staircase, enclosed in a rounded concrete stairwell, with boat propeller-inspired oak stair treads.
The floors were redone in wide oak planks, with gaps blackened to mimic the look of a sailing vessel deck.
The master bath is clad in soot-gray slate from Liguria, a favorite sailing haunt of the owner, a color choice that also offers a soothing serenity to the room.
“It’s the quality of the design and the details that appeals to me,” the architect said. “The simplest things are always the most beautiful.”
Attention to those types of details was bred into Frantoni. Architecture and design were the bread and butter of his childhood as the grandson of famous architect and furniture designer Osvaldo Borsani, and the son of accomplished designers Valeria Fantoni-Borsani and Marco Fantoni. Tommaso’s own creative acumen landed him a decade-long career with Noman Foster’s New York branch of Foster + Partners, after which he found his own studio in 2015.
In fact, Frantoni unwittingly brought in aspects from his heritage to this garage restoration. The hollowed-out half-moon shapes that function as handles on the many sliding doors in the residence came out of his familial subconscious. “It’s exactly the same half-moon as in the master bedroom in the Borsani house,” he said. “But I had no idea until after I had completed this project and I opened up my grandfather’s house this spring. Some things just come to you.”