Renovating a house in Venice is not for the faint of heart. Since the city is built on narrow canals, materials have to be delivered on boats. But the waterways are hard to navigate and the vessels often turn up late. Yet when Massimo Adario, an architect based in Rome, bought a 15th-century villa in Sestiere Castello, he set about updating it. He wanted to look out on the water traffic from a house that felt fresh.
In this he was inspired by another Italian architect, Carlo Scarpa. In 1964 Scarpa had renovated the Museo Castelvecchio, housed in a medieval castle in Verona. He began by stripping the interior back to its original brick and plaster. In their plainness and austerity, these surfaces provided an ideal backdrop for the flourishes which Scarpa added, including a floating staircase.
As in the museum, the light-soaked interior of Adario’s Venetian house, with its soaring entryways and large wooden windows, felt surprisingly modern. The walls, which were made of marmorino, a traditional Venetian plaster made of marble dust, soap and beeswax, had never been touched. He left them alone, and focused instead on stripping away the fake plaster ceiling, exposing the rugged wooden beams underneath.
A floating staircase, gracefully framed by an entry into the living room, replicates the one found in Castelvecchio. The Palladiana marble floor is another marriage of old and new. It was inspired by a mosaic by Alighiero Boetti, an Italian conceptual artist, which has a central motif based on the arches found in Islamic architecture around the Mediterranean.
In the kitchen Adario remade the window in warm brass, which will age in Venice’s salty sea air. Then he added another Scarpa reference – Fior di Lotus lamps, designed for the Italian lighting company Flos by Scarpa’s son Tobia and his wife Afra. Like the voluminous Cameleonda sofa designed by Mario Bellini for B&B Italia, a furniture brand, they feel timeless. “I always try to find my own way,” says Adario. “I never try to follow what is trendy at the moment.”