Design history, architecture and a deep love for textiles converge in this early 1900s apartment in Trieste, a northern Italian maritime gateway city with significant Austro-Hungarian and Slovenian influences. Andrea Marcante and Adelaide Testa were approached by a couple living in Munich who wanted to split their lives between Germany and Italy. “She was born in Trieste and moved to Munich over 30 years ago to work with premium textiles, while he is an artist and a Munich native,” explains the design and architecture duo behind Marcante Testa.
The client’s strong links to textiles was the starting point for the architects who looked to Anita Pittoni (1901-1982), the unsung textile artist and Trieste native. “Anita Pittoni was a very creative personality,” explain Andrea and Adelaide. “She left her mark in the textile field linked to architecture — her creations are partly preserved in the Civic Museum of Homeland History, and her publishing house, Lo Zibaldone, promoted the culture of Trieste and Italy.” With strong links to fashion, interiors and furniture, Pittoni’s creations were often featured by Gio Ponti on the pages of Domus in the 1930s — the holy grail and an unrivalled record of architecture and design.
With heritage bones of the existing property no longer holding any traces of the original construction, Marcante Testa set out to improve the flow of the 180sqm footprint via internal circulation delivering dual connections of the rooms to the original corridor and each other.
Bespoke textiles are the cornerstone material seen throughout the apartment, brought into an architectural dimension thanks to Marcante Testa’s collaboration with Aleksandra Gaca, with the textiles produced at the famed TextielMuseum in Tilburg. Fabric panel screens divide the living spaces, the bedroom features a textile datum acting as a belt around the room’s perimeter, fabric-covered wardrobe doors can be seen in the dressing room, and there are even textile covers dressing the radiators in the living room.
“As theorized by Anita Pittoni, the project becomes perceptible and comprehensible not only through the sense of sight but also by touch, triggering direct contact between work and maker, work and user,” elaborate Andrea and Adelaide.
References to the past continue via the wallpaper from Rasch Contract, based on an original Bauhaus design, handles by Walter Gropius, lamps by Adolf Loos produced by Woka Lamps Vienna, and various pieces by Eileen Grey courtesy of ClassiCon.
The apartment’s ceilings, a key area of research for Marcante Testa as one of the most neglected features of a home, have all been specially designed too, calling into play 1920s works by Josef Hoffmann. “This is the first project in which we have experimented with our decorative research on every ceiling in the house. We believe the ceiling is a highly symbolic space,” explain Andrea and Adelaide, referencing an article by the American psychoanalyst James Hillman stating that “happiness begins in the ceilings”.
“To convince the clients about the ceiling frames, we had to make one at our expense to show them the final effect,” confesses the pair. “Afterwards, they appreciated it, allowing us to proceed with all other rooms.”
In true Marcante Testa style, this interior doesn’t just reflect the past but remains balanced through various contemporary dimensions. The sober, monochromatic colours of the living and kitchen spaces give way to pastel tones in the bathroom and bedrooms. Unexpected chromatic accents introduced via custom furnishings and blue curtain rods deliver visual continuity while inserting elements of “intentional discontinuity”.
“We love that this house tells the story of a city and of the still underestimated extraordinary female figures linked to textile design, such as Anita Pittoni, Gegia Bronzini and Maria Lai,” conclude Andrea and Adelaide. Under their meticulous supervision, this home brings together pathways of research and human endeavour shared by multiple people throughout design history while remaining firmly projected into the future.
[Images courtesy of Marcante Testa. Photography by Carola Ripamonti.]