Italian tiles enjoy pride of place in France
The old town of Béziers in the Languedoc region of France is perched on a hillside looking down over the river Orb which flows languidly through dense green woodland.
At the top of the hill stands the imposing Gothic cathedral of Saint-Nazaire, built in the 14th century on the ruins of its predecessor which was razed by the papal-French troops during the massacre of the Cathars, also known as the Albigensian Crusade.
From the church with its severe grey stone reliefs, a spiral of buildings and houses snakes down the hill as far as the old bridge across the river.
This serpentine of architecture displays the many styles and inspirations that have grown up over the centuries with the spontaneous harmony of shapes that only time can create.
Set in this context, our villa is a simple construction that seeks to blend into the existing, discreet urban fabric rather than offend it with the gestures of celebrity architects. Located on a recent building site, it has a linear, stylistically neomodern appearance.
Consisting of just one floor, it has an impressive height and a play of levels to differentiate between the different functional areas.
Architect Alain Mélinon from Montblanc designed the interior as an open space, an elegant loft with rarefied decoration rendered extremely luminous by the high thermal performance glass panelling that runs along the façade in a number of sections. To further emphasise the dimensions and accentuate the sense of compositional freedom, in the large available spaces he chose to cover the floors with large-format tiles (60×90 cm) from the Metal Gloss collection from Ceramiche Fondovalle. Again with the aim of expanding the sense of visual scale, for the finish he used the Steel Wool colour which, by virtue of the authentic metal powders on the surface and the iridescent effects of reflecting light, creates an impression of fluid, dynamic spatial continuity that is ideal for contrasting aesthetically the static whitish grey (almost black) of the furnishings, many of which were custom designed, and the satin steel of the large electric household appliances. The choice of this compact yet mottled texture adds an element of surprise to the steps protruding from the wall which, framed by a rusty iron structure and illuminated by a spotlight, lead up to the sleeping area with an open-plan study and down to a large work and relaxation area. We now move to the bathroom, to which the architect has devoted particular stylistic attention, considering it – in accordance with today’s lifestyle trends – a nerve centre of the contemporary home environment.
Here he chose another tile from Ceramiche Fondovalle, the Tiger Rock series in the colours Silver Cloud and White (from the Bi+Fusion brand), which perfectly reproduces the coarse, sophisticated texture of real granite. Selected once again in a large size (30×90 cm) to further enhance the appeal and sense of scale of the interior, this honed tile with a velvety touch is used in an accent colour for both the shower floor and the walls. And to round off the project, the tops for the washbasins were also made from the Light4Fusion collection in a White colour and a thickness of just 4.8 mm, promoting a sense of continuity between spaces and functional elements.
The overall effect is uniform and attractive with its overt play of opposing colours, while the use of textured tiles is reminiscent of the expressive power of the stone that plays such an important part in the architectural history of Béziers. In short, the project demonstrates the ability of Italian tiles to integrate perfectly with the genius loci of one of the most historic towns in France.