Designer and producer: a successful partnership
Maria Giulia Zunino
Braglia Ceramiche Di Braglia Enrico & C. Sas
“The most difficult thing was the choice of the tiling for the terraces,” were Antonietta Ottanelli’s first words when talking about this project. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it, trying to decide between the various possibilities, but nothing really convinced me. In the end my meeting with Fioranese solved everything.”
The project in question is a house in Piombino, which was originally built in the 1970s by an architect who had designed a number of high-quality buildings in the area but which had long been left uninhabited. Having decided to renovate and restore the house, the owner assigned the project to the architectural practice Ottanelli e Manetti.
“The house has been built in a wonderful position,” continued Antonietta Ottanelli. “It looks directly onto the sea and offers an unparalleled view of the Tuscan archipelago – Elba is right opposite. Over the years the original design of the house has remained unchanged including the interior furnishings, full of interesting details. I would have considered it a crime to change their character. The interior didn’t need much work doing on it: the stoneware tiled floor with relief decorations was in an excellent state. I only modified one bathroom to adapt it to today’s needs. The tiling on the terraces, however, had been damaged by time and salt water.”
The house is a global project, I would even dare to suggest in the style of Gio Ponti for its ability to combine decoration with architecture and choice of ceramics. “Those were my first thoughts too,” she confessed. “So much so that I allowed myself the briefest of holidays in Sorrento in the hotel designed by him to remind myself.”
A high degree of sensitivity is required when dealing with a building of this kind, whose position has meant it had restrictions imposed on it by the Architectural Heritage Office requiring the colour of the building works to be changed from the original white to beige so that it would blend more harmoniously with its surroundings.
The terraces create an interesting and striking dynamic of interactions between the different levels. They widen into habitable spaces, then narrow again followed by stairs and connecting passages leading from the lounge to the small garden. The metal parapet railings, so unusual anyway, and the unexpected appearance, at their base, of a perimeter brick insertion (left as they are) further increase the fascination of the whole.
Next to the decision to make an opening in the brick balustrade, replaced by glass to give the lounge a view onto the sea, attention has been concentrated, in this careful restoration, on the external tiling.
As Antonietta Ottanelli explained, “I was looking for a ceramic material which matched the style of the house, the closest being double-fired tiles which I disregarded because they are never suitable for outdoor use, let alone when it’s by the sea. Fioranese had something for me though. I was fortunate. The texture of their porcelain stoneware is special. These tiles are not shiny and they do not create a phoney, plasticky effect: the decoration I chose is new.”
What she had found was the porcelain tiles from the EVO Cementine collection, the result of the collaboration between Fioranese and the designer Silvia Stanzani. Inspired by traditional concrete tiles, they are embellished by graphics with a strong visual, almost optical, impact. It is a technological and contemporary product while still evoking an impression of the past.
Her choice of tiles has concentrated on versions 4 and 5. On the lower level EVO 4 is able to establish a visual dialogue with the brick surrounds thanks to a pattern characterised by a clear, continuous and sinuous white band, serving to delineate the background tones of greys and beiges. On the upper level EVO 5 is vibrant in the rhythms established by the veining of the small leaves laid out in parallel black and white lines on a beige background, creating almost a two-tone herringbone pattern that connects with the original black tables with ceramic tops and produces an unusual dotted effect from a distance.
The solution proved perfect, to the satisfaction of all concerned.
Fioranese, Cementine EVO
versions 4 and 5
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0.05%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): 0.03
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): 1