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Modernista - Spring/Summer 2005

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Domus Italiana Moderna: On Belle Isle
Simona Ciancetta's residential version of her showroom, Via Solferino

Text by Scott Hankes / Photos by Dan Forer

Simona Ciancetta is the owner of Via Solferino in the Miami Design District, a furniture showroom filled with innovative contemporary design. Although this Italian has a natural affinity for Italian designers, lately she has been drawn to the talent coming from South America; Brazil in particular.

Via Solferino is more than a showroom, often serving as a gallery space, reflecting Simona's passion for things that straddle the worlds of art and design. A prime example is the whimsical and unique creations of the Campana brothers.

After the obligatory introductory small talk, Simona begins to talk about her design for her home, a Belle Isle condo at 20 Island Avenue. With each word she becomes more animated, her speech a bit faster, a light coming alive in her dark eyes, a twinkling complement to the passion of her words. "Less is more for me right now. I change a lot. But as I go through the years, it becomes more and more about less. Recently my space was all white—white everywhere - but now it's about natural, concrete and bits of color. I love my concrete walls and floor."

The concrete floor resembles a gradation of gentle waves rolling in on the bias from the entry, flowing into the main room and creating a subtle sense of movement, directing one into the heart of the living space. The technique required to install the floor is so new and innovative that Simona had to teach the contractor the technique while he was actually pouring the floor. "It took a little extra time and patience," she says, "but I'm very happy with the result."

The walls are finished with a thin coat of gray-tinted concrete stucco which covers the ceiling. Window treatments in fabric that matches the color of the walls and ceiling provide the finishing touch, creating a seamless transition from floor to vertical surface to ceiling. Although it is a raw industrial hue, the overall effect has an unexpected sense of warmth and comfort.

Although she subscribes to the "less is more" theory, the room has everything needed for living la dolce vita. A large, nicely proportioned "L" sofa upholstered in a wonderfully tactile woven fabric of black and white evokes a classic Chanel suit. The sofa's classic elegance and clean lines complement the multitask functionality. It's the perfect for solitary pleasures such as television viewing or napping on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but can also accommodate a group of friends for an evening of conversation and cocktails.

An area rug defines and grounds the space, while the abstract floral pattern gives a nod to tradition and introduces bolder colors into the space. The cocktail table is a disc of ebony wood, set low to the ground and inset with a row of small stainless steel shallow dishes. Though obviously modern in form, there is an unmistakable organic aesthetic. "The designer is one of my new favorites, Carlo Cunini for Edra, which is a line I carry at the showroom. He designs in Italy and then each piece is handmade in Morocco," she explains.

The entertainment armoire by Cumini is aptly named "Iceberg," and continues the organic metallic theme of the entire residence. The large box, with multiple rectangular doors of various sizes, is basically a metallic, monotone, Mondrianesque, media monolith. Like everything else in the room, the lines created during the fabrication are not all on the same flat plane. The subtle undulating surfaces finished with reflective metallic materials create movement and are a nod to the ever-moving waters of Biscayne Bay outside the windows.

What looks like an adult-sized, oddly shaped bean-bag chair sits beside the seating area, at an angle on the abstract area rug. An in-set pad of translucent electricpink vinyl might seem out of place in the coolly colored room, but it actually fits right in, picking up the coral-pink hue that is dominant in the pattern of the rug. The see-through quality of the material affords a view of the small Styrofoam beads stuffed into the shell, providing support and an undeniable invitation to settle in for a session of complete and total relaxation. It's the perfect couch-potato chaise, which is why the creators christened it the "Superblob." Spend more than 10 minutes in this chair and Superblob could become your new moniker.

In a home, a book collection is perhaps the most telling insight into the inhabitants. Some devote entire rooms to their libraries, often keeping them removed from the most public areas. Simona's collection is prominently displayed via a tower shelving system. When books of similar heights are used, the printed and bound collection of words and images suddenly becomes an architectural, modernist column. ⊕

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