Massimo Adario Makes Himself At Home In A 16th-Century Palazzo

City streets inevitably draw us in for different reasons. In the Eternal City, the historic Via Giulia, named for Pope Julius II and first laid out in the 16th century, is where architect Massimo Adario makes his home among a tapestry of centuries-old churches and palazzi. His apartment is situated in the Palazzo Sacchetti, a late-Renaissance edifice where a chamber on the piano nobile features frescoes depicting Bathsheba and David by Florentine mannerist Francesco Salviati (1510-63).

Adario’s fourth-floor digs weren’t so impressive when he opted to take up residence. Badly renovated in the late ’70s with little respect for the apartment’s decorative details, such as the wooden coffered ceiling dating from the 1700s, this less-than-beautiful abode on a grand street needed a lot of attention. “Bad materials had been used, and it had been divided by partitions that interrupted the decoration of the ceiling,” relates Adario. “When I saw the apartment for the first time, I immediately thought that we had to restore the unity of these spaces and work on the ceiling, which is certainly the most beautiful detail in the house.”

With the blue painted ceiling as the animating agent of his design, Adario lined the walls with fabric panels in a similar light shade and covered the floor in a hand-woven silk rug in the same spectrum. Taking a cue from Gae Aulenti’s 1970 approach to Emilio Pucci’s apartment in his palazzo in Florence, in which Aulenti incorporated yards of stainless steel in built-ins and a large, space-dividing volume, Adario inserted two similar components in his own home. One, clad in stainless steel, is a walk-in closet; the other – a collaboration with artist Andrea Sala of the Schiavo Zoppelli Gallery in Milan – is essentially a large vitrine.

“The materials I have chosen have a lot to do with the place, but they are also a contemporary response to context,” notes Adario. “The fabric panels of the walls and the carpet on the floor reflect the blue of the ceiling, creating a soft box on which the wooden beams rest. And the steel reflects the light and colors of the apartment in an abstract way.”

Adario’s intervention, informed by a thorough understanding of scale, proportion, light and material, reads as both very contemporary and very respectful. Neutral in its way – but hardly unstructured – it brings out the original parameters of these interiors while generating a whole new sense of space. Adario’s furnishings, pieces by Michel Ducaroy, Gianfranco Frattini and Jimmie Durham (as well as his own designs), are disposed throughout the apartment with an appealing precision, not quite minimalist, but very intentional. Time does not stand still in this home, but the past is not forgotten.

Photography by Laura Fantacuzzi and Maxime Galati-Fourcade.

For more from Massimo Adario, be sure to check out his humble hillside home overlooking the Bay of Naples.

Like what you see? Get it first with a subscription to aspire design and home magazine.