Master of atmosphere Charles Zana, is known to favor sober lines, fluid elegance, flawless color schemes. An architect first and foremost, he loves to play with volumes and spaces, “to go across borders”, as he says, quoting Ettore Sottsass. With that same architectural spirit, he creates custom-made furniture, designed to fill a specific space with harmonious functionality and warm livability.
His exceptional work is now at the center of a rich monograph, “Charles Zana: The Art of Interiors”, published by Rizzoli. In this fascinating book, set to become first on any coffee-table book list, we discover an array of unique homes, in which Zana seems to embrace the original architectural elements from the past and lure them into a very contemporary atmosphere. His cultivated eye, his timeless style and his unparalleled use of colors, make him a true master of architectural poetry. On the eve of the presentation and signing of his book at Phillips’ in London, we asked Charles Zana to select some iconic images of his work and to comment on them.
1. I designed this space for the 2013 edition of AD Intérieurs exhibition. It was an important moment for me, because I realized the emotion and warmth that one can create when decorating a room. I also realized that what I love most about my job is to make a contemporary statement within an old setting. For this interior, I designed a sofa and some consoles that I mixed with works by other designers. Then I added a light touch to the windows by creating lightly dégradé curtains starting from the floor all the way up to the ceiling. In this exhibition, I really enjoyed working on the notion of conviviality: it’s a kitchen and a living room at the same time, it’s something that speaks to and of me, as I like having friends around and sharing in a convivial way… I often quote Ettore Sottsass, his ability to “go across borders”: that exhibition was a key moment for me, when I really “went across” the kitchen and the living room and brought them together: it’s no longer a kitchen in a living room, it’s a living room in the kitchen!
2. Ah… Venice! Obviously, Venice…! A Venetian Palazzo for an art collector… I like this picture, because the cropping leaves out part of the painting. For this palazzo steeped in history, I had to work with Venetian architecture – a very, very classical architecture- and making a point of not buying into the stucco cliché! So, I only kept the beautiful walnut doors and the stone frames, and had the old stucco and terrazzo floors carefully stripped. Patterns and colors came alive again on those fantastic 17th century floors… I decided to keep the original terrazzo everywhere, up to the bathrooms, even if some parts were slightly cracked, or damaged. In this palazzo, it goes without saying, all the ceilings have frescos, and we used those frescos as a starting point to choose the color palette for each room. For instance, that particular green on the wall echoes the green of a warrior’s armor vest painted on the above ceiling… It soon became like a game, my game: all the colors on the walls had to be in the fresco on the ceiling. I designed a sofa especially for this place, and its brick color recalls the classic Venetian hues… My other very “Venetian gesture” was to use tone on tone fabrics for the curtains and the walls. We made these fabrics bespoke, by reprinting the motifs of some ancient Venetian fabrics…
3. This is the entrance hall of a very classic, very French, very Haussmann-style apartment, filled with a very nice collection of art and design. So, the first thing we did to make it less conventional was to paint all the wooden floors black. As a rule, most Parisian apartments have these light brown parquets… and we painted all the floors black and the entrance ceiling too… black! It did seem a little crazy at first… What I like, above all, is to always keep the original elements and modernize them… to respect what was before me, while enjoying the freedom of working with a contemporary approach. We tore down some walls and opened up the space; we added a big round sofa that I designed with this idea of conviviality in mind: this is not an art gallery even if there are many artworks and objects; this must be a living, livable space.
4. This bathroom is a good example of what I like, because more than just a bathroom, it is a livable space… We used travertine, a material I truly love. The sculpted bathtub, the furniture and the Nomad stools that I designed, they all are made of travertine. Then I added other objects I like: some lamps by the Italian designer Ignazio Gardella, a sculpture on the wall by Thomas Houseago… It is a bathroom, yes, but it is a livable space!
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