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In a preview from The Touch—the new book from Kinfolk and Norm Architects, published by gestalten—designer Vincenzo de Cotiis makes the case for not meddling with raw beauty: His 18th-century Milanese home is an homage to his fascination with ageing objects.

On taking over the first floor of a once-abandoned 18th-century palazzo in the Corso Magenta district of Milan, local architect and designer Vincenzo de Cotiis decided to make no structural changes to the 300-square-meter space.

Instead, he wiped the apartment of any decorative embellishments added by the families that had previously lived there, and stripped back the building’s layers until he was left with only its raw antiquity. “We spent a lot of time carefully peeling away what had been added by previous owners: years of paint and paper, false ceilings, moquette floor coverings,” says De Cotiis. “What was beneath—in a wonderfully imperfect, worn state—was far more incredible.”

De Cotiis, who had long harbored a personal passion for time-worn objects, purposely left the apartment’s crumbling walls untreated, and uncovered each room’s original color scheme; the pink frescos of the library, the embellished greys and greens of the living room ceiling, and the dark green and pink Brazilian marble fixtures in the master bathroom. To this day, the walls—which are never of an entirely uniform tone—still dust those who brush against them with small fragments of plaster.

De Cotiis then furnished his home’s bright and spacious rooms with many of his own sculptural creations—all of which were produced in ateliers in Italy and previously showcased in a gallery space in Milan. The sculptures embody De Cotiis’s constant pursuit for what he defines as “perfect imperfection.”

All pieces spread across the apartment—including a long dining table crafted from silver-plated brass and recycled fiberglass, a daybed covered in hand-dyed pale pink mohair velvet, and two oddly shaped marble and cast brass coffee tables—introduce the designer’s unique take on the use of reclaimed sources, and are all marked by his taste for highly tactile surfaces and deformed shapes. De Cotiis describes his style as “eclectic”; a combination of antique and futuristic elements, with materials marked by aged patinas or imperfect finishes. It is also mercurial: because of his easy access to beautiful objects, De Cotiis frequently re-curates the apartment with new items for display.

When asked to choose his favorite room, he picks the bedroom—an intimate space which he believes encapsulates the essence of his style. Here, the apartment’s original and unpolished ceiling finishes and large wooden window shutters are paired with a low platform bed and a smooth, off-white leather chair, designed by De Cotiis himself. “I prefer to emphasize the pre-existing and then enrich it,” he explains.

  • Words:
    Gabriele Dellisanti
  • Photography:
    Christian Møller Andersen

De Cotiis has termed his approach “anti-design”: Although his objects retain a practical functionality, he hopes that they also come to transcend it, and take on a new life as works of art.

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