The Perfect Canvas for Art by Uta Abendroth | 2nd March, 2018 | Prime Properties
An Andy Warhol here, a Robert Rauschenberg there and a Gerhard Richter over there – Everything inside the Villa Angelina in Tuscany is designed around masterpieces that would usually be found within the confines of a museum. The French interior designer Frédéric Méchiche has transformed this 18th century property to such effect both inside and out that the art it contains and scenery that surrounds it make the perfect companions.
“Art plays the starring role in this house. Its renovation has resulted in spaces worthy of a museum.” Frédéric Méchiche
Art is everywhere in Tuscany. But it is works of the Renaissance that set the tone, rather than contemporary art that tends to play a lesser role in the region. That said, the sculptures of Tony Cragg and Niki de Saint-Phalle and the images of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol also have their place here. The “Villa Angelina” lies in the green hills that stretch out between the culturally and historically important little town of Lucca and the spa resort Forte dei Marmi, which became a magnet for the international jet set in the 1950s and has lost nothing of its charm since. The property dates back to the 18th century and is listed for its historical significance. It was practically uninhabitable when collectors became its new custodians, looking for a place where they could live among their modern artworks. They brought in French interior designer Frédéric Méchiche, who transformed the space within these old walls into a consummate blend of private museum and comfortable dwelling. The fully restored residence exudes a classic and sleek appearance from afar that is absolutely typical for the local region: various flat gables, a roof covered in red tiles, white walls adorned with traditional slatted window shutters and a black balcony balustrade with subtly delicate ornamentation. Once inside, the interior is quite something to behold. Frédéric Méchiche has created loft-like spaces throughout the property that are streamlined in look, open in their layout plan and full of impact. A staircase constructed out of steel and glass links the two intermediary levels of the house, both of which have an unostentatious black and white colour scheme that makes sure it is the artworks that always form the focus. Large white walls, very similar to those of a gallery, form the perfect backdrop for impressive masterpieces by Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann, complemented by sculptures by John Chamberlain and Sacha Sosno. In line with the owners’ wishes, vast windows allow nature into the house, and flood the interiors with natural daylight, in addition to opening up views overlooking the property’s park grounds and olive groves. This outlook also takes in the various works dotted around the house, extending the exhibition space out onto the terrace: a gigantic rabbit by Barry Flanagan, and sculptures by Tony Cragg and Sacha Sosno.
“The purpose of architecture is not to be
decorative but to create a house that feels like a home.” Frédéric Méchiche
When I envisage a new space for a client I am not merely thinking about interior design or decoration,” says Frédéric Méchiche. “I focus far more on how the people want to dwell within that space and what things would give them pleasure and satisfaction in their particular case.” The Frenchman, who was born in Algeria, is a true master at incorporating art into domestic environments. His father, a doctor, was a passionate collector of art and passed on this avid enthusiasm to his son. This is the reason why Frédéric’s projects all tell unique stories – whether he is furnishing yachts or properties, and wherever he happens to be working in the world. Art plays a central role in every creative endeavour that he undertakes. He is highly skilled at applying materials, colours and light to set accents that really bring the charm of a building completely to the fore. If Frédéric cannot find the right piece of furniture for a space he is designing – it needs to be both exclusive and comfortable – then he simply designs it himself. As was the case with the “Villa Angelina” where he designed the black and white striped carpet that the grand piano stands on, the white-upholstered seating both inside and outside, and other details. One challenge that Frédéric faced as he took on this project in Tuscany was dividing up the four levels of the interior in the best possible way. The property’s setting on a hillside naturally meant that the lower floors were smaller in size than those above. On the lowermost level there is a swimming pool, sauna and hammam, and a large hobby room, while the level above comprises an approx. 330 m2 garage with access to the staff quarters of the property. The first lower ground floor plays host to three bedrooms, each complete with en suite bathrooms. The ground floor accommodates the designated “gallery space”, featuring various different seating areas and a large patio. Finally, the upper level is less grand and representative in its dimensions, consisting of spaces designed for a greater degree of privacy. These include a master bedroom suite, a large bathroom and a library.
“I only take on projects with people
I admire – and when I do we work as accomplices.” Frédéric Méchiche
„My clients were looking to create a unique environment in which to showcase their collection,” said Frédéric Méchiche. “So that is precisely what I created for them. One thing was particularly important for me: In my view, the purpose of architecture is not to be decorative but rather to create a house that feels like a home.” And he has certainly succeeded in this aim. An absolutely masterful feat considering that the “Villa Angelina” spans a considerable living and utility space of approx. 2,750 m2 overall. In addition to the commodious living rooms there are twelve suites with bathrooms in total, as well as a fully fitted gourmet kitchen, a dining room, office, wine cellar, numerous other bathrooms, utility rooms and a security room. From the approx. 1,180 m2 terrace, residents look out over the 230 trees that make up the olive grove, and across a formal garden, orchard and vegetable garden, all of which are fully cultivated. The grounds span some 13 hectares in total, and can be reached by car in just 30 minutes from the airport in Pisa. A building permit has already been granted for a helicopter landing pad to be installed here, and when travelling by air the “Villa Angelina” and “Aeroporto Galileo Galilei” are just 10 minutes apart from one another. Besides the main house there is a guesthouse spanning approx. 460 m2 with a terrace of some 100 m2. High-tech surveillance systems have been installed, guaranteeing the utmost degree of security in both buildings.
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