Since his first year of secondary school back in 1958, renowned graphic artist and illustrator Guido Scarabottolo had been making a daily pilgrimage from the north Italian suburb of Sesto San Giovanni into the bright lights of central Milan. So, when, in 1984, he eventually found the perfect space to settle, just a few steps away from the city’s winding canals, it was fitting that his new home had a past that was both creative and spiritual.
Formerly a small chapel, it later became a warehouse for dairy products and after World War I, was turned into a venue for arts and crafts workshops. Now, Guido and his wife Francesca Zoboli, also an illustrator as well as an interior decorator, are continuing that heritage, transforming the 340-square-metre loft into a place dedicated to artistic pursuits.
A space without any barriers, the lower level of their home is where they conduct their ‘living’, what they romantically call, a ‘theatre of life’. The open kitchen, relaxing and dining areas are dotted with artworks, tiny and large, made by Guido, Francesca and their many artist friends, including Gianluigi Toccafondo, Simona Mulazzani and Francesco Bocchini. Only the bedroom and bathroom are tucked away behind closed doors. The upstairs, meanwhile, is what the couple refer to as their ‘place of meditation’, with its carpentry workshop and impressive library. The many books, says Guido, are ‘friendly presences’, all lovingly stored in a bespoke bookcase designed by his friend, architect Max Casalini.
These canvases and tomes, imbued as they are with personal memories, are the real luxuries here. The couple are less precious, however, about their pieces of furniture – carried with them from previous houses, bought from vintage dealers, or even found on the street – which often become damaged by their over-attentive cats. The general effect is one of serendipitous sustainability, but Guido and Francesca’s use of environmentally-friendly materials, from fast-growing poplar wood to untreated iron and exposed plaster, is definitely a considered choice. One that, like Francesca’s dedication to the flourishing greenery on the veranda, is testament to their love of nature and living lightly. ‘Every morning, the plants greet me at breakfast,’ she says. ‘It is a great privilege to live here.’ scarabottolo.com; francescazoboli.com
For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration June 2020
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