September 30, 2014

A Model Client: Federica Tondato’s LES Loft

If you can unearth a Gufram catalog from the ’70’s, you might spot a young Federica Tondato posing with a pair of doughnut-shape lounge chairs by her father’s friend, the theoretical physicist Tullio Regge. “They were conceived by a computer, using an algorithm,” Tondato states. “I have short hair, with jeans and booties. It’s really funny.”

Design unquestionably runs in the family. Her sister is the interiors personality Allegra Hicks, and Tondato herself founded Fedora Design, which supplies rugs to a clientele that includes Muriel Brandolini. Either handwoven in Nepal or hand-embroidered in India, the rugs draw on sources as disparate as marine life and the modernist architecture of Lina Bo Bardi.

A Lower East Side loft, 980 square feet in a building that housed a hat factory after World War II, now serves as Tondato’s home and studio. When she first visited, there were still large dips in the old oak floor—left by the heavy machinery. So she called her good friend Raffaella Bortoluzzi for advice.

Not just a friend, Bortoluzzi is also the principal of Labo Design Studio. “She’s one of the best architects I know,” Tondato says. “She can envisage volumes and little details like no one else.”

To open up the loft, maximizing public space, Borto­luzzi removed a storeroom and reduced the size of the bedroom, both along the window wall. She furthermore integrated the kitchen, previously enclosed, with the dining area, which doubles as the headquarters of Fedora Design. Along the wall anchoring the kitchen-dining zones, Bortoluzzi installed maple built-ins that incorporate the refrigerator and cabinetry on one side, shelving for books and office equipment on the other side. Panels can slide down to conceal the “tech­nology monsters,” as Tondato calls them, in the event of a dinner party.

The maple is scored with narrow vertical channels highlighted in red paint, a treatment that will almost certainly be a one-off for Bortoluzzi. It was simply too labor-intensive. The woodworker said, “Never again! I only did it for you and Federica.” That’s what friends are for.

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