February 19, 2015

Work/Life Balance: Inside the Milan Studio of Patricia Urquiola

A warehouse, built in the heart of Milan in the Novecento Italiano style, the local version of art nouveau, is where Interior Design Hall of Fame member Patricia Urquiola has installed her namesake studio. It occupies the lower two levels, and she and her family reside above. They moved here because she feared she wasn’t spending enough time with her daughter, now 9 years old. “I’m trying to eliminate the distance between us,” she says. “Before, I didn’t see her until nighttime. Now, she can see me all afternoon, through the windows, while I’m working.” (Her older daughter is studying in London.) 

The studio, at 5,400 square feet, accommodates two groups of employees. Seven people design products for Italian companies, of course, and international ones. Moroso she’s worked with since she founded her studio in 2001. There’s also B&B Italia, Flos, and Kartell. One of her first U.S. clients, Haworth, she calls “my bold American adventure, my lovely American dream. Americans are very open. They have an incredible aptitude for change.” Meanwhile, the architecture team ranges from 20 to 35 people, depending on the amount of projects on the boards—which, right now, is a lot. Hotels in Milan and Como, eight stores worldwide for Missoni, residences in London and Tel Aviv, and a restaurant at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, are just a few of her current commissions.

A major renovation was required at the Milan warehouse after Urquiola and her partner, Alberto Zontone, bought it. Beneath an existing skylight, the once-gritty walls are now finished in white stucco, the floors have been redone in white resin or cement tile, and balustrades in white-painted steel mesh run alongside a staircase and the mezzanine, where she shares an office with Zontone. She reconfigured the top level as an apartment with an idyllic roof garden. Because of the location, at the rear of a courtyard behind a similar building, there’s blissfully no noise from the street. What else but perfection would one expect from this prolific wonder woman?

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