The Gorgeous Milan Apartment Shared by Two Design Stars
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The Gorgeous Milan Apartment Shared by Two Design Stars

Inside the 1920s apartment of architects Fanny Bauer Grung and David Lopez Quincoces.

By Laura May Todd | Photography by Federico Ciamei
Mon, Sep 6, 2021 12:13pmGrey Clock 6 min

The issue with running a design gallery, according to architect Fanny Bauer Grung, is eventually having to part with the furniture. “This chair has been the source of problems,” she says, pointing to a simple wooden seat with angular armrests and a woven back. A flea-market find, it now sits next to the white marble fireplace in the Milan apartment that Bauer Grung, 32, shares with fellow architect David Lopez Quincoces, 41, her partner in life and work. The chair used to be on display in the couple’s design space, Six Gallery, where it caught the eye of a client. It wasn’t for sale, though, and the client left the gallery nearly in tears. “It’s a piece that is so dear to me,” Bauer Grung says, “so it had to come home.”

Lopez Quincoces and Bauer Grung in their kitchen.

Bauer Grung and Lopez Quincoces, who together run the design firm Quincoces-Dragó & Partners, opened Six Gallery during Milan Design Week in 2018. The space, in a former monastery in the city’s Navigli district, soon got the attention of trend watchers and high-end collectors alike. While the private homes that the couple’s firm designs can be glimpsed only on the pages of shelter magazines, the gallery allows an up-close look at their approach, a mix of sophisticated Italian glamour and loose Scandinavian minimalism. The couple’s latest project, their own apartment, is the most refined expression of their style to date.

A Pietro Russo sconce is mounted next to a vintage mirror reflecting an artwork by Lopez Quincoces’s mother, Susanna Dragó.

With the windows open and neighbourhood chatter wafting in, Bauer Grung and Lopez Quincoces describe an ordinary evening at home. “I’ll be cooking—lately I’ve been making paella—and someone will be sitting on the counter drinking wine,” says Lopez Quincoces, referring to the canaletto walnut and black granite island they designed. He hadn’t cooked in almost 15 years because in other apartments the kitchens were too dark or separate from the dining areas. This place, on a quiet street in the city’s Chinatown, is different. The ceiling’s plaster mouldings are the only remnants of the walls the couple tore down to create a single roomy living area. “Now we have this space, it comes pretty naturally,” says Lopez Quincoces. “You want to cook and share; invite friends and have dinners.”

The living area features Tom Lovelace works over the fireplace, a Paolo Piva coffee table, a Gio Ponti side table, an Ingo Maurer wall lamp, a sculpture by David Murphy on a custom-made pedestal and a pair of Gio Ponti armchairs.

Depending on the company, conversations can be peppered with Spanish, English, Italian or French. Connecting the dots among every place Bauer Grung and Lopez Quincoces have lived, the lines would roughly intersect in their adopted city. Born in Paris to Norwegian parents, Bauer Grung was raised in Rome and educated in London. She arrived in Milan in 2012 to take a job at the design firm Lissoni & Partners, where she met Lopez Quincoces. Originally from Madrid, he studied interior architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, then joined Lissoni, where over 13 years he climbed from interior architect to partner.

“We can take a week to discuss whether an armrest should be white or ochre, but on the big picture things we have the same instinct.”— Fanny Bauer Grung

In 2008, while at Lissoni, Lopez Quincoces opened Quincoces-Dragó (the name combines his grandparents’ surnames). At first, it was just a nights-and-weekend project, but when Bauer Grung signed on, she soon took it full time, and Lopez Quincoces joined her in 2017. By now, the couple have designed countless projects together—homes from London to Rome, a private club in Tuscany and Dr. Smood cafes in New York and Miami. Their own home was the easiest. “We can take a week to discuss whether an armrest should be white or ochre, but on the big picture things we have the same instinct,” says Bauer Grung.

She says the gallery plays an important role in that process: “It’s like a laboratory for us.” A typical mise-en-scène will include vintage Scandinavian and Italian furniture, anonymous pieces picked up abroad, contemporary glass from up-and-coming artists and collections the couple have created together. (Lopez Quincoces also designs for brands like Living Divani, Salvatori and Acerbis.)

An antique Japanese screen hangs over their Piero Lissoni for Living Divani bed, flanked by Marcel Breuer lamps.
In the couple’s bedroom, two Joaquim Tenreiro chairs sit under artwork by Jan Groth.

“Fanny’s design sense represents the essence of Scandinavian aesthetic, with pure and clean lines and a sense of harmony and order,” says Marie-Rose Kahane, the designer behind Yali Glass and a co-founder of Venice’s Le Stanze del Vetro exhibition space, who shows her work at Six and often accompanies Bauer Grung on research trips to the glassmaking factories of Murano, Italy. “When [her design sense] meets up with Milan, and the Italian tradition of design, something extraordinary comes out.”

A vintage lamp is installed on the closet ceiling.

In the couple’s apartment, the glamour of 1930s Milan, particularly the Villa Necchi Campiglio and its architect, Piero Portaluppi, was a major influence. “We wanted to have old-school moments—in between the Orient Express train or, like, a big old elevator,” Lopez Quincoces says. The home’s previous owner was an elderly woman who was selling off her vast portfolio of apartments and donating the proceeds to the Catholic Church. She was happy to get rid of what she considered a fixer-upper: a rundown, century-old walk-up. What the couple saw, instead, was a jewel in the rough: an untouched 1920s apartment in all its original splendor.

Many of the home’s furnishings—a pair of Gio Ponti armchairs, lamps Marcel Breuer designed for the 1925 Paris expo, a centuries-old Mauritanian rug, a pair of Ingo Maurer Uchiwa appliqué lamps—found their way there through the gallery or were repurposed from their previous apartment. The curved metal Piero Lissoni dining table, for example, was stripped of its matte-green paint, revealing a reflective raw steel. “We took it to a craftsman to remove the paint, but when it was returned it was still too dark,” Bauer Grung recalls of the process. “David is a perfectionist, so he stripped the rest of it by hand.”

They reshuffled the apartment’s original cloisterlike layout, while keeping its turn-of-the-century details, like herringbone parquet floors and art deco–inspired doorframes. “We needed the space for our growing family,” says Lopez Quincoces, referring to the arrival of their daughter, Uma, in 2019.

A view to the study, with its David Rosen desk and Apparatus light fixture.

Where the hallway once ran, three vestibules—two closets and a central office space—now act as buffers between public and private zones. “There is no passage in the house that isn’t used for some purpose,” Bauer Grung says. Each vestibule is hewn from solid walnut and lacquered a glossy burnt umber. All along the office’s concave ceiling, fine strips of inlaid brass sketch geometric patterns in the grain—a complicated carpentry feat. The pair credit their studio’s decadelong relationships with artisans in the woodworking hub of Brianza for the expertise. “There is no machine that does that,” says Lopez Quincoces, describing how they rendered the softly rounded corners. “It was all made by hand.”

A custom-made Quincoces-Dragó mirror and sink in a bathroom.

“I wanted a house full of detail,” Lopez Quincoces says, “small things Uma will remember when she grows up. I have similar memories of my childhood. I wanted her to have the same.” One thing he didn’t anticipate, though, was how much time they would spend inside. “The last piece of wood was put in four days before the first lockdown,” he says, of the renovation. “I never expected our wardrobe would become Uma’s playground,” recalls Bauer Grung.

Now they are eager to return to the gallery to play out ideas that have been percolating in their time away. For next year’s Salone del Mobile, they will launch their latest furniture and objects. “We’re excited to show some collections that we haven’t shown before,” Bauer Grung says. “When we design for ourselves, it’s always the best result.”


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There was a time, not too long ago, when the most important must-have for would-be renovators was space. It was all about space to be together and space to be apart.

But as house prices increase across the country, the conversation has started to shift from size for the sake of it towards more flexible, well-designed spaces better suited to contemporary living.

For the owners of this 1920s weatherboard workers’ cottage in Fremantle, the emphasis was less on having an abundance of room and more about creating cohesive environments that could still maintain their own distinct moods. Key to achieving this was manipulating the floorplan in such a way that it could draw in light, giving the impression at least of a larger footprint. 

See more stories like this in the latest issue of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine. Order your copy here

Positioned on a site that fell three metres from street level, the humble four-room residence had been added to over the years. First order of business for local architect Philip Stejskal was to strip the house back to its original state.

“In this case, they were not quality additions,” Stejskal says. “Sometimes it is important to make sure later additions are not lean-tos.”

The decision to demolish was not taken lightly. 

“Sometimes they can be as historically significant as the original building and need to be considered — I wouldn’t want people to demolish our addition in 50 years’ time.”

Northern light hits the site diagonally, so the design solution was to open up the side of the house via a spacious courtyard to maximise opportunities to draw natural light in. However, this had a knock-on effect.

A central courtyard captures northern light. Image: Bo Wong

“We had to make space in the middle of the site to get light in,” Stejskal says. “That was one of the first moves, but that created another issue because we would be looking onto the back of the neighbouring building at less appealing things, like their aircon unit.”

To draw attention away from the undesirable view, Stejskal designed a modern-day ‘folly’.

“It’s a chimney and lookout and it was created to give us something nice to look at in the living space and in the kitchen,” Stejskal says. 

“With a growing family, the idea was to create a space where people could find a bit of solitude. It does have views to the wider locality but you can also see the port and you can connect to the street as well.”

A garden tap has also been installed to allow for a herb garden at the top of the steps.

“That’s the plan anyway,”  he says. 

A modern day ‘folly’ provides an unexpected breakout space with room for a rooftop herb garden. Image: Bo Wong

Conjuring up space has been at the core of this project, from the basement-style garaging to the use of the central courtyard to create a pavilion-like addition.

The original cottage now consists of two bedrooms, with a central hallway leading onto a spacious reception and living area. Here, the large kitchen and dining spaces wrap around the courtyard, offering easy access to outdoor spaces via large sliding doors.

Moments of solitude and privacy have been secreted throughout the floorplan, with clever placement of built-in window seats and the crow’s nest lookout on the roof, ideal for morning coffee and sunset drinks.

The house has three bedrooms, including a spacious master suite with walk-in robe and ensuite overlooking the back garden. Adjustable blades on the bedroom windows allow for the control of light, as well as privacy. Although the house was designed pre COVID, it offers the sensibility so many sought through that time — sanctuary, comfort and retreat.

Adjustable blades allow the owners to control light on the upper floor. Image: Bo Wong

“When the clients came to us, they wanted a house that was flexible enough to cater for the unknown and changes in the family into the future,” Stejskal says. “We gave the owners a series of spaces and a certain variety or moods, regardless of the occasion. We wanted it to be a space that would support that.”

Mood has also been manipulated through the choice of materials. Stejskal has used common materials such as timber and brick, but in unexpected ways to create spaces that are at once sumptuous but also in keeping with the origins of the existing building.

Externally, the brickwork has been finished in beaded pointing, a style of bricklaying that has a softening effect on the varied colours of bricks. For the flooring, crazy paving in the courtyard contrasts with the controlled lines of tiles laid in a stack bond pattern. Close attention has also been paid to the use of veneer on select joinery in the house, championing the beauty of Australian timbers with a lustrous finish. 

“The joinery is finished in spotted gum veneer that has been rotary cut,” says Stejskal. “It is peeled off the log like you peel an apple to give you this different grain.”

Rotary cut timber reveals the beauty of the natural grain in the kitchen joinery. Image: Bo Wong

Even the laundry has been carefully considered.

“The laundry is like a zen space with bare stone,” he says. “We wanted these different moods and the landscape of rooms. We wanted to create a rich tapestry in this house.”

The owners now each experience the house differently, highlighting separate aspects of the building as their favourite parts. It’s quite an achievement when the site is not enormous. Maybe it’s not size that matters so much after all.


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