The People’s Bank in Verona: Attention to Detail

The People’s Bank in Verona (known as Banco Popolare di Verona) was designed by architect Carlo Scarpa in the early 1970s. I traveled to Italy for business, as the guest of the luxury window company, Brombal, in late September. One of the incredible locations we visited was this little bank. It’s a contemporary building sandwiched between two historic buildings, which is itself an interesting juxtaposition that you see regularly in the historic towns. However, what really struck me was its interior, and the architect’s attention to detail.

Everywhere I turned, another little detail made the whole design just so much more unique and interesting. One of the things I noticed was that Scarpa used the theme of pairs, in both significant and small details. For example, columns were done in pairs. Even between each set of two columns, at the very top was a tiny little detail — two brass balls. I can only assume this was some sort of private joke. The recessed canned lights were done in pairs … he paired them off so there would be a set, then six feet away were another set. The theme went down to the coupled rivets on the (obviously custom) window frames. All of the walls were done in Venetian plaster, but that’s just what they do in Italy (what we think of as a luxury, is the norm there).

Pairs of columns and recessed lights

Hidden details only seen by the design devotee

The architect’s attention to detail was obvious in his use of color, too. Taupe-colored walls matched the limestone floor tiles nicely. The base along stair treads was a simple inset of limestone tile, flush with the wall. When the wall color was taupe, it was subtle. But when the wall color was dark, it stood out as a bold decorative as well as functional element.

I noticed quite a few areas where Scarpa used bold colors. I loved the boldness of the bright red plaster on the sweeping curved staircase.

Lipstick red plaster highlights the primary staircase


Bronze handrail with paired rivet detail

A secondary, more private staircase in deep blue, teal and indigo caught my eye. At the corner, a small geometric cutout added a tiny bit of interest.

Geometric cutout detail

Juxtaposition of color delineates form

Some details went beyond decoration to also provide a beautiful level of functionality. To protect a vulnerable corner of Venetian plaster, a flat piece of bronze metal was inset onto the wall, flush with the plaster, so that it doesn’t protrude at all. It creates an interesting visual, without being distracting or ostentatious. Many of the details in ceilings and on railings were also done in bronze. Scarpa seems fond of reveals and gaps to create interest.

Even mundane items like valves were placed in pairs

I love this space because it was so carefully planned; it didn’t just happen by accident. Like any well-designed space, the details weren’t just tacked on as an afterthought. As a designer, when I notice details like these, they are really special. What’s more, it’s an experience that unfolds and stays with me.

I’ve not really experienced a building that was designed to that degree, or that the client allowed to be designed to that degree. It takes a lot of thought, time and craftspeople who take pride in their work. Even though they may not be in-your-face details, the cumulative effect is stunning.

The People’s Bank in Verona is one of Scarpa’s last stamps on Italy’s built environment. Generations of tourists and locals will admire this architect’s attention to detail for many years to come. As for me, my delight in this space is near and dear. I strive to include similar materials (Venetian plaster, limestone and bronze) and pops of color (I just can’t get that lipstick-red staircase out of my mind). Color should delineate a space, not overwhelm it. As in Scarpa’s interior, I encourage bold color alongside neutrals. I always say: If you’re using color on walls, use it judiciously and thoughtfully.

Using Perforated Metal in Your Home Design

modern design with perforated metal detailingI came across this great article that shares the beauty of perforated metal as both a decorative and structural element in you home. It follows the old adage to let form follow function, and let the materials speak for themselves rather than adding decoration for its own sake.
In a contemporary home this is a wonderful solution, but you might be surprised by how it can be incorporated into more traditional or transitional homes as well.

Tesla Solar Roof Tiles Now Available For Sale

solar roof tiles teslaAfter debuting to the public last October, Tesla’s customizable Solar Roof panels are now available for orders. The company claims that the glass panels, which are embedded with photovoltaic cells, are “affordable, durable, beautiful, and integrated with battery storage.”

Prospective customers can estimate their return on investment using the Solar Roof calculator, to compare the cost of installation with the energy saved. The panels will cost $21.85 per square foot for a 3,000-square-foot roof and are available in four glass finishes. [Cnet]

Different styles of solar tiles are available such as Tuscan glass tile, Slate glass tile, Textured glass tile, and Smooth glass tile.


Desert Mountain Home Gets a Facelift and Luxury Upgrades

Desert Mountain Living Room DuskThe renovation of this beautiful home was all started by the need for a bigger and better master closet for the wife. This home was originally built in the ‘90s, and the closets were not all that impressive or even large enough for the value of the home. She wanted a drop-dead gorgeous closet with space to showcase her handbag collection.

Desert Mountain Contemporary Closet

We were brought in by the builder to help with the finish selections and space planning, as well as fine tune some interior details beyond what the architect had drawn. This involved updating the ceilings, fireplaces and furnishings throughout the home. They also added some patio space and made the outdoor living more inviting.Desert Mountain custom fireplace

The couple had lived in the home for over a decade, as furnished by the previous owners. However, when they started spending more time here they knew they wanted to change the interiors to meet their needs and style. All new furnishings in the primary living areas included a custom dining room table, gorgeous in rosewood veneer. Comfortable new seating and statement piece side tables were added to the living room. The bedroom and offices got major updates to flooring with mesquite hardwood.

contemporary Dining Room Table

The clients are thrilled with the results that feel so much more like this is their home, rather than just a place they live. Especially the husband with the removal of the etched glass birds that represented the previous owner’s interests! New leaded glass designs were installed in the entry and the office doors. And the wife’s closet is a statement that all her friends drool over.

Value and Return on Investment for Homes That are Eco-Friendly

Getting to a sustainable home is easy when you are first building your home. The additional cost for a high-performance home is between five and ten percent. But, your home begins to pay you back immediately in the form of lower utility bills. Within a few years the payback is completed and the continued cost of running your home is permanently less.

energy efficient sustainable house

The U.S. Department of Energy crowned Stevens Institute of Technology and its SURE House as victors of its 2015 Solar Decathlon

Renovations to existing home also make sense, and the state and federal government help with rebates and tax credits that may or may not be available to you. In addition, check the website called DSIRE USA to learn what programs are available to homeowners in your own state.

Quick View of Cost and Payback of Typical Home Sustainability Projects

If you are looking to make you’re new or existing home more eco-friendly view the chart below and learn the return on investment on some typical sustainable home solutions.

Quick View of Cost and Payback of Typical Home Sustainability Projects
ImprovementPayback time (years)Improvement CostAnnual Savings10 year Savings10 Year ROI
Programmable thermostat0.6$115$180$1800156.5 percent
Light Fixtures (LED and CFL)2.5$108$40$40037 percent
Hot Water Heater Blanket0.8$25$30$300120 percent
Pressure Regulated Shower Heads0.9$180$300$3,000111 percent

While the payback period for the above products is short and the improvements relatively low-cost, outfitting your new home, or retrofitting your old home, will see paybacks for most sustainable options between under one year to as long as ten years.

Is Going Green Worth It?

Matthew E. Kahn of UCLA and Nils Kok of Maastricht University in the Netherlands conducted a study in California. One of the study findings was that a green certification for a home brought in, on average, nine percent more than area homes without such certification. The sample size for this study was 1.6 million homes.

Increased home value and lower operating costs for eco-friendly homes is a certainty. It sometimes is an even better investment than the stock market at times with an enviable return on investment.