The oasis of calm from a designer couple in Ticino

The centuries-old house is tucked away in the second row on the slope behind lush greenery. Its spacious floor plan remains hidden from the outside. (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

Jewel of Ceresio

In one of the most beautiful villages in Ticino, two cosmopolitans have built a labyrinthine hiding place.

They are at home in the world and have roots in different countries. As cosmopolitans, they speak several languages. But Birgit Kollhof and Anton Magnani would rather settle in the country. Her eye fell on Morcote, which many consider to be the most beautiful village in Switzerland.

Even before the enchanting spot on the shores of Ceresio, called Lake Lugano in Ticino, actually received this award in 2016 – by a public vote among 12 finalists – the couple already flirted with a centuries-old stone house at the center of the small community. When the purchase price finally matched their budget, the two struck out and turned it with great care into their dream home.

Views of the Italian coast of the lake.  Morcote itself was recently named the most beautiful village in Switzerland.  (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

Views of the Italian coast of the lake. Morcote itself was recently named the most beautiful village in Switzerland. (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

Not an easy task, because the property stands on terraces on a slope in the historic village center, has different levels, views and atmospheres, many angles and strict monument protection requirements. Morcote knows how to protect its jewels: the community of its 700 inhabitants has rightly received a post in the federal inventory of places worthy of protection. The house was built in the 16th century and enlarged and altered in the 18th century.

In the beginning, only one thing was clear: the picture “Riding Awareness” by Katrin Fridriks had to find a place. Only one room was suitable for the Icelandic artist’s polyphonic, more than 4 meter long work. At least there was a start. Then the brainstorming began. Both work in the fashion industry, Birgit as a shoe and bag designer in Milan, Anton helps a venerable bag manufacturer in Florence shine again.

Birgit Kollhof and Anton Magnani feel so comfortable in Morcote that they usually stay longer than planned.  (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

Birgit Kollhof and Anton Magnani feel so comfortable in Morcote that they usually stay longer than planned. (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

The creative couple has extensive experience in handling materials and colors and developing visions. Nevertheless, the lady of the house initially found the old walls “annoying,” as she says. “The question was: What can you do with what?” From here, they finally developed a basic idea and assigned the use and design of the premises to the two centuries in which they were created. The builder then commissioned the famous Milanese architect Luciano Giorgi for the renovation itself.

Pure vintage: The sofa was designed by George Nelson (1960), the armchair by Finn Juhl (1953).  A work by Katarina Grosse («Untitled», 2015) hangs on the wall.  (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

Pure vintage: The sofa was designed by George Nelson (1960), the armchair by Finn Juhl (1953). A work by Katarina Grosse («Untitled», 2015) hangs on the wall. (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

Acrylic abstract wave

The couple dedicated the newer part of the house, which is more than 300 years old, to modernity, had walls designed in shades of gray and cast a cement floor. This matter-of-fact color concept brings Katrin Fridriks’ work in large format to its best advantage, and the abstract acrylic wave seems to flow directly into the living room. Selected vintage armchairs (by Finn Juhl) and a sofa (by George Nelson) form a restrained seating area grouped around a fireplace. Visitors are welcome here. A narrow staircase leads directly up from the front door.

Stretch out in front of the fireplace while looking at art by Caledonia Curry, better known by his stage name Swoon.  (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

Stretch out in front of the fireplace while looking at art by Caledonia Curry, better known by his stage name Swoon. (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

It exudes a certain glamor, thanks to some mid-century references like diamond-like Stilnovo pendant lamps and oak panels. At the same time, the staircase forms the boundary to the older part of the building. In total, the main house has a living area of ​​about 450 square meters spread over three levels. The property is about 1000 square meters.

A wall-chimney-stair construction was placed on the top floor to create separate areas, such as a work corner.  (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

A wall-chimney-stair construction was placed on the top floor to create separate areas, such as a work corner. (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

The library functions as a lock, the “studio”, as Birgit jokingly calls it. Also because Anton likes to retire here to watch sports. But above all, because favorite items from his extensive street art collection hang here, such as the large stencil image “Portrait of Samuel Beckett” by Orticanoodles, spray-painted on old wood panels.

The painting with the title

The painting entitled “Portrait of Samuel Beckett” by Orticanoodles dominates in “Densor’s Room”. (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

The dark brown walls are the prelude to a different world of earth and mud tones. They mark the older era and the private area. It also looks a bit dark due to the small windows, which can not be enlarged due to the requirements for monument protection. And the dark colors contribute to the fact that artefacts, individual furniture and decorations, depending on the incidence of light, seem to emerge from the shadows and briefly come to their right before diving back into the twilight.

A work by Conor Harrington («Duel - studio») and a cuckoo clock by Stefan Strumbel («United Colors of Heimat», 2013) hang behind the dining table by Piet Hein Eek.  (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

A work by Conor Harrington («Duel – studio») and a cuckoo clock by Stefan Strumbel («United Colors of Heimat», 2013) hang behind the dining table by Piet Hein Eek. (Photo: Christian Schaulin)

The warm oak floor goes up again in the hallway, dining room and also in the three bedrooms one floor up. Enough space for the four adult children when they come to visit. First in the kitchen, the couple chose a floor of local stone to emphasize the connection with the exterior.

Visually, the transitions to the terrace and the Zen-like terrace are fluid. A small stream flows past the house and whizzes under the terrace and eventually runs out into the nearby lake, which you can get a glimpse of through narrow streets or from the terraces over the roof gables.

“It’s the way we want it”

To the great delight of Birgit Kolhoff, there is a slightly overgrown garden above the house. At the moment, she is still observing what is sprouting up from the ground. However, her fingers itch after planting the garden again. The longing for nature grows.

For decades, the Germans and Italians lived mainly in Milan, a city they love and which inspires them enormously. In Morcote, they found what they were looking for. The former fishing village on the south side of Monte Arbòstora, also known as the “Pearl of Ceresio”, is known for its patrician houses with their richly decorated facades and loggias and Parco Scherrer with its architecturally unique buildings and lush Mediterranean vegetation. the gardens.

The new home in Morcote is very attractive to Anton Magnani and Birgit Kollhof. It is like the essence of all similarities. The two chose everything for this place, developed color concepts and ideas together, put their favorite things back in place and pampered themselves with an extravagant bath. Anton also admits: “Everything is as we would like it to be. – I would rather not leave at all. He does not have to, it seems that the cosmopolitans are settling down.

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