An Italian-born pro delights a tough New Jersey client: himself
WHAT DOES THE LARGE ITALIAN stucco house with the giant door and the orange clay roof look like inside? That’s what passersby in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, often want to know.
“People stop by and ring the doorbell hoping to look at the house,” says architect and homeowner Max Parangi. “They ask who the architect is.”
Parangi, 47, gives them the tour, but only sometimes does he reveal that he is the designer. “I’m really private, and I try to brush it off,” he says. Privately, though, this principal of White Plains, New York–based Max Parangi Architects, a second-generation architect raised and educated in Florence, Italy, relishes having met the ultimate standards: his own.
Runs from the floor through the ceiling and orange clay roof. Cherry wood floors extend throughout the living areas.
In 2000 he bought an unassuming house on this cul-de-sac spot—complete with soundproof bedroom and cork walls—from the mother of singer Paul Simon. When he’d lived here three years, he decided to demolish and rebuild. In April 2005, after six months of planning and 14 months of construction, the $1.5 million project was complete, and he, wife Nika and their two teenage sons love it.
Why? First there’s that front door itself. It’s 6 feet by 8 feet, comprising a wood core with a ¼-inch sculpted bronze covering topped by a nonabrasive wax that prevents oxidizing, Parangi explains. Above it is a large cedarwood trellis. Step inside, and there’s a grand entrance to an 8,500-square-foot space that is surprisingly open and accessible. The home reflects the architect’s belief that form and function should go hand in hand. Elements flow along natural lines, and there are geometric rooms, open spaces, unique structural accents and premium materials from Italy,
Japan, Brazil and Israel.
Being carried into the kitchen.
The visitor sees 35-foot ceilings, travertine and Brazilian cherry wood floors and a wide foyer that spans the home, front to back. To complement the tall ceilings, Parangi filled the space with functional elements that enhance transparency: exposed maplewood beams, custom radiators that rest high on walls like framed art sculpture and an interior upper-deck half-wall balcony with framed-glass windows overlooking the home’s main attraction, the fireplace.
“I wanted the fireplace as the nucleus of the house, where people gather around a nice fire and talk instead of sitting around the TV like zombies,” Parangi says, explaining that such a room is one of his design trademarks. “I see fireplaces as a social preserver of the family structure. I’m also inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s devotion to the fireplace as a main architectural element of the house, not a secondary element.”
Dominating the 20-foot by 18-foot room, the octagonal open-hearth fireplace showcases a massive copper skeleton with a matching hood that thrusts double-barreled flues upward through the $90,000 orange Japanese clay roof—all supported by a steel beam. Surrounding the hearth on three sides is low upholstered seating convenient for winter guests sampling hot cider and gossip around the fire.
Behind and below the fireplace is an open-air greenhouse, with ficus and bamboo trees literally blooming upward from the basement, aided by towering 16-foot by 16-foot skylight windows that shower the home with brilliant sunshine.
The kitchen and angular master bathroom posed a structural challenge. Parangi wanted to bring some of the natural greenery and light indoors. So he designed frameless cantilever windows for a 180-degree view of the outdoor landscaping and geometric pool and Jacuzzi.
The bedrooms, dining room and kitchen flow around the open floor design in an east wing–west wing fashion. Each room seamlessly lures one into the next as the eye follows some unique detail. The home is practically its own tour guide.
“The entire house flows,” Parangi says. “After a year and a half it’s still new and interesting. Every time I walk through it in the morning, it gives me happiness.”
New York Spaces © 2007 Wainscot Media, LLC