Aug 12, 2016

The Gentleman of Style

written by Bruce Andrews
Lounge of J.K. Place
Michele Bonan is a gentleman of style

Michele Bönan leading a workshop at Abitare il Tempo in Verona, Italy. Image © Christine Hütter Bönan.

In the Foreword to Michele Bönan’s The Gentleman of Style, published by Assouline, Leonardo Ferragamo notes it’s a great pleasure to introduce the creative journey of his friend, an architect whom he deeply admires. In flipping slowly through the sumptuous book, it quickly becomes obvious that Bönan’s creative journey is vast.

 

A Gentleman of Style

To create work that is in keeping with the times—to be timeless, executing the vision that gives each design its varied identity—has set all of us who value authenticity on a course of creating expressive collections. “So a new point of view is the result of a journey of unconscious insights in which a library of images halts one’s own dialogue to give life to new signs,” says Bönan’s friend Francesco Carallo. How very true this is as the visual richness of this book unfolds.

 

Della Valle offices Milan

The Della Valle offices in Milan, designed by Michele Bönan. the armchairs in the foreground are exquisite. Image © Massimo Listri.

 

Bönan’s architectural interpretations are uniquely personal and they express every facet of his own lifestyle. He admits to loving luxury but the kind that is absent of vulgarity. Chanel said, “Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language, and I stay in the game to fight it.” For myself, the spirit to enhance decorative elements in furniture strengthens my connection with elegance and marries simplicity with natural curves and shapes into a bouquet of luxury style. The level of craftsmanship and attention to detail will form a legacy, I feel, for those of us who care enough to insist upon these hallmarks of taste.

 

Christine and Michele Bönan at home

Christine and Michele Bönan at home in this 1995 portrait. Image © Sky Bönan.

 

Bönan believes in architecture. His approach is to identify a balanced, harmonious whole. It’s about how decoration contributes to a project. His view is that contemporary style is discussed all too often in a way that is not always necessary. To him it’s just a state of mind, a personal way of being. At Bruce Andrews Design, we completely agree in this discussion.

 

Lounge of J.K. Place

The lounge of J.K. Place in Rome, designed by Michele Bönan. Image © Massimo Listri.

 

Form, aesthetic and its key elements don’t follow one style or one fashion but come together to contribute to harmony. There is no single style to me; just as Bönan’s view is to honor the spirit of a place and its socio-cultural background, so, too, I believe, the form and design of a piece has to understand how it’s going to connect to today’s lifestyle and be gently intertwined with other art, collections and valuable antiques, particularly ones passed from generation to generation, to create a relaxed atmosphere.

 

Cover Michele Bonan The Gentleman of Style

The Cover of Michele Bönan’s “The Gentleman of Style,” published by Assouline.

 

Bönan says, “I embrace the freedom of eclecticism to give life to a special place of distilled wonders, and authentic Wunderkammer that reflects the spirit of those who will live there.” His home is a Renaissance-era palazzo in the historic heart of Florence, the building’s doorways and portals made of pietra serena stone; the ceilings high and frescoed. “But that doesn’t stop me from experiencing it in a contemporary way,” he says. “I love Florence and feel so at home there. It’s like an open book that gives you endless lessons and suggestions on a daily basis.

 

Living room Hôtel Marquis Faubourg Saint-Honoré

The living room of the Hôtel Marquis Faubourg Saint-Honoré, designed by Michele Bönan. Image © Massimo Listri.

 

Assouline was brilliant in how the luxuriant photography in this book was presented, page after page of interiors that are brought to life by antiquaries intermingled with crisp moldings and walls in resplendent hues. Describing his oeuvre, Bönan says, “Every project is like a film script, with its own plot and narrative dynamic, combining pathos, wit, and a gentle touch of irony.”

 

Detail of fireplace Portrait Hotel

Detail of the fireplace in the Portrait Hotel in Florence. Image © Massimo Listri.

 

Evidence of this can be seen in things as ordinary as the slight lines of the legs a tall stool, reading almost primitive, covered in Zebra hide nudging into an extraordinarily ornate fireplace mantle above which rests a piece of edgy modern art. The contemporary composition is one move during which Bönan allows organic abruptness in (though never too jarringly); otherwise, lines are impeccably measured and orderly whether they exist, whether they be in wall panels, on carpeted stairways, in coffered ceilings or on fabrics.

 

Restaurant at J.K. Place

The restaurant at J.K. Place. Image © Massimo Listri.

 

The sources he references are inspiring, such as this quote by Carlo Rossella: “What is an armchair if not a refuge for body and soul, in which we sit to read and think? And is a sofa not a friend who revives you when you are tired and listening to Liszt? And a bed is everything. But not the opposite of everything.” The human form is represented prolifically in bronze, marble and clay. Patina resides elbow-to-elbow with abstract art and au courant black and white photography, and books hold sway in space after space, their declarative spines clues that intelligence is celebrated through the experiential. Quoting Leonardo da Vinci, Bönan, in my eyes, explains his gift: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

 

Living room Hotel Marquis

Detail of the living room at the Hôtel Marquis, a mixing of Chinoiserie and a mid-century modern style lamp evidence of Bönan’s acuity. Image © Massimo Listri.

 

Wrapping back around to the beginning, I return to Ferragamo’s take on his friend as a way to end this meditation on classic gracefulness. He makes the point that Bönan’s confidence and personality have always characterized his work, giving it a basic identity that remains constant across the most varied projects. “This confidence also permeates everything he does,” Ferragamo adds, “making Michele ‘a man of style rather than a man with a style.’” I couldn’t agree more.

This post, The Gentleman of Style, © Bruce Andrews Design, all rights reserved. Our furniture is now available through Nandina Home in Aiken, SC; Jalan Jalan in Miami, FL; Travis & Company in ADAC in Atlanta; and the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Dallas, TX. We will soon be showing in the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Houston and in the Michael-Cleary showroom in Chicago, IL.