written by:
photos by:
May 8, 2011
Originally published in The Photo Issue

With its architectural history reaching back to the ancient Greeks, Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, has plenty of old bones. In 2001, while still students, native sons Francesco (now an architect) and Alberto (a photographer) bought a crumbling building that dates from the 18th century. Seven years—three of them spent on construction—and one UNESCO permitting process later, the Moncada brothers moved in: Francesco on the top two floors and Alberto on the first. Now the two globetrotting brothers, as well as Francesco’s girlfriend, architect Mafalda Rangel, use the place whenever they’re in Sicily. The modern interior, replete with furniture of Francesco’s design as well as a few Italian classics bought on eBay, serves as the perfect counterpoint to the weight of the town’s considerable history. The trio gives us a tour of their home and hometown, showing that where they live extends beyond the front door.

Francesco Moncada and Mafalda Rangel at home in their Syracuse home
Francesco and Mafalda pose on the custom steel staircase between the living room and bedroom of their upstairs unit.

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Late 18th century building on an original Greek path
"The building dates from the end of the 18th century, the street still follows the original Greek path, and there’s even an ancient cistern underneath,” says Francesco Moncada.
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Alberto Moncada on his scooter
Alberto takes in the seaside sights and narrow alleys of Syracuse on his scooter.
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Syracuse Italy waterfront house
The Moncada brothers grew up in Syracuse, so it was an ideal place for Francesco to design a home. He just wishes he could spend more time there.
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Syracuse Italy outdoor market
Fresh goods and tasty treats are always on offer at one of Syracuse’s nearby outdoor markets.
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Outdoor market vendor at Syracuse
Here's one of the vendors at the outdoor market that the Moncadas and Rangel frequent. He's selling sun-dried tomatoes by the kilo.
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Francesco Moncada at the outdoor market
Francesco and his family revel in home-cooked meals. Here he is looking over the day's catch at the market.
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Fresh lemons at outdoor market stand
Photographer Gunnar Knechtel couldn't resist the textured rows of lemons for sale.
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Modern kitchen with orange rubber floor
If the orange rubber floor of Francesco’s kitchen is on the humble side (it’s old stock from an office-supply warehouse) then the Pipe lamp by Herzog + de Meuron that hangs overhead is high design indeed.
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Bright orange framed door by the rooftop
The bright orange frame of the glazed door adds a sense of modern exuberance to the deck off of Francesco and Mafalda’s bedroom. The sunny, open space reveals both a Loop chair by Willy Guhl and the tile rooftops of Syracuse, where the water is never far off.
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Beach front harbor view
“We have a boat in the harbor, a one-minute walk from the house,” says Francesco. The sea is never far from Syracuse, and centuries-old walls protect the city from the water.
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Modern bedroom with world map wall decal
Francesco and Mafalda’s bedroom is open and playful with only a bit of Algue by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec guarding the stairs. The lamp was designed by Francesco himself and the decal on the wall is from My Vinilo.
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Alberto Moncada by a Achille Castiglioni's Mezzadro stool
Elsewhere in the house a cheery minimalism reigns. The chair next to Alberto, a photographer, is Achille Castiglioni's Mezzadro stool.
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Yellow storange shelf by Jasper Morrison
This shelf on casters is by Jasper Morrison. Francesco has managed to decorate the house with furniture of his own making and a series of haute-design classics that he's found primarily on eBay.
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Silver sliding door closet and cherry red Eames rocker
A cherry-red Eames rocker is one of the nice touches in the Moncada-Rangel residence. And it's just these splashes of color that give the place so much of its charm.
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Four Universale stacking chairs by Joe Colombo for Vitra in dining room
Four Universale stacking chairs by Joe Colombo for Vitra flank a white, plastic table in the dining room.
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Dining table with Eames Hang-It-All family portrait
Despite unrelentingly busy schedules and travels all over the world, the Moncada brothers and Mafalda relish the simple pleasures of a family meal. Alberto serves up the pasta. An Eames Hang-It-All is affixed to the wall where you come up the stairs.
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Syracuse Italy café
When they find themselves in Syracuse, it’s hard to resist humble, old-world pleasures like a coffee at a sunbaked cafe or a stroll around the town, which is some 2,700 years old.
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Old fashioned neighborhood in Syracuse Italy
Though the Moncada's and Rangel's home has a thoroughly updated interior, the dominant style in Syracuse is still a good couple centuries old. The town itself is also home to a warren of small streets and alleys dotted with balconies, and the occasional clothesline.
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Syracuse Italy neighborhood rooftop view
“The biggest challenge in construction was dealing with legislation and the municipality. The house is on a protected site so everything was regulated," says Francesco. And when you're dealing with such a splendid concatenation of historic buildings leading out toward the sea, it's easy to see why.

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Francesco Moncada and Mafalda Rangel at home in their Syracuse home
Francesco and Mafalda pose on the custom steel staircase between the living room and bedroom of their upstairs unit.

Moncada / Rangel Residence

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