Less Is Amore

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photos by:
May 8, 2011

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.

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  Francesco and Mafalda pose on the custom steel staircase between the living room and bedroom of their upstairs unit.
  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    Francesco and Mafalda pose on the custom steel staircase between the living room and bedroom of their upstairs unit.


    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  "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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    "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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  Alberto takes in the seaside sights and narrow alleys of Syracuse on his scooter.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    Alberto takes in the seaside sights and narrow alleys of Syracuse on his scooter.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  Fresh goods and tasty treats are always on offer at one of Syracuse’s nearby outdoor markets.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    Fresh goods and tasty treats are always on offer at one of Syracuse’s nearby outdoor markets.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  Francesco and his family revel in home-cooked meals. Here he is looking over the day's catch at the market.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    Francesco and his family revel in home-cooked meals. Here he is looking over the day's catch at the market.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  Photographer Gunnar Knechtel couldn't resist the textured rows of lemons for sale.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    Photographer Gunnar Knechtel couldn't resist the textured rows of lemons for sale.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  “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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    “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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  Elsewhere in the house a cheery minimalism reigns. The chair next to Alberto, a photographer, is Achille Castiglioni's Mezzadro stool.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    Elsewhere in the house a cheery minimalism reigns. The chair next to Alberto, a photographer, is Achille Castiglioni's Mezzadro stool.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  Four Universale stacking chairs by Joe Colombo for Vitra flank a white, plastic table in the dining room.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    Four Universale stacking chairs by Joe Colombo for Vitra flank a white, plastic table in the dining room.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  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.  Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    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.

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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  “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.Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!   Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel
    “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.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

    Photo by: Gunnar Knechtel

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