Room to glow - Issue 119 - Magazine | Monocle

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Solid Swiss architecture, a canny floor plan and an enviable location (a nip away from Seebad Utoquai bathing club on Lake Zürich) drew a pair of new tenants to this brand-new apartment late last year. The smart concrete block in the upscale Zürich quarter of Seefeld may have lacked the weathered charm of its older, modernist neighbours, but its young, well-proportioned features would become the canvas for a masterclass in cosy interior design. For the residents, keen to explore both the practicalities and limitations of modern apartment living (with minds cast to upcoming property development projects in Asia), the question was: “Can we bring real warmth to a new-build and do it in less than year?”

Today, a wander round these light oak floors (cooled underfoot in summer by water from the lake) is confirmation that they could. Art and design pieces collected over a quick series of buying trips and boot-loads of vintage furniture from shopping sprees across Mitteleuropa have formed a space rich in texture, warm in materials and, most importantly, lit up in the cosiest manner. “The illegal lightbulb market is booming here in Zürich,” quips one of the residents, whose first step was to replace all the LED bulbs here with incandescent alternatives from Switzerland’s Righi Licht (banned in the EU). “They really make a difference, the light is so much warmer, so much more golden.” Dimmer switches came next and then the acquisition of an arsenal of well-shaded lamps produced by Canada’s Lotte Lamps, Spain’s Santa & Cole and Austria’s Kalmar. All this has set the perfect tone for both cocktail parties and evenings spent reading long into the night.

A good bulk of the furniture was sourced on a buying “blitz” one chilly winter weekend dashing from Geneva’s Le Salon du Design trade fair to a Brockenhaus (second-hand shop) in St Moritz. At the latter, just a few Swiss Francs were enough to secure 1970s design classics from Italy’s Cassina – stackable timber side tables with reversible tops. Closer to home the wooden wonders that warm up the place and soften the acoustics (Swiss neighbours are known to be sensitive) were secured with a little help from Shiran Steiner, the buyer behind Zürich’s excellent vintage gallery Stadtstube. A Florence Knoll sideboard in a rich Rio rosewood and Carrara marble was bought to stand as a centrepiece in the lounge, while guests coo over the mid-century Aino Aalto cocktail cart that sits in the kitchen. Here, shelving units from Swedish firm String – one vintage, one new – add softness to the room.

The well-travelled lives of our residents are revealed across more personal additions to the apartment. Works from British artist David Shrigley border photographs taken in Berlin and Beirut. A prominent picture of a Swiss cow being airlifted across a valley, by Urs Flüeler for newspaper NZZ, points to a sense of humour and a passion for media (reinforced by a publication collection spanning vintage Life annuals to stacks of new interiors magazines).

To make it all fit, the residents can thank the space-saving smarts of Galli Rudolf, the Swiss architects behind this building. The apartment’s floor plan operates around an axis from a welcoming central entrance hall. Sturdy timber room-dividers slide into the walls, creating a deceptively large open-plan space for parties. The guest bedroom doubles up as a second lounge. With a fine 1960s wooden timber bench from Sweden’s Nordiska Kompaniet and a wall rack custom built by South Tyrolean carpenter Gufler, it’s the spot to escape for a moment of quiet during a buzzing party as well as a comfortable over-nighter for friends.

Our kind hosts bid us goodbye from the plant-laden balcony, decked out with furniture from Swiss specialist Milo Möbel and moodily lit with oil burners from Sweden’s Karlskrona Lampfabrik. The cool lake breeze rustles the leafy interior courtyard it faces. “What’s not to like?” asks the resident. “In terms of life-improvement you just feel like the edge is taken off here.” Looking back into this cosiest of residences, it’s impossible to disagree.

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