When a Toronto-based family with Italian heritage approached Audax, an architecture, interior design, and build firm, they hoped to create a European-inspired home with a modern sensibility. “The home was really inspired by looking at the past,” says Audax founder Gianpiero Pugliese. “We’re always thinking about the relationship between history and contemporary design. This home has so many nods to the past, yet strikes a perfect balance.”
Pugliese, who also comes from Italian heritage, connected with the clients to create a home that fuses traditional Italian architecture with contemporary design. He and his clients were inspired by the Villa Necchi Campiglio, an iconic 1930s mansion in Milan once owned by Italian socialites that played host to lavish parties for the who’s who of society. Built by architect Piero Portaluppi, the famous villa fuses Art Deco design motifs with concepts of structural rationalism—symmetrical and geographically designed structures that lack ornamentation. Today, it is an art museum.
When it came to designing the five-bedroom, five-bathroom Villa Cortile, which was completed in 2019, Pugliese and his clients hoped to create something striking yet classic. The three-level home includes a subterranean lower-level entertainment area and garage. The refined façade features whitewashed brick and Hope Bay limestone sourced from Ontario, which adds to the home’s crisply modern, almost monastic aesthetic. The classic pitched roof—a nod to modernist design—is a combination of standing-seam zinc on the lower areas and slate on the upper portions.
When it came to this home, Pugliese wanted to defy the typical residential design of the area through certain features. “Most of the entry doors are in the center, but for this property, I wanted people to discover the front door and break the typical mold of Canadian homes where the door is in the center,” he explains. To do that, he created an asymmetrical entry with a stone archway that leads to a pea-graveled courtyard accentuated with carefully sculpted plantings and a singular tree.
Floor-to-ceiling windows and doors line the courtyard, providing tantalizing glimpses into the home’s open-plan living spaces on the main floor, while Juliet balconies provide an intimate and convivial connection to the courtyard from the second-floor rooms. By night, the home is illuminated like a glowing lantern.
Inside, there’s a fluid environment for entertaining. The expansive living, dining, and kitchen areas face the central courtyard. The dramatic double-height living room is awash in natural light and features walnut-accented window frames, chevron flat-sawn white oak flooring, brushed brass finishes, and custom furniture from Audax. Like a modern interpretation of an Italian villa, there is an Italian-sourced Vita Grey marble- and brass-clad fireplace.
Though many details make this home stand out, one of the most notable is the his-and-hers kitchens. Pugliese incorporated curved elements in many parts of the home, including the kitchen, where angular edges were used to emphasize an intersection of traditional and modern design.
The “her” kitchen features two waterfall marble islands, walnut-and-brass cabinetry, and brass-accented high-top stools; the “his” kitchen is located off the main kitchen and features stainless steel cabinetry, a pizza oven, and a fryer.
“The owner’s family was in the pizza business, so the pizza oven is a nod to his heritage,” he says. “In the wintertime, it functions like an indoor kitchen. In the summertime, you open those doors, and it becomes an outdoor kitchen. As long as it isn’t cold, you can entertain there for a good part of the year.”
The formal dining room takes notes from Villa Necchi and has custom ceiling plasterwork and custom furniture from Audax. The firm even designed the table to be split in two. From either side, there are views of the backyard, and from the other, the courtyard.
A custom mahogany staircase with fluted plaster lining the walls leads to the upper level, where you’re met with an exquisite primary suite that is complete with a private sitting area that showcases a Muriel cloud chandelier and a Cava Emperor-clad marble fireplace, as well as designer boutique-style his-and-her closets.
As far as the other amenities, the home has an outdoor pool and a pool house that has a living area and a full bathroom. Behind the pool house is a sports court for pickleball or basketball. There’s plenty of manicured lawn space for entertaining and outdoor terraces to enjoy the Canadian summer. On the lower level are a movie theater, a wine cellar, and an underground garage.
Click here for more photos of Villa Cortile.