An Italian Beauty
All curves, angles, and movement.
The curved, airy staircase is a Max Parangi signature.
When it came to designing and building his dream house in Yonkers last year, Giovanni Viscariello had a vision. It was so specific and outside-of-the-box, Viscariello interviewed a dozen architects before finding one who shared it: Max Parangi, who has offices in White Plains and Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. “I wanted to live in a space that sustains movement with curves and interesting angles…I don’t like square,” Viscariello says. “Max had a flare for contemporary, clean lines. He could articulate what was in my mind and just ran with it.”
“Giovanni appreciates what I do,” says Parangi, with a barely perceptible Italian accent. “I have an aversion to right angles—I keep things visually rich with forty-five-degree corners and lots of curves; a variety of structural elements that mean the difference between boring and interesting.” Parangi, who earned his architectural degree from the University of Florence and still exchanges notes about new design technology with architect friends in Italy, thinks in terms of “volume” and “creating space” as well as cosmetics. “Molding and wallpaper are incidental to me. No one looks at the Egyptian pyramids or the Parthenon and comments on the colors. I’m more interested in a structure’s mass.”
Limestone blocks were cut on-site to create this 30-foot-high artistic fireplace facade. Interlocking diamonds in the foyer floor mimic the copper diamond inlay above the fireplace.
Viscariello, a handsome man with slicked-back hair, an athlete’s build, and a personality so exuberant and gracious, you want to bake cookies for him on the spot, is a successful, self-schooled photographer who flies around the world shooting high-end weddings and once-in-a-lifetime events. Embracing a life that is “extremely social—I need to be around people,” he frequently befriends his clients and most people with whom he comes in contact. So it’s no surprise that Parangi and Viscariello have formed a mutual admiration. “We get along great because we’re both visual artists,” Viscariello says. “It’s a pleasure to work with a young couple who speak the same language—it’s the ultimate synergy,” Parangi enthuses.
Giovanni and his wife, Daniela, lived happily with her parents in Mamaroneck while the 4,527-square-foot home was being built, and moved into the new construction last May. Daniela, a secretary at a doctor’s office, is, her husband says, “an awesome cook. Every time I come home, there’s something great in the oven.” Daniela gave Giovanni free reign to design their home but insisted on a cook’s kitchen. “There were some specific things she wanted, like a sink in the center island,” Viscariello says.
Parangi prides himself on certain “signature” design elements, including 45-degree beveled wall corners, barrel-vaulted ceilings, curved balconies, and, circular staircases. All are prevalent in Viscariello’s home. Bound up stone steps and through the front door, and you see at once the round staircase with whimsical lollipop-shaped wrought-iron railings, a travertine-and-marble floor with an interlocking diamond motif, and a one-of-a-kind fireplace directly ahead. “You can see the circular staircase and fireplace from the front door in all of my homes,” Parangi says.
The focal point of the home is the three-story (30 feet tall) mosaic fireplace in a pavilion-like great room right off the kitchen—a vertical montage of rectangular limestone tiles, alternately recessed and protruding, creating a textural wall. A thin strip of copper inlay slashes its length with a diamond-shaped piece beneath—like an exclamation point. “It took a few weeks and lots of cutting for Mark Mehrnia, a stone fabricator out of New Jersey, to complete this,” says Viscariello. Sitting in front of it, on sensually curved Italian leather couches and chairs in pumpkin-orange (from Natuzi in SoHo), which add punch to the soft creams of the walls and floors, you can look upward to see the barrel vaulted ceiling. The curves above are echoed in a second-floor balcony that extends over the great room and again in the curved fireplace base.
Supple brown leather couches (also Natuzi) in a separate den off the main, cathedral-like room provide space for more intimate gatherings. To add color, drama, and movement to the small area, Viscariello hung a piece by one of his favorite artists: a vivid giclée print of Van Gogh’s swirling Starry Night.
The kitchen sports the requisite granite counters, dark cabinetry, and brushed-nickel hardware of a contemporary cook’s nook, but other features bend the stereotype—like a brushed stainless-steel farmer’s sink that breaks up the brown paneling with its jutting metal surface, playing in the most modern of ways on the country look.
The most striking feature in the kitchen, however, was one of the toughest, architecturally, to pull off—an unframed triangular glass piece that Parangi calls an “unobstructed frameless window”—an angular bay. It’s set in a first-floor exterior wall corner that forms a small breakfast niche, and Parangi had to incorporate steel supports, two cantilevered headers, in the ceiling above to re-enforce the load.
Rightfully proud of his life’s work, Viscariello displays some of his own favorite photographs and a collection of antique Leicas and Rolleiflex cameras from the 1930s in a first-floor home office. He’s got an eye for composition; one black-and-white photo depicts a saxophone that appears to glow from within. Original Jazz Age paintings by Clifford Bailey hang throughout the house.
Upstairs, the master suite features those 45-degree corners, generous closet space, and an outdoor “Romeo and Julietˮ balcony overlooking downtown Eastchester.
Though the bedroom is beautiful, Giovanni and Daniela prefer to be downstairs. “We love to light the fire and just sit on the orange couch with a glass of wine,” says Viscariello. “The other day, I called a bunch of friends and asked, ‘Where do you want to go?’ They all said, ‘We just want to come over to your house.’ So, they did and we drank wine and talked in front of the fireplace. It was perfect.”
Photography by SGM Photography