Places - Design & Living (September 2017)

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Design & Living

STAIRWAY TO HEL[ICAL] An uplifting spiral sculpture

Hallway wall painting unveiled MORE THAN A WARM WELCOME

From a tired 1960s flat POPS A HIP CONTEMPORARY CUBE



Design & Living




THE PROJECT 10 Thinking Outside the Teal Cube Create a cool retro vibe 18 Flight of Fantasy… Form & Function A whirlpool for a stairway WORKSPACE 24 Laying the Groundwork Reflecting your identity through your office BUILDING A BUSINESS 30 Gastronomical A new bar on the block HOME DÉCOR 36 DO IT YOURSELF Pallets For a Purpose Build the unique from the common 41 TRENDS Nordic Style Update Hot interiors for the cold months PROJECT PEOPLE 44 Current and Concrete Dynamic structure leaves design mark in Denmark 47 IDEAS & MORE DESTINATION, HERITAGE & ENVIRONMENT 48 ECO-FRIENDLY Design for Comfort Example of an energy-efficient townhouse 55 IF WALLS COULD TALK Say it With Flowers Stunning wall paintings surface 60 ON SHOW In the Flesh Unveiling Patrick Dalli’s unseen nudes 64 ART/CHITECTURE The Forgotten Hamlet Before these buildings are lost forever…





it may come as a shock to many, but i’d rather not have €10 million in my pocket, and know for certain that illegal properties have been torn down, not sanctioned – and fined for breaking the law just the same. but as in most other life choices in wilderness malta today, i’m probably pretty much alone in this; and where i come across others with similar thoughts, i’m never sure whether they are genuine. if they are, their voices just get whirled off in a vortex and lost in space. that a controversial amnesty on building irregularities has raised this amount of money [€10 million] in just over a year is plain sickening and by no means a feather in anyone’s cap. it is simply a sign of how much the laws have been broken and what a good idea it actually is to flout them. don’t study, fail your exam, then pay a fine to pass, which will cost a fraction of the money you earn from the job you get thanks to your ‘qualifications’. and how ironic that a chunk of the money raised from these blessed breaches has been allocated to a grant to promote investment in the restoration of residential properties within urban conservation areas. so, we restore at the cost of our neighbour running roughshod over

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the rules we are being supported not to breach? oK. but hey, we have €10 million in our pocket! Who cares if a building’s ‘washroom’ is the size of a third floor, blocking others’ PV panels and overlooking private gardens? Who cares if there has been height abuse, or if entire apartments have been constructed illegally? nothing like a quick buck for a country that sells its citizenship for money – and probably even its mother if it got half the chance. in materialistic malta, it’s not easy to convince fellow citizens of the deeper, emotional impact of the quality of our built environment; or that you can form a bond with a pile of stones, beyond their historical relevance, and appreciate them for more than the mere four walls they appear to be to others. if we don’t get it from an environment and heritage point of view, how can we even start to get the sentimental value of stones? allied newspapers ltd, the publishers of this magazine, recently left the non-descript, maze-like st Paul’s street building for more modern and practical offices outside Valletta. there was nothing sexy about no. 341. it was a mess, to put it mildly, in dire need of refurbishment and much more… it was a source of complaints and discomfort, dingy and mostly makeshift. but along the decades – and again beyond the historical importance of the building that churned out the country’s most influential newspapers – it turned into a home, with the sense of comfort, security and attachment that comes with that; it morphed into a person, maybe ugly and decrepit, but still an old friend; it was the backdrop to an important chapter of life and the canvas for the creation of milestone memories. yes, it was more than just bricks and mortar – as most buildings are. but you can’t recognise the ‘person’ behind them, or feel a sense of

september 10, 2017 | issue 17 | Places is a bi-monthly magazine | EXECUTIVE EDITOR fiona Galea debono | PUBLISHER allied newspapers ltd | PRODUCTION allied newspapers ltd | PRINTING Progress Press ltd | DESIGN manuel schembri | ADVERTISING SALES Veronica Grech sant [2276 4333;]

nostalgia and the end of an era when you abandon them, if you are blinkered by the billions… and those billions continue to be blinding as planning applications steamroll in, including those to replace an old townhouse, believed to sit above ancient roman remains, with a two-storey building in the village core of rabat. money talks and turns everything into a mere mound of rubble. so, it is with pleasure, albeit hopeless, that we feature in the september issue of Places: desiGn & liVinG restoration projects that have understood the sentimental value of the old; or art that has captured whole hamlets that have vanished. maybe the words of dr Philip farrugia randon, who wrote the foreword of the Ħal Niesi drawings exhibition catalogue [see story on page 64], capture this concept best when he relates how he relived his past as he revisited a series of farmhouse scenes he had painted years ago. “not far from where i lived in my youth, there was a solitary small chapel and a nearby farmhouse out in the country. i used to cycle my way there every day and spent long hours, practically whole days, on the parvis of that small chapel and facing that solitary farmhouse, studying for my exams… there i examined my spirit, my inner feelings, my fears, my dreams and nightmares, my aspirations. What i discovered then is still valid in me.... i found myself. strangely i found myself in a place that had been forgotten by everyone.” it’s a matter of time before the buildings that shaped our past and contributed to who we are will not be around, or even remembered, and just confined to watercolour scenes and pen-and-ink drawings. it’s a matter of time before we will be feeding off nothing more than nostalgia… no longer even frustration. it’s a matter of time before we have nothing to feel sentimental about.

this publication is being distributed as part of © 2017. all rights reserved. reproduction in whole, or in part, without written permission of the publishers, is prohibited.

sePtember 2017 PLACES






A tired-looking 1960s Sliema apartment was renovated into a hip space, with a retro vibe, which doesn’t take you out of your comfort zone nonetheless. Whenever Atelier Maison is entrusted with an interiors project, this design duo likes to push its own creative boundaries and try something new. Working within a tight budget on an open-ended design was a challenge architects Paula Agius-Vadala and Katja Abela gladly accepted.

The designers Paula Agius-Vadala and Katja Abela from Atelier Maison The type of property and location A 1960s first-floor apartment in Sliema

The brief The clients purchased the property as a rental investment. It was located close to their residence, so it would be easy for them to come and go with changing tenants. We were at an advantage because they also had an




appreciation for design and allowed us to go ahead and be as creative as we wanted. The most important thing for them was that there were two bedrooms, with a bathroom each. The living spaces needed to be an open plan and full of natural light. Obviously, since the apartment was going to be rented out, the budget was a very big deal and we had to stick to it. So, while this was restricted, the design was open-ended – a challenge we gladly accepted. The concept We wanted to create an interior that was slightly different from the norm, without causing discomfort. We wanted the space to feel different, in that you feel like you’re living in a holiday place, and yet, it still feels familiar. Whenever we are given an interior design project, we like to push our own design boundaries and try something different. And this was a really good space to do so. Being restricted, we had to use every single inch of the area. Since the apartment was built in the 1960s, the ceilings were high and the rooms square-ish. So, we really wanted to channel a cool retro vibe, but with a contemporary approach, while being economical with the space. The starting point From the get-go, the place was in desperate need for renovation. Structurally, the apartment was sound, but the existing layout didn’t work. The living spaces were located in the dark centre of the apartment. These were quickly shifted to the front part, while the sleeping quarters were pushed to the quiet areas, away from the street. In fact, between the living spaces and the bedrooms, a ‘buffer’ zone was created in the form of a study, adjacent to one bedroom, and a bathroom/wardrobe area before the other bedroom. The challenges The limited budget was a clear challenge. The clients obviously didn’t want to overspend, so it was important to achieve a high-end aesthetic on a budget. Many of the furniture items were custom made, so with a restricted budget, certain ‘unnecessary’ design details were eliminated. But then again, simple and effective design solutions were implemented, leaving the finished product still looking good. This was achieved through paint finishes and by







The proposed layout of the first-floor apartment.

leaving surfaces raw and natural. Another challenge was how to utilise the restricted space and make it comfortable to live in.

The stand-out feature The stand-out element of this project is pretty obvious – it’s the big teal cube! This was an architectural element that was

WHEN THE CLIENT BOUGHT THE PROPERTY, THERE WAS A LOT OF VINTAGE FURNITURE THAT WAS THEN RESTORED AND REVAMPED, WHICH ALSO HELPED WITH ACHIEVING THE CONTEMPORARY RETRO LOOK The key elements and colour schemes We wanted to differentiate between the living and sleeping quarters through changes in materials and finishes. But these changes were not extreme. For example, in the living spaces, we used a new tile, which had a retro geometric pattern, reminiscent of the original cement tiles [that were not very appealing], while we used oak parquet to bring more warmth into the bedrooms. Another design element was the use of 10cm x 10cm square white glossy tiles, with light blue grouting, in the bathrooms. This was a cost-effective solution, which was an interesting design element. We clad the entire bathrooms with the same white tile. Another cost-effective solution was to have two-tone walls in the living spaces. We used a light blue at the bottom portion, while a light gray was used at the top two-thirds of the wall. When the client bought the property, there was a lot of vintage furniture that was then restored and revamped, which also helped with achieving the contemporary retro look.



established at concept stage and was created with a number of key functions in mind. It helped define and enclose the living room area. The ceilings being quite high, in order to create a cosy, intimate vibe in the living room, it is as though part of the cube was carved away to make way for this space, and the leftover cube encroaches upon the sofa and coffee table, where people relax after a hard day’s work. The back of the cube is also carved out to encase the kitchen. Like this, it is hidden away behind the living area to avoid seeing any messy workspaces upon entering the apartment. The teal cube was implemented as a space-saving element also. Thanks to the cube, the kitchen and living spaces are back to back, and like that, there was no need for added circulation space between the two spaces. The cube welcomes you into the space like a pleasant surprise. It always gets a reaction from whoever enters the apartment – a positive one too! The most practical/frivolous touch Probably the most practical touch would have to be the


THE CUBE WELCOMES YOU INTO THE SPACE LIKE A PLEASANT SURPRISE. IT ALWAYS GETS A REACTION FROM WHOEVER ENTERS THE APARTMENT – A POSITIVE ONE TOO! magical feel to the space. There is a pendant light fitting above the dining area, which was originally bought for our own office, but for a number of reasons, ended up not being used. We offered the clients to use it for this apartment because we thought it would look perfect. The light comes out from a white glass globe, and it has an antique look to it, as though it came from an old Sliema townhouse. The preferred corner The dining area enjoys an overall view of the teal cube, as well as most of the natural light because it overlooks the street. The original shutters were retained and restored since they were in keeping with the rest of the design. Even the clients find it a really good space to use as a working area. Due to the small spaces, furniture in the bedrooms was kept to a minimum, and the master bedroom has a simple and hotel feel to it, which makes it very easy to wind down in. The combination of oak parquet flooring, light warm gray walls and taupe upholstery certainly contribute to this. big teal cube. It has so many functions – both practical and aesthetic. It has a presence within the space it is placed in and serves multiple uses. On the other hand, it’s hard to think of anything that can be deemed frivolous within this space. Perhaps one thing that could have been done differently is the screening of one of the bathrooms. A system of sprayed glass and partitions was adopted, but there could have been a more straightforward and cost-effective solution that would have had the same effect and function as the glass partition that was actually designed and installed. The most precious piece The diffused lighting of the apartment gives such a warm and



The end result, look and feel We can safely say the end result is a really warm and welcoming space, and slightly quirky at the same time, which is something we really love. The style of the place might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the aim was to renovate a tired-looking property into a hip rental apartment, which doesn’t look like other small flats. We really wanted to make use of colour in the living spaces; colours that are timeless and contemporary. Some people shy away from colour, especially when restricted spaces are involved. But in this case, bold colours were used in the living spaces, while more natural materials and colours were used in the bedrooms as a way to help with the windingdown ambience within those rooms.


FLIGHT OF FANTASY… FORM & FUNCTION Mizzi Studio’s helical staircase in a private London house mimics a mesmerising whirlpool. It’s not just a means to navigate the property’s five floors, but also a permanent form of installation art, taking visitors on an immersive, uplifting flight of functional sculpture.




AwArd-winning Mizzi Studio has designed a five-storey bespoke spiral staircase, with a strong masculine character, as the centre piece of a private house in the heart of Mayfair, London. Based both in London and Malta, the studio was approached by greenway Architects, the designers of the Mayfair residence, having worked with several high-profile enterprises, including the royal Parks of Kensington and Chelsea, the Mondrian London Hotel, Tom dixon and Marie guerlain on anything from architecture to lighting, industrial and interactive design and commercial artworks. Mizzi Studio’s Colicci kiosk at westfield Stratford City is shortlisted in four categories at the restaurant & Bar design Awards and also at the retail week interiors Awards, while its design for the Yobu Kiosk at Festival Place has won third place at the 20th Visual Victories Awards for Best Overall Kiosk design. The studio has also just been nominated for Breakthrough Talent of the Year at the FX international interior design Awards, but its helical staircase and the way it was conceived is one of the latest feathers in its cap. Design Concept The design brief was to create a five-storey spiral staircase that acted as focal point of sculpture throughout every level of the house. Mimicking a mesmerising whirlpool, the helical staircase is a permanent form of installation art for its owner, taking visitors on an immersive, uplifting flight of functional sculpture. One of the biggest challenges for Mizzi Studio was figuring out how to link a house that spans five floors, each with a differing ceiling height. This meant the staircase had to break from its spiral circulation into a series of bespoke landings, cut at different angles for the stairs to land onto each floor, explains architect and product designer Jonathan Mizzi. “This circulation challenge presented a design opportunity to create a unique piece of sculpture on every level of the house, with its circular balustrade gracefully morphing into a new form, following its primary function of acting as a handrail.”





Top landing with skylight

The staircase was illuminated both naturally and artificially, with the optical light beam that comes down from the circular skylight giving an uplifting effect as one moves upstairs, while illuminating the staircase all the way to the basement. At night-time, the staircase is illuminated by a recessed LED trough that further articulates the spiral’s curve, while adding a warm white opulent touch. The stair core’s outer walls and inner balustrade are clad in a deep dark



mirror polished ebony, which envelopes users, guiding them through an “awe-inspiring journey of reflection”. Design Details The biggest technical challenge was developing a working process to enable the design development and production of the staircase while the ongoing construction of the house carried on, Mizzi explains.

Ground-floor entrance

“There was no luxury of surveying and templating the stair core from a finished building, which is the ideal way of ensuring everything fits together.” Mizzi Studio got around this by providing a series of 2D laser-cut plywood templates of each landing, which enabled the contractor to build the surrounding floors. In the meantime, it worked to ceiling levels established on the architect’s drawings, deriving a median step that would work across all floors.

Due to the delicate nature of the staircase’s many parts, monitoring the ongoing works on site was critical, Mizzi says. Working to a maximum tolerance allowance of 12mm, the ongoing construction was monitored frequently via a 3D point cloud laser scanner to ensure that it would not clash with the production of the staircase off site when everything came together. Built off site out of a steel structure and transported to site in multiple sections, the




Ground-floor landing

First-floor landing

TO REALISE THE MIRROR GLASS FINISH OF EACH CURVED PANEL AND TO MAINTAIN CONSISTENCY OVER FIVE STOREYS, EACH PIECE HAD TO BE DELICATELY SANDED BY HAND AND THEN LACQUERED AND POLISHED OVER A COURSE OF 10 COATS TO GET A PERFECTLY SEAMLESS FINISH skeleton of the staircase was clad with 70 bespoke panels of plywood and laminated with timber veneer. To realise the mirror glass finish of each curved panel and to maintain consistency over five storeys, each piece had to be delicately sanded by hand and then lacquered and polished over a course of 10 coats to get a perfectly seamless finish. The stair treads were finished in a velvety soft carpet, creating a distinct contrast and a lush feeling. Designed and manufactured using CAD and CAM, with countless visualisations, 3D prints and physical one-to-one samples, the staircase is a result of “a truly creative development process that pushes design tolerances of intersecting kit-of-parts to the very limit”.





Where do many of us spend most of our time? At work! So why not make sure our offices reflect our identity and put us in the right frame of mind, inspiring us and helping us to relax? This was the thought behind the design of Daniel Scerri Periti’s own new workplace.

FACT FILE Architecture & Design Perit Daniel Scerri, Perit Rebecca Zammit, Elyse Tonna, Nick Inguanez Structural Engineer Perit Ivan Buttigieg Custom-made furnishings Studio Moda Group Structural alterations Hega Ltd Finishes Altllas Co. Ltd



PART of a refurbishment project in a dilapidated GĹźira property, the office space of Daniel Scerri Periti is a true reflection of its design inspiration. The first challenge was to introduce as much natural light as possible within the restricted availability. Secondly, most of the structure had to be opened up, allowing access to a new mezzanine level. The entrance needed to reflect a clean but cosy feel, welcoming the client and user. for this reason, a bi-directional wallpaper, which imitates a cosy Christmas jumper pattern, warms the entrance, and the floating reception desk creates minimal obstruction to the flow.






The next room is a play of white materials. This provides a neutral, clean background and blank palette – fertile ground for the imagination required to create design proposals from this space. A long wall of cement finish binds the room with the mezzanine, while displaying some of the architecture firm’s


portfolio, with the raw materials used and the ‘greenery’ reflecting the office’s design inclination. As a back focal point, at the far end of the offices, the floor and wall are clad in artificial turf, which gives a feel of an internal back garden, while doubling as a sound insulator for board meetings. A tree trunk, salvaged from a building site, was stripped and preserved, and acts as a vertical sculptural element in front of the double-height library in the double-height space. The office pet sheep, Betsy, found its rightful spot here, while a full double-height mirror visually duplicates the width of the ‘internal garden’.





Everything was customised in this gastro bar – a labour of love, with stimulating complications at every corner for designer Sean Cassar, who steered away from the norm, the nice and the easy in every nook and cranny, opting for royal blues, plush velvets and vivid copper.

GASTRONO M The designer Sean Cassar from Design Hub Malta

The project Hammett’s Gastro Bar in Sliema The starting point This property was originally a clothes shop and its conversion to a restaurant before Hammett’s Gastro Bar was piecemeal and did not involve the major changes required. The finishes had remained essentially those of a fashion outlet and not of a catering establishment. Even though the previous operators had blagged it well, it still had the signs of the shop. The process The property was completely gutted and structural alterations made, in keeping with today’s standards and the general requirements for a public space. A new space allocation was also created to fit the brief.



The brief The first step was, of course, the analysis of the brand identity the client was pursuing, of the cuisine/menu and environment he wanted and the clientele and concept. The reference point was a mood board of materials and finishes, based primarily on copper and royal blue, and an industrial feel, intended to inspire the design.

The concept This is a gastro bar, where patrons opt for plates to share, and do not go for the standard first, second and third courses. Each dish has been studied to perfection, fusing different cuisines together in a fun way. It all ties in, with the food influencing the type of clientele expected, which, in turn, influences the type of ambience. A lot of emphasis has been laid on the cocktails and drinks, including high-end wines. While the gastro






bar could be described as upmarket, it is an affordable upmarket, and you don’t need to spend a fortune. The space Fundamentally a deep long hall, the space needed considerable attention even though it was not actually split. The space allocation brief was almost more important than the aesthetics. An adequate area for a kitchen, cold room and storage was needed as these weren’t big enough even though the property was previously a restaurant. The area had to be divided into different seating arrangements to offer clients a variety of situations. Outside has high seating and tables for quick meals, while inside has fixed seating

for a proper dinner, using comfortable deep buttoned velvet upholstery for the chairs, which also features on the lintels of the windows that were punctured out of the side walls. Halfway through are a couple of loungers – an area inspired by the fact that, at this point, the staircase of another house juts into the space. And further in is a closed-off private dining room, which is fully kitted to be able to host even business meetings while dining. The room is equipped with a projector and all the gadgets needed for a full-on presentation meeting. The way has also been paved to set up a stage for live bands, with sound system connectivity, and the possibility to cater for a variety of scenarios from watching

the World Cup to a live band and a presentation meeting. The design elements The side windows in the previous restaurant had been closed off for some reason, and these were reopened. Positioned at an angle due to the inclination of the street, each one is a different size and was turned into a design element. The windows have been stitched in with the deep buttoned velvet upholstery of the seating, so much so that it also flipped itself to pad their lintels. Besides creating a completely out-of-theordinary effect, this also helps with the acoustics, providing a contrast to the many hard materials around. There is no gypsum on the ceiling, and




the Zebrano timber to real copper, marble and velvet padding. These blocks are also functional in their own way; the copper ones, for example, are higher to prevent people from congregating in those areas and prevent blockages, directing the client flow to find the right place and reducing general traffic in the space.

all wiring of all services, including security and lighting, was passed through exposed copper conduits. This proved to be quite a job and it would have certainly been easier and less labour intensive to close off everything in gypsum soffits. The idea was not only aesthetic, but also to pull off the bourgeoisie industrial look. The colours and materials Royal blue and copper worked well together for the upmarket feel, which is brought down to earth by the neutral solid polished concrete flooring and the structural beams that have been painted grey and have inset mirrors. So much steel had been used, because the building that



houses the gastro bar is old and is also holding up the block above. This offered the opportunity to exploit and expose the beams and bring them out as a feature rather than close them off. The mirrors lighten the beams so they don’t look so bulky, and they even seem to be seethrough at points, playing on the eye. The bar As a structure, the bar could not be small because it has to cater for a large number of people both behind and in front of it to reduce waiting times and increase the possibility of having large groups in the drinking area. Its height is also right to grab a bite. The bar has a unique structure, with a ‘stitching’ effect between blocks of materials, ranging from

The main features The AC unit is housed in a long copper supply tube, which, besides having an aesthetic value, is also functional, with its perforations spread out to help dissipate the cool air, meaning customers feel a slight comfortable breeze, rather than freeze because they are sitting under a normal grille. The design of the front part has been customised to mimic jet turbine engines. This helps dress up the tube and also gives the impression that the front part is sucking fresh air from outside and dissipating it within. In the midst of the space is a tiny lounge area, which houses a copper whiskey still, with solid Zebrano in a herringbone design from the floor, up the wall and wrapped around the corner. Keeping this 45-degree mitred-edge continuous pattern on the corner was no mean feat. In the bathrooms, vintage Scottish whiskey barrels, inspired by the fact that the bar has high-end whiskies on offer, were sourced to be transformed into custom-built wash-hand basins. They were cut in half, and a brass internal sink was created, with the plumbing connections hidden away in the floating barrel. In the men’s, an old-school, corner, floor-to-ceiling urinal has been lined in an expensive mosaic, Bisazza, from Italy and is a bit decadent and fitting for the space. The idea is to always put extra effort into trying to offer the client a unique – and, why not, shocking – experience even when they go to the bathroom, which is a very important space and can change a mood. If so much attention has been given to a bathroom and it is mind-blowing, then it stands to reason that the rest is top class. The end result A seemingly haphazard mix of humble and rich materials, all stitched into each other for aesthetic and functional reasons, bearing in mind the brand identity and the level of the dining experience offered.



Found in abundance and absolutely free, it’s just a matter of combining the limitless supply of pallets with our creative juices, time and energy to build something unique. Antoinette Sinnas has come across a few do-it-yourselfers, who have wisely made use of pallets and helped keep them out of the landfills. PALLETS have been hauling goods across land and sea for decades, but it’s only recently that recycling and repurposing them for home and office décor has become a trend across the globe. Found in abundance and absolutely free, it’s just a matter of combining their limitless supply with your creative fuels, time and energy to build something unique. The pluses: you have the freedom to choose your own design and it’s not difficult to transform a pallet; you don’t need any special skills, and as long as you know how to handle wood-working tools, it’s a job well within your reach.

MOST OF US, NOWADAYS, OPT FOR A MORE CONTEMPORARY FINISH FOR OUR HOMES. SO, THE TREND OF ADDING ECO-FRIENDLY PALLET FURNITURE AND ACCESSORIES INSTANTLY ADDS FRESH, EARTHY TONES TO THE FOUR WALLS, GIVING THEM CHARACTER. Moreover, just because they’re given away freely, it doesn’t mean they’re made of cheap wood. Those generally used to transport heavy goods are made from solid oak, while those used to freight lighter material are made from pine. Both types of wood are untreated, giving them a second chance to be used in an economical way. And after being disassembled into wooden planks, they become extremely versatile and can be used for a number of home and commercial projects. Most of us, nowadays, opt for a more contemporary finish for our homes. So, the trend of adding eco-friendly pallet furniture and accessories instantly adds fresh, earthy tones to the four walls, giving them character. Anyone passionate about reducing the amount of trees being cut down, reusing old material, manufacturing new products – on a budget – and even exploring their creative gene, can turn to pallets.



Most projects can be completed within a couple of days, with the end result translating into major savings, while making a home, shop, or event unique. Here’s how a few creative do-it-yourselfers have wisely made use of pallets and helped keep them out of the landfills: Thinking out of the box Model MarieClaire Portelli [pictured right] decided to give her bedroom a complete makeover and did it all with humble pallets. She added her own twist and her ideas were completely out-of-the-box. Without any technical know-how, her parents – dad Jean, a computer engineer, and mum Josette, an LSA – helped her build her dream room on a budget, creating a luxurious, bright and airy space. They built a large wall-to-wall wardrobe, with ample storage compartments, equipped with everything she needs. The shoe wall is nothing short of carpentry magic, holding her designer collection – every girl’s desire. Now, when it comes to her bed, MarieClaire says that “comfort is crucial”. So, you must be wondering how anyone can sleep on a pile of pallets. Well, the Portellis’ design was simple, yet stylish. They tucked the bed neatly into the corner without encumbering the centre of the room. After sanding down the wood and fastening the pallets together firmly, they slapped on a few good coats of paint and placed a comfy mattress on top. At the end of the day, there’s nothing like climbing into a soft bed, with plush pillows and a warm, furry throw, to feel as though you’re getting a huge bear hug. Every model needs her make-up station – and especially one who also works as a make-up artist for one of the leading brands, 3ina. MarieClaire’s dressing table adds glamour to her bedroom, making it more elegant. Plus, it’s given her a great way to organise all her makeup goodies in a compact area, without having to splurge on an acrylic organiser.

the overall monotone appearance of this model’s bedroom is brilliant, with the predominant stark whiteness and splashes of black giving it a feeling of modernity. marieClaire has also used accent elements and soft furnishings to create focal points. She and her parents have managed to create a personal haven, with an eclectic and relaxed ambience.

A pallet for treats Sandro Grech and Sarah mcGourty [pictured overleaf], owners of miss ellen’s travelling treats in Čamrun, have gone way beyond the recycling bin, designing their entire shop from reusable and reclaimed materials. the talented duo had hardly any experience in carpentry before their

September 2017 PLACES



endeavour, and humbly logged onto you Tube to teach themselves the skills required. from building tables, massive shelving and display units and even a checkout counter, the pair certainly went the whole nine yards. as for their shop sign? “Why shell out €3,000 when something can be crafted for less than 100,” says sarah. That’s what you would call a brainwave, more than a bargain.

The TalenTed duo had hardly any experience in carpenTry before Their endeavour, and humbly logged onTo you Tube To Teach Themselves The skills required rows of eye-catching candy, ranging from contemporary confections to modern-day jawbreakers, neatly line the shelves, which have been built quite sturdily as each of the clear plastic containers the sweets are stored in weighs a minimum of two to three kilos. Two industrial wooden reels, generally used for wires and cables, have been cleverly transformed into stands for a pyramid of sweets, while the checkout counter is a basic pallet skeleton, with a glass slab placed neatly on top. miss ellen’s is not a mod kind of store, but has a very sweet [excuse the pun] shabby-chic vibe to it. it sports retro-style display boards and is adorned with midcentury elements, including weighing scales, creating such a signature feel throughout. it’s a true case of home sweet home. My very own pallet prince making our home beautiful and practical was so important to us. so, when my husband, victor, cleverly thought of creating an outdoor entertaining and play area for our family, i honestly didn’t know what the outcome would be. but thanks to his perseverance and tolerance, he rolled up his sleeves and got on with the job in hand. he absolutely wanted to create this outdoor space, where we could all relax and enjoy ourselves, and so he did. first came the outdoor decking. since pallet boards are not always of equal dimensions, with a little bit of mix and match, victor placed them on the ground and built up the primary base. disassembling the pallets, tediously removing each nail one by one, sanding the boards and applying numerous coats of stainers took up a substantial amount of time, but it was well worth the effort. Task number two was a much-needed sofa. by now, we were fixated on pallets, and after some more blood, sweat and tears, our pallet couch was created. i must profess it’s no Joey Tribbiani barcalounger, but it certainly serves the purpose. moving on to smaller projects, a rustic entrance organiser was lovingly made. We’ve never had one before in any of our homes, but i must say, every house


PLACES sepTember 2017

should have one. The wall-mounted organiser has added a dash of style to our entrance, without taking up a lot of space. It sports a standard file-sized pocket to place our mail, calendars and tablets, and two different sizes of metallic hooks for our keys, coats, bags and backpacks. Besides its utility tasks, it has two shelves to store other odds and ends, sunglasses and our favourite accent pieces. Simultaneously, while making the organiser, we created a neat reading nook. It was an ideal way to decorate the long hallway and breakdown the length, and has proven to be a perfect place to unwind with a cuppa and a good book. Although you don’t have to be an avid reader to enjoy these spaces; you can simply use them for some quiet time, to scroll the internet, or skim through magazines. The little pallet ottoman is actually quite multifunctional. It not only serves as a stool, but also has plenty of storage space, where magazines have slid under, and is used as a coffee table when we have guests. Till death do the pallets part In addition to decorating our home with pallets, we’ve taken it down the aisle. Wedding planner Patricia Falzon from Perfect Weddings asked me whether I could craft some signs for a wedding she was planning. I took this up as a challenge and put my husband to the task. He crafted a sign and I painted it. Just one photograph of that sign by shutter-pro Shane Watts got us orders for many, and Patricia said they really added to the wedding’s overall vintage vibe. Still on the wedding scene, Ir-Razzett l-Abjad, a 200year-old traditional Maltese farmhouse, often used to host romantic and rustic celebrations in a bucolic setting, brings the indoors outside for an al fresco feast in the sunshine. It sports a long bar, built of pallets, which complements the setting. Keeping the design minimal, the greenery is what jazzes it up as it sits under the shade and foliage of a beautiful vineyard. Owner Ivan Gravina says the bar is also used as a food station for certain weddings. Wood is the buzzword Beekeeping can be done practically anywhere there are flowering plants, shrubs, or trees, and bees can be kept in the cold, desert, or even humid conditions. Backyard beekeeping is shaping up to be the latest trend, and Mark Gauci Piscopo, a beekeeper from Marsascala decided to catch the buzz, making beehives from the wooden slats taken from pallets. He planed the wood thoroughly to remove any surface impurities, and made sure there were no nails, skids from stains, or chemical smells of any kind. Bees don’t ingest wood, but they do oxygenate their hives.



NORDIC STYLE UPDATE The essence of Nordic styling remains a serene, tranquil, calming vibe. But the trend is tweaked as the seasons roll on. For a snapshot of the latest and hottest style updates for the winter ahead, and how these can be incorporated in our personal space, Emma Mercieca Cristiano from Brands International has it covered.


NORDIC, minimalistic styling has been ranking high on international interior trends discussions and blogs for a good number of years. It has also gained strength locally and shows no signs of decreasing in popularity. And it’s easy to understand why. Who wouldn’t enjoy a serene, tranquil, calming vibe in their own personal space? This is the essence of Nordic styling, but as trends continue to evolve, every year, we see small updates and twists to keep it fresh and current. Here’s a snapshot of the latest Nordic style updates that are hot for the winter ahead, and how they can be incorporated throughout our personal space. Think Nordic expressions mixed with darker tones and rustic touches of antique brass and handmade ceramics for a warmer feel. The crisp whites, teamed with natural tones and light oak, glass, concrete and, recently, coppers, are still the essence of Nordic style.




WE ARE SEEING BLUE BECOMING A DOMINANT COLOUR AGAINST DARKER BACKGROUNDS However, this year, things are shifting a little, and we are seeing blue becoming a dominant colour against darker backgrounds. It can be seen on more traditional, luxurious fabrics such as velvet, and also on leather for a more modern look. Look out for the amalgamation of two big trends – blending Scandinavian looks with the art deco feel of botanical prints on accessories such as rugs, throws, plaids and cushions. Natural materials used in the Nordic style are further enhanced and given a rougher, tougher, more raw look through the use of metals such as iron,



brass and copper, wire, and the use of oxidisation techniques on accessories. The result is a perfect dose of urban industrial that is toned down to feel natural in a personal space, and hence this look can be used even in rooms that call for a calmer tone, such as bedrooms.

How to do it:

IN THE KITCHEN AND DINING ROOM Flood your kitchen and dining area with natural light if possible, and enhance the space with lightcoloured cabinetry and natural woods for the dining table and chairs. Alternatively, the darker tones of walnut, teamed with anthracite greys and blacks, produce understated contemporary elegance.

IN THE BEDROOM Using dark, atmospheric tones and inviting textures such as wooden floors and an upholstered bed, adds a hotellike feel to your bedroom. Soft, natural colours on the bed linen and accessories create a calming vibe. IN A HOME OFFICE The key here is to balance functionality with aesthetics so that it doesn’t look too office-like. Go for whites mixed with oak, and furniture with hidden compartments for maximum storage flexibility.

IN A HALLWAY A mirror opens up a space by casting light into the furthest corners, while a bench with storage, or a slim console table allows you to have a clutter-free entrance and hallway.

IN THE LIVING ROOM Create a cosy atmosphere by using grey tones on the wall, patterns inspired by nature and eye-catching graphic details on accessories. Contrast them with lighter upholstery fabrics on the sofa and armchairs, or go dark on both the walls and upholstery, but lighten up the floors and rugs. ACCESSORIES AND TABLEWARE Choose eye-catching bursts of colour, such as different shades of blue, and team them with antique brass, oxidised steel, handmade ceramics, or ginger-coloured glass to achieve the minimalist and understated elegance that the Nordic look is all about.






CURRENT AND CONCRETE Young Maltese architecture graduates, Lucia Calleja and Katrina Gauci, have left their mark in Denmark with the design and construction of a concrete pavilion – a dynamic structure that provides grounds for recreation, encourages users to strip away formalities, and ultimately, offers a hospitable social environment.

THIS YEAR’S edition of the European Architecture Student Assembly [EASA] saw young Maltese architecture graduates, Lucia Calleja and Katrina Gauci, tutoring the concrete workshop, Current, in the town of Fredericia, Denmark, where 20 participants from all over the world worked hand in hand with the tutors and sponsors to create a permanent structure in its vibrant harbour. Current is a pavilion composed of gradient spaces that serve as protection from and a celebration of Fredericia’s continuous rainfall. The integration of porous and non-porous concrete modules results in highly contrasting volumes that flow seamlessly into one another, controlling the passage of water. The Current pavilion provides a new space for the community and visitors to interact and socialise, while also offering a unique way of experiencing the rainy season. This is what the experience meant to them. Why did you decide to tutor a workshop at EASA? EASA Denmark marked our fourth year attending the event, and it was definitely the most rewarding one. We took the leap and applied as first-time tutors after a meeting with multinational building materials company Cemex Global R&D, which exposed us to their most recent concrete innovations and immediately agreed to support the project. We were inspired to investigate the use of concrete as the driving concept for a project, and after approaching the company, these concepts were brought to fruition. How was the project selected to form part of the event? The proposal was one of 30 workshops selected from around 100 applicants. The main criteria for the selection were the project’s relevance to the theme and site of this year’s EASA and the kind of experience it would create for its participants.




Lucia Calleja and Katrina Gauci


What was the inspiration behind the project? The pavilion is inspired by three main elements: the theme of the event; the site; and the material. The dynamic design provides grounds for recreation, encourages users to strip away formalities, and ultimately, offers a hospitable social environment. This is in line with this year’s theme – Hospitality. Finding the Framework – which resonates with the history of Fredericia and the challenges the city now faces, linking up also with the current political situation in Europe and the world. The series of diverse spaces provides a framework for different people to coexist and potentially connect within one inclusive environment. As regards the site, the heart of Fredericia’s transformation is the creation of a series of canals that open the area to the



Little Belt and bring the water into its midst. This was the concept of the historical town plan from 1677, establishing water as a significant element of the peninsula’s past and now of its future. The pavilion, Current, connects the urban area to the waterfront and commands some of the peninsula’s striking views, strategically framing the surrounding environment. The structure invites the public to approach from different areas, either serving as a space for respite on a busy workday, or a place of recreation during a promenade walk. Fredericia is a city of rainfall, which is more or less evenly distributed irrespective of the season. Rain is a part of the inhabitants’ everyday life. The pavilion is a place for refuge from the rain, although the water does not only flow away from the structure, but also through it, the concrete

IDEAS & MORE controlling its movement and enabling its visitors to watch and listen, engaging their senses from a sheltered space. In terms of material, concrete is a dynamic, transitioning from a fluid to a solid state, making it a unique and versatile product that is full of potential. Even though concrete is a prominent construction material used in architecture, this potential is rarely exploited. The installation promotes the intrinsic qualities of concrete and exploits the ‘super powers’ given to it by Cemex. Since water is a fundamental element of the proposal, concrete that is responsive to water is the main ‘super power’ that we chose to exploit. What are the main design elements of the project? The structure is composed of eight 2.5-metre-high concrete modules, each weighing a massive 1.5 tonnes. The modules are composed of two different materials, Pervia and Resilia, produced by Cemex. Pervia is a porous concrete that allows the infiltration of rainwater rather than creating runoff, while Resilia is a fibre-reinforced concrete that allows for the material to take any form, including the structures’ elegant curves. The combined materials create one closed volume that can control the passage of water to serve as a shelter from and an exhibition of rainfall. The contrasting textures of the two materials, combined with the module’s unique shape, create a multitude of spaces with different qualities both in form and atmosphere. What where the difficulties you faced during the course of this project? The proposal was undeniably the most demanding part of the five-month experience. As versatile as the material is, building with concrete is not an easy feat and requires a lot of thought, both in terms of formwork and manoeuvrability. Through collaboration with local fabrication company Dfab Studio and Cemex, we were able to build the complex formwork that shaped the final pavilion. Dfab Studio has specialised equipment that was used to create complex moulds to shape the beautiful concrete curves that characterise the structure. What do you think the participants gained from their participation in the workshop? Throughout the event, tutors and participants worked together with a team from Cemex Global R&D to assemble the formwork, prepare, mix and pour the concrete. This gave the students the opportunity to work closely with experts and expose themselves to highly innovative concrete technologies. The young architects left the event with a deeper understanding of how concrete is made and the complexities of one of the most prevalent materials in the architecture industry.

ALL ABOUT EASA EASA is a network of architecture students from all over the continent. Every summer, the assembly takes place in a different European country, with 500 design students, graduates and tutors living together in a selfsustaining, community-like setting. The assembly lasts two weeks and includes lectures, building and theoretical workshops, as well as other cultural and architectural endeavours. The event was held in Valletta in 2015.

New editions and additions The world-famous Natuzzi brand has launched a new and exciting furniture range, Natuzzi Editions, in Malta, aiming to make beautiful design and craftsmanship more available and affordable, without affecting quality, style, and above all, comfort. Natuzzi Editions also carries a collection of accent pieces that complement the core products: sofas and armchairs in both leather and fabric. It benefits from its association with the Natuzzi Italia brand and offers products that have design merit, comfort and quality as expected from any Natuzzi product, but is pegged at a lower price bracket. This makes the Natuzzi Editions product especially appealing to home starters, owners of second homes and the contract market. Natuzzi Italia is one of the bestknown furniture brands across the world, with a presence in practically every major city – from Milan to New York, Rio to Dubai, Moscow to Shanghai and also Malta. It is synonymous with leather sofas and armchairs. In fact, Pasquale Natuzzi is credited as the person who democratised leather sofas, bringing them within reach of millions. Prior to this, they were exclusive to the select few. Since then, the Natuzzi brand has moved on and the collection today features sofas in many fabric options, as well as innovative and futuristic recliner and music systems to suit the needs and preferences of so many satisfied customers. The evolution of the Natuzzi brand also embraced the design and availability of a total look that included, at first, accent pieces, such as coffee and side tables, designer rugs, lighting and decorative accessories, and eventually also living room cabinets and dining room sets, and more recently, beds and bedroom cabinets, mattresses and bed linen. Today, Natuzzi Italia is practically a one-stop shop. Natuzzi Editions now has its very own dedicated gallery within the Natuzzi Store at Valley Road, Msida. The new Absolute Comfort Collection is being displayed alongside an array of complementary items of furniture and accessories also available from the brand’s portfolio. Visit the Natuzzi Gallery at Valley Road, Msida, and at; or find Natuzzi on Facebook and Instagram.




DESIGN FOR COMFORT What’s the point of having a beautiful house if it’s not comfortable? Why not have both design and convenience? anna Gallo, partner at il-Periti architectural company and energy sustainability consultant, has the solution. Using a Żejtun townhouse as an example of energy efficiency, she explains how to transform a typical leaky heritage home into a model of eco-friendliness and functionality. PHOTOS: Sean Mallia




MALTA’S sought-after climate also comes with its fair share of problems, with humidity being Public Enemy No. 1, making a hot day feel hotter and a cool day colder. Moreover, our traditional construction material, limestone, does not necessarily help; being porous, it facilitates the transportation of water and humidity.

Meanwhile, air leakage not only causes uncomfortable drafts, but also allows moisture to pass through walls and condense on cold surfaces within. Airtight homes are, therefore, more comfortable from a thermal point of view, more durable and cost less to operate. When a home is either hot or cold, this is perceived as a lack of comfort.

It doesn’t make sense to have a beautiful house that isn’t comfortable, but it is possible to have both. This can be achieved by embarking on a holistic intervention, considering the whole house as an enclosed box, where the windows are located and sized to help the natural ventilation flow through, wiping away the ‘stuck’ humidity.




EnErGy-EffICIEnT upGrAdEs hAvE nOT Only rEsET ThIs TrAdITIOnAl hOME's uTIlITIEs bIll dOwn TO zErO, buT ArE ACTuAlly GEnErATInG MOnEy fOr ITs OwnEr

Equally and extremely important is the collaboration between the designer/ contractor and the energy consultant, who provides the energy audit – the first step to determine how much energy a house consumes and to evaluate what measures can be taken to make it more efficient. This assessment shows up the problems that may, when corrected, save significant amounts of money over time. It is possible for any property to achieve good performance outcomes if a collaboration between the designer/contractor and the energy consultant is established. In the case of this 1950s townhouse in Żejtun, the collaboration between the energy sustainability consultant, Anna Gallo, and Marielouise Caruana Galea, the architect responsible for the extension, aimed at satisfying the client’s requests and needs in terms of the comfort required at the end of the day. Today, following its extension and thorough renovation, this doublefronted townhouse, with its 500-square-metre garden, has zero CO2 emissions. Typical of most houses of the sort, its insulation values, thermal and energy performance were nonexistent and there were gaps everywhere, so it was leaky. Energy-efficient upgrades have not only reset this traditional home’s utilities bill down to zero, but are actually generating money for its owner, who was focused mainly on the comfort of the




A good-sized And well-oriented window on the top of the trAditionAl MAltese stAircAse, in conjunction with the opening of existing windows in the house, Allows to keep the teMperAture inside 11 degrees less thAn outside without Air conditioning

house and attentive to the costeffectiveness of each intervention. these included natural ventilation, achieved by positioning the windows correctly; a heating system that consists of under-floor heating and towel rails connected to a heat pump; wall and roof insulation; well-sealed frames for windows; pV panels; lighting; rainwater collection for irrigation; and a compost system. the first step was to work on passive design optimisation, which involved understanding how to gain as much as possible from the orientation of the house, then working on the natural ventilation to determine which existing windows could help improve this and where to locate the new ones. A good-sized and welloriented window on the top of the traditional Maltese staircase, in conjunction with the opening of existing windows in the house, allows to keep the temperature inside 11 degrees less than outside without air conditioning. this system creates a cooling microclimate in the centre of the home, as well as cross-ventilation across the living area and the hallway. further interventions continued to build up insulation in the walls, ceiling and roof through the renovation of the doors and replacement of windows, including ensuring that their seals were in place. the end result is that the owner does not have any air conditioning in the property and uses only three fans to cool it down. “i was originally considering getting one movable air con, but so far we are managing without!” this ‘green’ approach is not just practical, but also pleasant,


PLACES septeMber 2017

bringing light into the living spaces and hallway in the old part of the home, which was kept intact and restored. in fact, all interventions were made while retaining the traditional features, including the Maltese stone, which was kept wherever possible, including the walls, ceiling [xorok] and stairs, and the wooden garage doors, which were also restored. so along with the sustainability gains that come from improving performance, the other major win was retaining what had already been built. for the owner, “the work was all worth it because of the thermal and humidity comfort achieved [not only in winter, but also in summer]”. And the cost was not so high, not only compared to the renovation works, but also to the value of property. in 2014, when the owners were not living in the house, all electricity and water consumption was covered with the generated energy and another €688 were gained. then in 2015 and 2016, again, all electricity and water consumption was covered, with a few euro earned on top of that. in three years, the pV panels, which cost €4,000, generated €3,196. Achieving energy efficiency “does not need to be sold so hard anymore,” says Anna, and clients do not really resist putting these measures at the forefront of a project in the knowledge that sustainability does not necessarily mean extra costs. some home owners are actually “really driven in that thinking,” she adds. After all, this is not just about saving the world and saving energy, but it’s also about creating comfort. it’s about creating good spaces.

358, Naxxar Road, B’Kara BKR 9040, Malta Tel: (+356) 21441328 | Fax: (+356) 21447188


Say it with flowers Stunning wall paintings have surfaced during works on a Valletta boutique hotel, revealing floral motifs that were buried for years and now greet guests in full bloom.






WHEN No. 101, Casa Paolina in St Paul’s Street, Valletta, was being converted from a private house into a boutique hotel, a number of surprises lay in store. But the most important was the wall painting that welcomes its guests in the hallway with an array of colours that were meticulously brought to light and life by Recoop Ltd. The wall-to-ceiling floral motifs were completely buried, deep under three layers of oil paints, and even the family, which inhabited the building for decades, did not have any clue of their existence.

THE WALL-TO-CEILING FLORAL MOTIFS WERE COMPLETELY BURIED DEEP UNDER THREE LAYERS OF OIL PAINTS, AND EVEN THE FAMILY, WHICH INHABITED THE BUILDING FOR DECADES, DID NOT HAVE ANY CLUE OF THEIR EXISTENCE As works were under way to convert the property, some colours started emerging through patches of paint that were flaking off in the hallway, says Recoop’s conservator Roderick Abela. The curiosity of the owner, an artist himself, was aroused as the blueish




AFTER BEING CLOSED FOR 10 YEARS, THE NOW FIVE-STOREY BUILDING HAS OPENED ITS DOORS ONTO FOLIAGE AND FLOWERS, LEADING GUESTS TO ITS 15 ROOMS AND THROUGH THE OWNER’S OWN ARTWORK ADORNING THE CORRIDORS touches and some detail became visible, and he immediately engaged the services of the restoration cooperative to carry out cleaning tests on samples. “As we went down deeper, layer by layer, what lay beneath was revealed, surprising everyone,” Roderick says. The origins of the wall paintings are still being ascertained, but early findings are proving to be interesting, with the possibility that they date back to the 1800s. The project was “rather intense” as the wall paintings were in quite a bad state. The ceiling was heavily deteriorated, and the job entailed not only cleaning, but also consolidating what was ageing fast, while missing pieces of the picture meant the blanks needed to be filled in with matching paint. Fortunately, these were not that large and the missing patterns could be figured out, Roderick points out. While it would also have been possible to leave these areas empty, in this case, it was decided that the wall painting should look complete, particularly because it is in the hotel entrance. After being closed for 10 years, the now five-storey building has opened its doors onto foliage and flowers, leading guests to its 15 rooms and through the owner’s own artwork adorning the corridors. But it’s not only his prestigious paintings that decorate Casa Paolina. A set of four 19th-century mirrors, depicting the four seasons, were also restored to their former glory by Recoop and embellish the stairwell, with its original banister. Overall, the property required heavy intervention – as most of the city’s homes that are turned into hotels do – but whatever could be retained, including the doors, was restored, revived and reutilised, and the original apertures were copied were necessary. To top it all up, on the topmost floor, the terrace of the suite enjoys views of the newly restored Jesuits Church in St Paul’s Street, and Bighi is literally “in your face”, while down in the belly of Casa Paolina is a cellar that was packed with stones and this slice of history will now also be put to a more practical use.




In the flesh

Known for his nudes, Patrick Dalli has not exhibited any of his paintings in Malta for the last seven years. His larger-than-life human figures sit comfortably in his “paradise” Marsascala gallery, where he can delight in – and even criticise – them over a glass of wine. Here, he shares this private pleasure with PLACES: DESIGN & LIVING. PHOTOS: MATTHEW MIRABELLI

YOU DON’T have to be an art critic and connoisseur to appreciate Patrick Dalli’s nudes. Their almost tactile skin – a series of ‘blotches’ of colour on closer scrutiny, which somehow fuse to form the neutral hue of real-life flesh – the sheer size of these works, and the voluptuous, but by no means vulgar, bodies they depict are engrossing. It’s no wonder that Dalli has kept them all to himself and, looking at them as though they were the product of others, derives immense pleasure – no, serenity rather – in contemplating them, sometimes in the company of a select few. And if you get the opportunity to view them, you can’t help wondering what wide wall you would strip to make way for a two-metre-high canvas, and how once that painting is hanging on it, you wouldn’t need a single piece of furniture to add life and interest to the room. Most of these oil-on-canvas human figures, created using big brushes with Dalli’s trademark stroke, have never seen the light of day in Malta, and he won’t be parting with them any time soon.



“If you love your work, it’s hard to sell it. Every painting here is a part of my soul… Yes, I’m a businessman in my day-to-day life, but business doesn’t come into my art,” says the painter. And don’t you dare call him an artist! Could the rejection of the title be a case of false modesty? “Decide for yourself!” There’s a big disparity between the two, he continues, but he won’t elaborate on it. Because Dalli isn’t one to delight in analysing his own art. He’s not into philosophising about it and being all highbrow and bombastic. He’s not into complicating matters, explaining its origin and development… It’s very much a what-you-see-iswhat-you-get, no-nonsense approach; and it’s for the viewers to draw their own conclusions. “All I can say about my own work is that the end result is my 100-per-cent and that I could not have done any better, or any different, at that given point.” Dalli stops at describing it as a form of contemporary realism, and if you zoom in on it, you can even see the abstract in his work.






He boils it down to “painting flesh”. Dalli is “not interested in beautiful human beings; for that you can buy Playboy magazine. What I am interested in is flesh. I see all these colours in it… I don’t just see it; I feel it.” And he’s not the only one. The Marsascala gallery is his “nest” – home to his hidden art, due to a lack of space elsewhere, and now his second home in a sense. “This is me,” he says about his own works and his spill-over collection of seicento paintings and antiques that are showcased here.

Dalli’s work on the human figure started with his mentor Anton Calleja in 1995 and has been developing ever since. At the moment, though, he’s “angry” at himself for not painting enough. Having said that, his easel is calling… Whether anyone will be able to enjoy the end result and see it in the flesh is another story though. His works are likely to be given pride of place on whatever is left of his wall space, or even stacked away, where, as Keats once wrote, “no eye ever shine upon them”.




Ħal Niesi

InspIred by the spirit of Malta’s disappearing rural landscapes, abandoned rustic buildings and forgotten refuge spaces, Ħal Niesi, the forgotten hamlet, is a collection of pen drawings by stephen C. spiteri that stems from a personal nostalgic sentiment. each drawing is loosely based on a real place he visited on long country walks in the company of his father, Joseph M. spiteri, architect and landscape artist, and his paternal grandfather, nannu Gużè. “It was they who imbibed me with a lifelong passion for the hidden charm and magic that is the unadulterated Maltese countryside, its villages and their humble rustic abodes,” spiteri admits. Author of many books and papers on the defences of the Maltese islands and on the fortifications and military organisation of the Hospitaller Knights of st John, spiteri’s main professional interests have revolved largely around the study of the art and science of military architecture and its conservation as built heritage. His fascination with both military and rustic architecture and rural landscapes stems from his love of drawing, a passion inherited from his father. In fact, his publications on fortifications are all illustrated with his own drawings, 3d computer simulations and graphic reconstructions. Although some of the buildings and views he chose to draw for the Ħal Niesi collection are real enough, like


PLACES sepTeMBer 2017

I USE LINE TO BUILD UP FORMS AND STRUCTURES, TO DEFINE SPACE, AND TO CREATE TEXTURE AND WEIGHT THROUGH SHADING AND CROSS-HATCHING ir-Razzett tax-Xitan in Mellieħa, others are purely the product of memory and imagination. Ħal niesi itself, the eponymous imagined hamlet, is “the sum of all these mental images forged into one fictional, yet recognisable, landscape”. It is a play on the word niesi, signifying both ‘my people’ and a state of forgetfulness. Like a theatre stage designer, spiteri has added and deleted elements to each pictorial composition to emphasise what intrigues him – from a winding country lane to the texture of rubble walls, the terracing of fields and the sharp edges of a cliff face. The rustic views and buildings portrayed in these drawings are, therefore, “organic hybrid constructs that are found nowhere, but, at the same time, can still be encountered – till now – everywhere in the Maltese countryside”. Mostly, they are descaling ruins – either damaged shells, or abandoned carcasses; “buildings about to be lost forever, but which, to cite Gaston Bachelard, can ‘continue to live in our imagination’.”

THE FORGOTTEN Stephen C. Spiteri’s lifelong passion for the hidden charm of the unadulterated Maltese countryside, its villages, and their humble rustic abodes – buildings about to be lost forever – is captured for posterity in his collection of pen-and-ink drawings, Ħal Niesi… lest we forget.

HAMLET For Spiteri, “the architectural ruin does not merely signal decay, a romantic mourning for a lost glory, the temporality and transience of life, or a reflection on worldly vanitas, but it is also a source of sculptural and aesthetic inspiration. “The rustic ruin provides me with a unique subject that serves as an interplay between potentialities of space, nature and theatricality. These views are practically all depicted from a slightly elevated vantage point – a personal preference derived largely from the introverted nature of Maltese rural architecture, where the ubiquitous outer boundary wall shelters and hides all behind it. And the only way to catch a glimpse of what lies behind, short of entering these secluded spaces, is to look from above.” The line is the sole element of Stephen’s art. “It is perhaps because of that very characteristic of the line, which strips away the unnecessary and focuses on the essence – the soul – that I am attracted to this medium,” he explains. “I use line to build up forms and structures, to define space, and to create texture and weight through shading and cross-hatching. My line work is freehand and intuitive, based on a very rough outline first sketched in pencil.” Most of the drawings, particularly the first batch, dating back to 2014, were made on “beautiful” thick paper, which once belonged to his father. These sheets had

remained unused, stacked and practically forgotten on top of a wardrobe for decades, ever since they were gifted to him by an Italian architect friend. It was only in January 2014, a few months after he had passed away, that Stephen rediscovered both this stack of paper and, with it, the desire to start drawing again. In fact, these sketches and drawings are dedicated to him. In his foreword for the Ħal Niesi exhibition catalogue, Dr Philip Farrugia Randon writes: “My fear is that within a short time, this may well turn into Ħalliena! Why? Because we seem to have severed our umbilical cord, connecting us to the simple solitary scene that echoes the humble origin of the forlorn hamlet, the solitary farmhouse...” The evocative drawings take him back to “when a village was still a village. When you walked the countryside before reaching the neighbouring village. Nowadays, very often, little countryside separates one village from another”. It was a time when he “could see small hamlets, where the throbbing nucleus of some close-knit families of past generations shared the same overcrowded and intertwining abodes, common herds, and aspirations until the elders died and the younger ones left the island, or married in another village and the whole honeycomb of interconnected dwellings transmuted into silent abodes”. Dr Randon says Spiteri has the Malta stone and architecture in his veins. He not only describes and discusses history, but also presents its visual image.




Taħt l-Irdum

Here, the draughtsmanship in his architectural drawings changes from a description of a building, or a scene, into “an account of a silent tragedy or a tragedy of silence… “You do not see the farmhouse, but visualise the cry of solitude that seeks to cling to its last throes before it dies in flesh, or worse still, shrinks into a forgotten black hole…” Dr Farrugia Randon urges viewers to do more than just rest their eyes on the paper, or wander around the pen lines. “Listen to the forgotten cry of past generations. If you do manage to connect, then Ħal Niesi will not remain forgotten.”

Il-Gwardjani tar-Raħal

The exhibition Ħal Niesi at the National Library in Valletta is open for public viewing until September 26.


New kitchen showroom and design trends This month, some important changes are happening at the Fino showroom in Mrieħel, including a refurbishment and a new kitchens area for a fresh and elegant experience within the kitchen sector, leading up to the grand opening in October. The new Veneta Cucine showroom will have a total of 15 kitchens that showcase the very latest trends, enhancing wellbeing in today’s busy lifestyle by focusing on features that turn them into ‘living spaces’. They have been built not only for cooking, but also for socialising and spending quality time with family and friends. One of the most innovative projects is the Lounge System, a new kitchen model that reinterprets today’s trend of minimal design. The most important change is the storage space gained from modifying the carcass and plinth, which has now been reduced, as well as the depth of all Veneta Cucine models, which are now 63.8cm instead of 60.5cm. The introduction of more space for worktops means a more comfortable day-to-day use. By increasing their depth, these kitchens offer their customers modules compatible with latest-generation household appliances, easing installation and meeting the safety requirements of international



standards. An important new feature is the pocket/hidden door for tall units. This slides from side to side and disappears, leaving more space to walk without any obstacles in the way and minimising the structural space to give more importance to the working and storage area. Unique items, such as the Credenza, designed by the renowned architect Michele de Lucchi for Veneta Cucine, add to the overall value of the brand. The Credenza, recently awarded at the German Design Award 2017, began as a symbolic and evocative concept, soon developing into an actual kitchen project in which materials, design and utility merge perfectly and embody the brand’s craftsmanship. The Metropolitan collection is another innovation by Veneta Cucine, recalling Broadway and New York and translating into a series of elements that complement a more modernist image. Metropolitan offers glass crockery units, with wired glass and burnished frames, giving that loft feel, which is so difficult to accomplish in a kitchen. Due to its solid, livedin style, it is destined to have a rougher image, softened by warmer finishes and shades, available in a range of colours. Visit the Fino showroom in Mrieħel, or send an e-mail on for a kitchen design consultation.

Finishing your home without feeling finished Purchasing your new home is an exciting step. However, the thought of finishing it in line with your vision can be daunting. The team at Frank Salt Home Interiors is dedicated to making your dream a reality. With only one point of contact, they take all the hassle out of dealing with different suppliers and co-ordinate the experience so all you need to do is sit back and make decisions in line with your taste and budget. In addition, their reputation, experience and ongoing relationships with certified suppliers means you’ll also get the best service and rates available. Contact Frank Salt Home Interiors on 2379 4550; or send an e-mail to

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