A romantic blend of tradition, flowers, food and design
Luca e Marco Baldni - studio Q-BIC
La Ménagère is a fascinating venue located in a central street in Florence but slightly off the main tourist routes.
The large windows invite passers-by to step inside and discover a series of rooms where high thirteenth-century vaults coexist with bare concrete walls, Corinthian columns and capitals, large industrial-style windows, restored chairs and tables, designer lamps and floating orchids suspended from the old ceilings.
In this 1500 sq.m location, the first Florentine hardware store opened in 1896 has been converted into a multifaceted concept restaurant by architects from the Florence-based firm Q-BIC, who immediately understood and perfectly implemented the client’s brief of creating a venue that would go beyond the traditional idea of a restaurant.
Architect Luca Baldini and designer Marco Baldini from Q-BIC set themselves the goal of “creating a space where people will feel free to step inside at any time of day and stay for as long as they like”.
The result is La Ménagère, a venue open from 7 in the morning to 2 at night and described by Q-BIC as a “multifunctional venue”, a combination of bistro, cocktail bar, florist’s and a design object store. And above all a concept restaurant because it is a harmonious location offering food, drink and music, as well as flowers and design.
The architects from Q-BIC succeeded in creating an elegant, contemporary space with an industrial and at the same time romantic atmosphere, where the floral notes of the Artemisia florist float through the rooms, unique Karman suspension lamps enhance the appeal of the old vaults, and vintage chairs and reclaimed furniture create an informal, retro atmosphere.
The challenge facing the designers was to “combine the traditions of the past with the needs of the present while at the same time looking to the future” and with this in mind they “eliminated the building’s imperfections by laying bare the architectural structure, introducing functional and essential elements and exploiting contrasts”.
The heterogeneous rooms flow into each other thanks to the large windows, allowing the eye to wander and take in the entire sequence of spaces with a single glance. The vaulted gallery with its 18-metre-long chestnut wood table designed specially by Q-BIC is followed by the piano room, illuminated by a large skylight and in the evening by white oriental-style suspension lamps. The next space is the restaurant’s private room with its majestic opal white glass chandelier and the touch of colour in the acid green chairs, followed by the show cooking area with open kitchen, and finally the florist’s with rare plants and fresh, seasonal bouquets, the bar area and the furnishing accessories store, a space that pays tribute to the location and its history with a selection of design objects where guests can enjoy a quiet chat in private thanks to the dedicated seating areas.
The materials used for the project were essentially the original materials uncovered by eliminating later additions – in other words timeworn exposed stone walls and plaster with traces of glue from the removed tiles – along with the materials used for the renovation work: concrete, wood, iron and cement tiles.
In some rooms the need for hard-wearing, hygienic and safe surfaces prompted the designers to choose ceramic tile, which was juxtaposed with the bare concrete walls, natural stone, wooden fixtures and metal details. The chosen cement tiles from Marca Corona’s Terra line are perfect for emphasising the industrial-chic atmosphere of La Ménagère.
In the kitchen and the adjoining dining room, guests can admire the plaster geometries of the Cubo decoration, chosen in a cold grey version and original hexagonal format. The bathroom features the elegant Astro motif, this time chosen in a small square size.
The same attention to detail is evident in the bathroom, which maintains its industrial-romantic atmosphere thanks to the presence of fresh flower compositions, mirrors, lamps and retro cement tiles, bare cement walls, and – in a finishing touch that pays tribute to the venue’s past – washbasins that are simply large saucepans balanced precariously on the countertop.
Marca Corona, Terra
Grey Antracite and Cold Grey Mix
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): UA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 150 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): R ≥ 45 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant