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Venice Dreaming

A chic vacation rental on a Venetian canal feels like a true home.

The centuries-old brick and steel building had housed a stone factory and a coffee roastery. In the early aughts, space was divided and converted into five residential units.

Awhile back, an Italian arts administrator named Piero Calore stumbled across an affordable loft overlooking a quiet canal in Venice’s Dorsoduro quarter. He could not believe his luck. It was away from the tourist fray but within walking distance of the Galleria dell’Accademia. Also nearby were three churches with heart-stopping frescos, an outdoor market, a clutch of small restaurants that served honest Venetian food (no, that’s not an oxymoron) and a house where the painter Amedeo Modigliani once lived. As for the space itself, it was nothing short of fantastic. At one time or another, the centuries-old brick and steel building had housed a stone factory and a coffee roastery. In the early aughts, the space was divided and converted into five residential units. Two of those units gave onto the canal. Calore had his eye on one of the canal-front lofts, a duplex with high ceilings, original beams, and big arched windows.

Gorgeous though the place was, it had just one drawback: its street-level location. A ground-floor loft on a canal is a fantastic thing, but it can also be a liability in times of extreme weather. In 2020, for example, over 80% of the city was flooded during the seasonal phenomenon known as l’acqua alta. Shops, restaurants, and ground-floor apartments were particularly hard hit. Given all the other things the loft had going for it, Calore was undaunted. He’d spent enough time studying Venice’s old buildings to believe he could protect the apartment through creative engineering. His bet paid off. The simple yet ingenious fix was to elevate the floor, relocating the apartment to higher ground. While some apartments in Venice are perennially damp and musty, Calore’s place is dryer than your average Montauk beach house. (And with the views of the boats going by, it’s a bit more romantic than a beach house, too.)

Structural concerns put to rest, Calore had the fun of ordering furniture from the mainland and watching it arrive by waterway to his front door. (There are no motor vehicles on the streets of Venice.) As he’s a huge fan of the Veneto-based cult furniture design company Magis, he scattered the company’s whimsical plastic chairs and tables throughout the open-plan living room. A wave-shaped bookshelf, also made of molded plastic, references the canal beyond the arched windows. “I tried to replicate the water view wherever I could,” explains Calore, who for that same reason positioned a mirror above the range so that you can see the canal while you cook.

A floating staircase connects the living area to the bedroom, bringing to mind Venice’s endless footbridges. On the mezzanine, a massive wooden bed, hand carved by an American gondola artisan, sits flush with a crescent window, allowing lucky occupants to watch the boats go by (and dream about the rose-colored palazzo on the far shore) as they recline. A few years ago, Calore moved out of the city and turned the unit into a short-term vacation rental. You’d never know it, so warm, inviting, and stylish is the space. As he says, “I poured my heart into this loft. For me, it will always be home.”

Photographs By Angelo Raffaele

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