Jewel Box Studio

“Frau Allein” by By Kurt G. Staplefeldt & Judith Jenner originally appeared in H.O.M.E Magazine (Deutsch).

Photography by Giorgio Possenti


New York City is constantly on the move. From all corners of the world, people are pouring into the city and living their personal American dream. When, at the turn of the century, an early wave of immigrants arrived, they first formed communities and later whole neighborhoods. Two of the most famous are Little Italy and Chinatown. Ironically, today they blend together fluidly, and it is difficult to say where the one starts and the one another ends.

THIS MULTICULTURAL ENVIRONMENT was chosen by a modern Italian immigrant as their home: Raffaella Bortoluzzi, architect and founder of Labo Design Studio, has lived in New York City for 22 years. She came to the city after completing her architectural studies in Venice, finishing her Master's Degree at Columbia University—and stayed. “When I found this loft, it was just an open, white artist's studio, still very naked and with industrial flair,” explains Bortoluzzi. “The challenge was to make the workspace into an apartment.”



The building in Lower Manhattan has big windows on three sides, and is characterized by the typical details of a New York loft—namely criss-cross running steel fire ladders in front of the windows and raw brick walls in the interiors. “I really wanted that original sense of space conserving its characteristics, the walls were left bare and the pipes and lines visible.”

DESIGNING HOUSES FOR A HIGH-END CUSTOMERS Bortoluzzi always follows the same approach. “I try to understand and feel the space every time. From this I slowly develop the project.” For her home, the individual characteristics and peculiarities were emphasized by a custom-made kitchen, designed by Bortoluzzi, with blackened steel—emphasizing the heritage of the space. The industrial material is also used, more subtly, in the bedroom on closet doors.

Bortoluzzi's love of materials didn’t stop there. The use of glass from Murano (her hometown) is just one of many exotic elements with which she employs in simple but delightful ways. The wooden floors are covered with a gray wax color that when the sun hit it, it becomes a light-shimmering silver. At the set up, Raffaella mixed classics from the mid-20th century by Eames and Saarinen with more modern chairs. Together with the original work lights on the ceiling—with their ceramic brackets and white washed cables—results in a coherent whole.

Bortoluzzi has recently completed renowned interior designer Muriel Brandolini and her husband’s new home in the Hamptons. The client’s gave her absolute freedom. She designed a colorful, and at the same time, rational living space in which their colorful style is reflected. Thanks to her expertise and customer focus, Bortoluzzi works in the USA as well as internationally for some of the world's most famous luxury brands—counting jewellery manufacturers Pomellato and Buccellati among her clients.

Returning home at the end of the day, passing Italian markets and Chinese produce stands, Bortoluzzi lives her own piece of the American dream in a versatile, personal and modern designed space. ❧