This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment

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By Allie Weiss and Dwell / Published by Dwell
A dated apartment in Milan receives a gut renovation.

"We immediately understood that we needed to erase everything," says designer Roberto Di Stefano, who, along with architect Alessandro Bongiorni, overhauled an 850-square-foot home in Milan. The 1950 apartment, purchased by Andrea Maffei and Rossella Acierno, was highly segmented, divided into small rooms that received little natural light from the narrow windows. Dated materials and finishes—seemingly untouched by the previous owner for decades—completed the sad picture. "You had to have a good fantasy to imagine a livable apartment, with the state that we found it in," Andrea says.


This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 1 of 14 - In remodeling a compact Milan apartment, designers Roberto Di Stefano and Alessandro Bongiorni introduced sliding glass doors by Eclisse where a single door once stood to improve connection to the outdoors. In the brightened kitchen, a Comprex cabinet system pairs with Neff appliances. Domenico Mori tiles cover the range hood.

In remodeling a compact Milan apartment, designers Roberto Di Stefano and Alessandro Bongiorni introduced sliding glass doors by Eclisse where a single door once stood to improve connection to the outdoors. In the brightened kitchen, a Comprex cabinet system pairs with Neff appliances. Domenico Mori tiles cover the range hood.


This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 2 of 14 -  A dining nook sits just inside the entrance of Andrea Maffei and Rossella Acierno’s 850-square-foot residence.

 A dining nook sits just inside the entrance of Andrea Maffei and Rossella Acierno’s 850-square-foot residence.


This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 3 of 14 - When the couple purchased the apartment, the dining room was enclosed; now, it’s connected to the living room and kitchen as part of a dynamic and open communal area.

When the couple purchased the apartment, the dining room was enclosed; now, it’s connected to the living room and kitchen as part of a dynamic and open communal area.


This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 4 of 14 - Sunset pendants by Treviso-based Torremato illuminate a custom table and bench as well as a trio of Eames chairs. Di Stefano and Bongiorno used lighting to structure the open plan: "We put accents on focus points; we didn’t want the light completely spread out," Di Stefano says.

Sunset pendants by Treviso-based Torremato illuminate a custom table and bench as well as a trio of Eames chairs. Di Stefano and Bongiorno used lighting to structure the open plan: "We put accents on focus points; we didn’t want the light completely spread out," Di Stefano says.

Structurally, the space was an ideal candidate for renovation: With no load-bearing interior walls and only one essential column, the entire layout could be reconsidered. The southwest-facing orientation also meant that a better approach to windows would dramatically improve the lighting.

The couple had worked with Di Stefano and Bongiorni on their prior apartment, a one-bedroom that they felt would be too small for a family (their son, Alessandro, was born in February). Di Stefano is a member of the online interior decorating platform Decorilla, which Andrea and Rossella used to fine-tune their ideas and create mood boards. "We did research and played around a bit," Andrea says. "It helps in figuring out what you want to do, because at the beginning you typically do not have an idea."

This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 5 of 14 - A suspended oak sideboard runs the length of the living room. The project leads designed that piece and the black-painted metal shelves on the wall; both were fabricated by Giuseppe Motta,a local artisan. A 14.1 pendant by Omer Arbel for Bocci hangs near one end.

A suspended oak sideboard runs the length of the living room. The project leads designed that piece and the black-painted metal shelves on the wall; both were fabricated by Giuseppe Motta,a local artisan. A 14.1 pendant by Omer Arbel for Bocci hangs near one end.


This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 6 of 14 - The previous owner of the apartment hadn’t renovated for decades; a gut transformation was needed to reimagine the layout and update the materials. Epoxy resin now covers the home’s walls and floors. 

The previous owner of the apartment hadn’t renovated for decades; a gut transformation was needed to reimagine the layout and update the materials. Epoxy resin now covers the home’s walls and floors. 

This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 7 of 14 - The Rod XL sofa by Piero Lissoni for Living Divani joins custom nesting tables, also designed by Di Stefano and Bongiorni and fabricated by Motta, in the refreshed living room. 

The Rod XL sofa by Piero Lissoni for Living Divani joins custom nesting tables, also designed by Di Stefano and Bongiorni and fabricated by Motta, in the refreshed living room. 

When it came time to begin the overhaul, a few challenges arose. Without access to original drawings, things that should have been simple tasks—finding the heating and plumbing ducts, for instance—became hurdles. Eventually, the team discovered that the piping was spread out around the perimeter of the apartment. The discovery turned out to be a blessing: It enabled the designers to add a second bathroom without a major retooling of the plumbing. But in the end, even that wasn’t so simple: The installers accidentally mixed up the shower and sink taps and set them into the finished resin walls. "I was crying," Rossella says, laughing now. "It was the worst day of the renovation." Switching the channels added three weeks to the timeline, but fortunately the mistake was fixable.

This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 8 of 14 - The couple often use the terrace for enjoying an espresso or aperitivo. Parentesi lights by Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù for Flos hang next to one of the two entrances to the balcony. 

The couple often use the terrace for enjoying an espresso or aperitivo. Parentesi lights by Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù for Flos hang next to one of the two entrances to the balcony. 

"A lot of people think that we have nothing in the house, but when we open up the storage, they see that we have plenty of things."—Rossella Acierno, resident 

This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 9 of 14 - Tucked in a corner of the master bedroom, a curbless shower with Cea fixtures showcases a wall of patterned Italian tiles that coordinate with those used on the range hood in the kitchen.The designers sought to imbue the apartment’s minimalist framework with a handcrafted touch. "We wanted to add natural and warm elements to the palette," Di Stefano says. 

Tucked in a corner of the master bedroom, a curbless shower with Cea fixtures showcases a wall of patterned Italian tiles that coordinate with those used on the range hood in the kitchen.The designers sought to imbue the apartment’s minimalist framework with a handcrafted touch. "We wanted to add natural and warm elements to the palette," Di Stefano says. 

Light now streams into the fin​​ished home, a modern space made up of smooth surfaces and clean lines. Its restrained appearance belies its ample storage, which tucks neatly into the compact footprint. The hallway connecting the private spaces of the home is lined with handleless doors, creating a minimal passageway that hides rows of shelving as well as the washer and dryer. Careful to avoid visual monotony, the designers selected different materials for the storage units. A floating oak console runs the length of the living room, while the kitchen cabinets are clad in glassy gray lacquer. Not an inch goes unused: In the hall, a narrow recess outfitted with shelves serves as a mini library of the couple’s travel guides, and in the bathroom, black metal cubbies offer a place to stash toiletries.


This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 10 of 14 - The designers sought to create an abundance of storage options—including narrow niches in the hallway, used to hold travel guides. As Di Stefano puts it: "When a client says, ‘I’ve filled allmy wardrobes and still have space left over,’ that means the mission is accomplished." 

The designers sought to create an abundance of storage options—including narrow niches in the hallway, used to hold travel guides. As Di Stefano puts it: "When a client says, ‘I’ve filled allmy wardrobes and still have space left over,’ that means the mission is accomplished." 

This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 11 of 14 - The residents requested a second bathroom to make the apartment more comfortable for a family of three. The rectangular stainless-steel sinks in the new bathroom are produced by Moab 80; they are paired with Cea taps. 

The residents requested a second bathroom to make the apartment more comfortable for a family of three. The rectangular stainless-steel sinks in the new bathroom are produced by Moab 80; they are paired with Cea taps. 

Strategic storage use opens up the public spaces of the residence, which are now arranged as a central zone. With the living room, dining room, and kitchen joined together, the couple have space to comfortably host friends for dinner parties and cocktails. The layout is also ideal for looking after their son; Rossella or Andrea can prepare something in the kitchen while Alessandro plays on the rug in the living room. "I have control of the situation because from the kitchen island to the carpet, it’s five meters and it’s visible," Rossella explains. With busy schedules and long hours—Andrea is a vice president at a Swiss bank and Rossella will return from maternity leave to a management position at the consulting company Accenture—the space ensures that the family remains close during precious shared hours. As Rossella puts it, "At night, we can be with our baby, always together in the same room." 

This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 12 of 14 - A custom lacquered-wood headboard with built-in task lights by MLE complements a Pianca bed in the master bedroom. An IC Lights T lamp by Michael Anastassiades for Flos offers additional illumination. 

A custom lacquered-wood headboard with built-in task lights by MLE complements a Pianca bed in the master bedroom. An IC Lights T lamp by Michael Anastassiades for Flos offers additional illumination. 


This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 13 of 14 - Floor-to-ceiling drapes and doors elongate sightlines, making the room appear more spacious than before. 

Floor-to-ceiling drapes and doors elongate sightlines, making the room appear more spacious than before. 


This Growing Family Maximizes Every Last Inch in Their 850-Square-Foot Apartment - Photo 14 of 14 -


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