According to architect and furniture designer Alessandro Preda, founder of the Brooklyn-based architecture and interior design studio Alepreda, walking into this 1960s apartment building located in the historic center of Brescia, Italy, felt like entering a time capsule. "Nothing seems to have changed since the building’s completion," says the firm.
While the lobby still retained its stylish provenance, the apartment on the fourth floor had not aged as well. For starters, the floor plan reflected the lifestyle of a different time. Bathrooms were tiny and not up to code. The main hallway took too many turns and had 11 doors, creating a sense of compartmentalization "which, for an apartment of this size, felt quite awkward," says Preda. The kitchen was a small, utilitarian space cut off from the main living areas, and likely intended to be used by servants as opposed to the homeowner.
Preda’s first move in the renovation was to tear down the walls that separated the large living room from a foyer and the small kitchen. The main hall was simplified, and all of the living areas were condensed together into one light-filled, open space anchored by a centralized kitchen with a sizable island. "The kitchen is central to the home because, of course, food is very important to the culture," says Preda.
Before: Living Room
After: Living Room
Preda’s client was downsizing from a larger house to take advantage of downtown Brescia’s density, and loves to entertain, so relocating the kitchen was a must. Now, "when [the client] is cooking for her guests, she can start the evening with an aperitif served on the island," says Preda. "And it's a very communal type of an experience. People help with cooking, et cetera."
Before: Living Room and Kitchen
Before: Powder Bathroom
After: Hall Bathroom
The original layout of the master suite proved challenging. Previously, "to enter into the master bedroom, you really had to go through a very long corridor that has three turns," says Preda, which wasn’t optimal. The bathroom’s entrance was also in the hallway, and the plumbing for the toilet could not be moved.
Since Preda had created a full bathroom elsewhere in the apartment, the architect dedicated this bathroom to the master suite. "The idea that we came up with, was to basically split the master bathroom in two," says Preda. To that end, the water closet remains in place, with a frosted glass wall to retain privacy and spread natural light. The vanity and a soaking tub were integrated into the main bedroom space for a luxe feel.
Before: Master Suite
After: Master Suite
The Brooklyn office of Italian-born Preda is divided between an architecture practice and custom furniture studio, called miduny. "I design the furniture, I prototype it, and then I collaborate with and outsource production to small batches of Italian artisans," says Preda. As such, he is able to create new furniture designs for his architecture projects, such as the dining room table and bookshelves here.
Before: Bedroom Storage
After: Guest Bedroom Storage
"Because I'm both an architect and a furniture designer/maker, I consider myself both a designer and a craftsman. And so in every project, and certainly this, I tend to develop some key design details through prototypes that are done in-house," says Preda.
"Ultimately, I really believe that translating a concept into a physical form is the catalyst for discovery. And every time you work with these artisans, there's always opportunities to come up with certain details that really transform the way that the space reads. So, I think the role of the craft and the handmade is definitely very important to the way I think about space making."
More Before & After:
Architect of Record: GSA
Millwork: Podavini Giuseppe