Before & After: A Remodel Drags This Italian Apartment Out of the ’60s
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Before & After: A Remodel Drags This Italian Apartment Out of the ’60s

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By Melissa Dalton
In Brescia, Italy, an apartment’s outdated floor plan and worn finishes are exchanged for a streamlined layout and artisanal details.

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.

The staircase in the apartment lobby is stylish and well-preserved, revealing the building’s 1960s-era construction.

The ceiling in the building’s lobby has also aged well.

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

Before: The large living room was sequestered from the rest of the apartment and intended for a more formal way of life.

Before: The original walnut floors were in good shape, so they were sanded and refinished.

Before: Immovable structural support columns, between the door and radiator and in the corner, were integrated into the new design.

After: Living Room

Preda elegantly reallocated the space to contain a side-by-side living room and dining room area, with the latter defined by a custom Cor-Ten steel and zebrawood bookcase designed by the firm. The dining table is by Alepreda for miduny, the firm’s sister furniture company. The fireplace is an ethanol model, since incorporating a chimney wasn’t possible in the building.

Boiserie panels made of zebrawood create a cozy nook in the main living area and also form a picture rail to display the client’s art collection. 

The wood-wrapped alcove produces "an intimate space for the sofa," says Preda, and seamlessly integrates the support pillars into the design.

The wood panels also conceal easy-to-access storage. "Most people are surprised to find that there's actually storage there," says Preda. 

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: The wall between the living room and kitchen was torn down so a bigger kitchen could be relocated to this spot.

Before: The previous kitchen was small, bare-bones, and cut off from the rest of the apartment.

After: Kitchen

Preda placed the kitchen sink in front of one of the best views in the apartment. "The apartment is on the fourth floor, higher than the rooftops of [surrounding] buildings," says Preda. "So, the sink…aligns with the window that overlooks red clay roofs." 

A long, central island protects the cook from the main living areas and functions as a prep counter and serving station.

Before: Powder Bathroom

Before: By reallocating the existing space, Preda freed up square footage to enlarge this tiny powder room into a full-fledged bathroom.

After: Hall Bathroom

The hall bathroom now accommodates a walk-in shower and generous vanity, all tucked behind a pocket door.

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

Before: The bathroom was integrated into the master suite, so the owner has access to a private bathroom.

After: Master Suite

The previous long corridor wasted space, so Preda appropriated it into the footprint for the master suite, creating a walk-in closet, private bath, and bedroom area. 

The custom vanity in the master suite is stained white oak that mimics the striations in the zebrawood elements elsewhere.

The frosted glass wall lends privacy to the water closet and allows natural light to come in from the window like "a natural light box," says the firm.

The flooring throughout the master suite is concrete resin.

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 

Before: The original closets were well-made, says the firm, but the wallpaper covering them looked too dated.

After: Guest Bedroom Storage

The firm had the closets disassembled, repainted, and relocated, with one unit to each bedroom. In the new plan, the dining room became the guest bedroom, where the closet unit was painted a bright blue.

"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."

Tosio Street Apartment floor plan

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