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When interior designer and photographer Marco Bertolini found the Milan flat that he and his partner, fashion designer Fabio Sapienza, now call home, he thought he heard angels rejoicing—literally. The harp chords and cherubic voices were not heaven-sent but rather the sounds of the city’s nearby conservatory. “I thought how nice it would be to be awakened by those sounds in the morning,” Bertolini remembers. In reality, though, the small, irregular rooms weren’t exactly worthy of a choir. “The apartment had no particularly interesting features except for the terrace,” he admits.
Over eight months, Bertolini gutted the interior, reshuffling the floor plan to create a single bedroom (instead of the original two), an open living room, and an eat-in kitchen. “I pulled the walls down to create a space with no boundaries and lots of light and greenery,” he explains. But the most transformative change was adding floor-to-ceiling glass doors along the exterior, highlighting the feature that sold Bertolini on the place: that veranda, which runs the length of the apartment.
Snoopy Table Lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos, Lumens; 18th-Century Artwork, Lacy Gallery.
Bertolini’s challenge? Reimagining the outdoor space without it clashing with the building’s Rationalist architecture—a stark, modern style circa 1930s fascist Italy. “I kept everything square and only chose materials traditionally used during the Rationalist period,” he says. That meant paving the terrace and lining the doors with travertine, a stone that’s native to the country and pops up frequently in the neighborhood. Sourcing locally is crucial in all of the designer’s projects. “There’s no point in looking for elements that are not relevant to where you are or to who you are,” he explains.
Vintage Series 7 Chairs by Fritz Hansen, Modernity.
But what’s relevant isn’t always easy to come by (the lead contractor later admitted Bertolini’s project caused him a few sleepless nights). Once the 9-foot slabs of travertine were on site, Bertolini realized that the pieces were way too shiny. “That kind of finish that you find in an ’80s police station or a school,” he explains. He had the crew remove them until new unpolished slabs could be mounted a couple weeks later, a herculean task requiring a massive crane.
Vintage French Table.
The finished indoor-outdoor setup allows the couple to swing open a door in the living room, kitchen, or bedroom, instantly extending each room’s footprint. Planters of maple trees, Mediterranean myrrh, and hydrangeas line the perimeter of the terrace, giving the apartment the feel of a treehouse in the middle of the city. These days, Bertolini skips the flower market altogether: “I always take cuttings from what grows here.”
Vintage Italian Wood Field Chair.