«Home is where the heart is… and everything that I hold dear is close enough to touch,» said Elvis Prestley in one of his famous songs. And the apartment of Architect Antonella Di Stefano is definitely a place where the heart feels at home.
This house’s history dates back to 1850 and it’s a place full of memories. Antonella grew up there and when her grandfather passed away, she and her cousin got the house as a legacy. This home tour shows us that outdoor living is as important as the indoor space. The lush greenery that surrounds the house has such a central role that the architect brought it even inside…
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Now it’s time to discover this home sweet home in Treviso. Enjoy the reading!
Dear Antonella welcome to my blog. Would you please introduce yourself?
My name is Antonella, I have been living in Treviso (Italy) since I was born and I work as a furniture designer. I have a strong passion for everything related to landscape and land art. I am a very curious, observing person and I love to visit places where nature and art blend together and are full of little oddities.
The forms of design both in furniture and food (cooking is my other passion) have a great influence on me and have always accompanied me in every aspect of my daily life.
I live in a ground-floor apartment of a house just a stone’s throw away from Treviso city center, in a quiet street with villas with private gardens.
What is the story of your house?
The house where I live belonged to my grandfather. I have always called Alessandro this way: a distinct gentleman, a great friend of my family, who did not need a parental bond to be part of it. He was born in a small town in Cadore, in the province of Belluno. From those places, he carried his taciturn, yet so authentic and generous soul. He knew how to talk about nature and the past, he was a storyteller at heart.
I have spent most of my life with him playing in the garden and learning that places have their own kind of magic. This house is therefore an affective heritage. Alessandro’s wife, a wealthy French teacher, got the house from her family, and when she died left it to her beloved husband.
During the first stages of the renovation, we discovered that the house was already existing in 1850. Unfortunately, there are no other traces of it before that date.
Initially, the building was the classic single-family house on two floors. On the ground floor, a large entrance allowed access to the rooms arranged on both sides of the corridor: a kitchen with a dining area, a fireplace, a reception room, a study, and a closet. A staircase led to the upper floor where the bedrooms and the access to the attic were located.
During the bombing of April 7, 1944, the house suffered severe damages, and grandfather had to renovate it. It divided the house into two apartments on two floors with independent entrances. He rented the upper floor and lived on the ground floor until he passed away.
The house has always been surrounded by a large and lush garden, which grandfather filled with fruit trees and local plants and flowers. I have many memories of my childhood afternoons spent here. Each season reflected its colors, light, and scents in the rooms and in the courtyard.
I might sound really nostalgic, I certainly am, but I still treasure the magic and warmth that this house gave me. Those memories guided me while renovating the house 15 years ago. When Alessandro passed away, he donated the ground floor apartment with the garden to me and the first-floor apartment to my cousin.
You renovated the house trying to respect its original status as much as possible. Could you tell us some of the most important changes and what local materials did you use?
When my cousin and I decided to renovate the house, the question of what to maintain and what to renovate immediately arose. Securing foundations, floors, and roof was fundamental. Home systems had to be completely redone and we had to restore all the walls as well. We were working on an old house trying to bring it to the new Century and respect all the criteria for sustainable and environmentally friendly constructions.
Once the ceilings, roof, and partitions were demolished, we completely restored the external shell made of clay bricks from a historical kiln in the area. The old and dusty bricks still had the mark of the Gregorj ceramic factory.
We replaced the wooden and glass windows, respecting the previous forometry. The facades stand out for the light plaster and the neat windows’ sequence. Where possible, the clay roof tiles and the bricks for the internal walls were restored.
The floor has been completely renovated because it was too damaged. I chose the wooden boards for all the rooms. I repurposed the internal doors, latches, and handles of the old fixtures, creating new furniture elements. I restored my grandfather’s wooden furniture: they play an important role in the interior space of the space together with other more modern furniture.
I tried to bring the garden even closer to the home. Even though I maintained the original design of the lawn, I added new flower beds close to the entrance and put green bushes in different spots.
It’s not easy to carry out a renovation, it always seems to violate the soul of an artifact. The balance between the past and the present of a building can lead to deep breaks or, on the contrary, to a beautiful conversation.
What is the room you love the most and why?
I deeply love the light of this place: it creates an atmosphere of great intimacy and well-being. It’s warm and reassuring when the sun shines, intimate and reflective on cloudy days.
Each room has something special to tell, but the one in which I spend most of my time is the large living room. It has a square table with benches I purchased in an Austrian bric-a-brac and on the other side sit my grandfather’s sofa and a turquoise pouf placed in front of the fireplace. You can see the garden and the entrance door from here. This view brings the outside in, it’s a living picture, my ‘tableau vivant’.
The living room is full of potted plants, with some of them hanging from the ceiling. I would never stop buying plants! I wouldn’t mind the idea of transforming the living room into a greenhouse.
If you love plants as much as Antonella does, have a look at my selection of «5 plant shops that deliver to your doorstep».
During Winter days, when I turn on the fireplace the feeling of intimacy and well-being is even stronger. I have often friends coming over for a chat and some quality time together. Everyone tells me that they immediately feel at ease and welcomed in the house and this is very important to me. My guests may walk in the garden, browse books and magazines scattered all over the place, help me in the kitchen or just sit and chat.
The other room I really love is the kitchen: small and cozy but organized almost like a laboratory, it’s the place where I experiment with recipes and new food combinations. Cooking is a lot of fun and gives me joy.
Two windows above the countertop and the sink allow me to watch the garden while I cook. Every Spring a flower of Allium sphaerocephalon (garlic) grows in the flower bed near the kitchen and when I open the window it greets me waving in the wind.
Throughout the house, I tried to assure the right lighting. I’m not a fan of bright lights, I prefer warmer light that makes a house more welcoming. Some of my lamps belong to well-known brands, others come from my family heritage.
Tell us your favorite DIY project in your home
Every time I look at the objects and furniture my grandfather left me, I think about how strong the bond with our past is. I am passionate about mixing old and new pieces and love giving new life to objects that might have been set aside. I restored many pieces in the past years giving them a second chance.
The old fir doors (too small to be used again) have been transformed into screens and diving panels. The sled I used when I was a kid found a place under the sink in the bathroom becoming a useful magazine rack. I inserted wheels to an old and shabby table so that I can easily move it if necessary. I reused drawers as a magazine and book holder.
Before furnishing the house, I checked the things I needed and that gave me greater satisfaction. We constantly “meet” objects that attract us: they fill the spaces we choose listening to our hearts. My home changes with me and I do not exclude that in the future I can add or change something again.
One thing leads to another – said Bruno Munari and I have always been inspired by this motto.
Let’s talk about the outdoor space. I know you have a beautiful garden that hosts many gorgeous plants and trees (and precious memories). Can you tell us how did it come into life and what are your plans with it?
I am very lucky to have such a green area in a townhouse. The garden was already there and surrounding the building. I enriched it with new plants. A Melia near the gate, a large flowerbed rich in different species that give different splashes of colors depending on the season. A large Catalpa with fronds touching the grass shelters a chaise longue where I relax from time to time. The front and one side of the house are occupied by lush flowerbeds of perennials and green bushes.
On the background, a pomegranate and a dwarf apple tree frame the neighbors’ courtyards. Working in the garden is a source of great joy for me and I always do it willingly. I get great satisfaction from observing the plants: I call them “dancers” because they literally dance with the wind. When it rains or the morning dew wets the aromatic plants, a strong scent of lavender, mint, rosemary, Santolina … spreads in the air. The light also creates extravagant games. The branches of the trees reflected on the walls of the house give unexpected decorative effects.
You are an architect with a green thumb. Do you have any special tips about what kind of plants are perfect to fill our outdoor spaces?
Thanks, Valeria, for your compliment. Plants are our wealth and unfortunately, we often underestimate them. When I am asked for gardening suggestions, I always check the orientation, type, and characteristics of the soil and any already existing plant species. The solids and voids in space are as important as the shape and geometry of plants. Once the general layout of the garden is chosen, verify which “skeleton” you want to give to it: go for evergreen plants to be mixed with perennials. They will amaze you with their colors every time season changes.
It’s really important to know the plants’ characteristics and go along with them. A garden asks for patience and a lot of care. Haste makes waste!
I prefer gardens that require low maintenance. Many plants do not need too much care or water and can create really interesting effects (just to name a few, Gaura, Geranium Rozanne, different types of Stachys, Centranthus Ruber… ). Even the lawn doesn’t need frequent watering that would leave the roots on the surface and would not allow their correct penetration into the soil.
Plants are also inhabitants of your interiors. How do you mix them with the furniture pieces to create a welcoming ambiance?
To be honest, I follow my gut a lot and try to understand the type of light and position plants need. Indirect light is the best and there are tons of plants to choose from. For darker places, it is better to focus on Pothos, Cissus, Zamioculcas, Sanseveria, just to name a few.
When I buy a new plant I already think where I could place it: furniture often serves as supports or backdrops. As I was telling you above, I would like to slowly transform the rooms into a small jungle.
A home is an endless work in progress: what makes a house a home?
I think it’s very important to respect the spirit of a place and enrich it with objects, furniture that mirror what we are and what characterizes us. Every time I come back home I feel just right where I should be. Each of us has different characteristics that are reflected in the spaces we live in. An anonymous environment without any particular distinctive signs could create cold and unwelcoming atmospheres.
Do I feel good here? This is the question I often ask myself when I look around the house that my grandfather donated me. And my answer is yes.
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Photos: Antonella Di Stefano