Keeping the Spirit of a Home Alive |
Keeping the Spirit of a Home Alive

Keeping the Spirit of a Home Alive

1890s decoration revitalized and renewed

Isobel McKenzie
Written by –
Isobel McKenzie
on December 25th 2016
Originally from London, Isobel is enthralled by the curves and lines that make up a city. It's fascinating to see how modern skyscrapers and historic landmarks muddle together. Her Instagram feed @Isobel_McKenzie is usually full of spiral staircases and tall buildings. Can also be found on Twitter.. sometimes.

Casa Liberty, Puglia


Daniele Marzocca

Houses change over time, as families adapt to modern living and new technologies it can often mean scrubbing away elements of the home’s history. But not so for this apartment in Italy! It dates back to the late 1800s and features many stunningly decorated high domed ceilings and incredible floor tiling.

Striking gold warmth in this mosaic and hand painted apartment |

For the last few decades, the apartment had been occupied by a group of sisters who dedicated their time to the church. After they passed away, one of their nephews bought the house and felt determined to make sure not to erase the home’s unique architectural and spiritual heritage. But he needed to make the home habitable for his contemporary family lifestyle.


It has now been given a modernized bathroom and kitchen, tactfully shaping the bedrooms into suitable living spaces for him and his partner, along with their two teenage children. The decorated ceilings and tiles in other areas of the building have been restored with tremendous effort, and to spectacular glory.

Architect Esther Tattoli “was keen to make sure that the elements between new and old were kept balanced, and support one another.”

When the house was built at the end of the 1800s there was a lot of creative freedom for craftsmen at the time to decorate homes with individuality, in contrast with today where mass manufacturing is more common. Architect Esther Tattoli, who was brought in to oversee the renovation of this project, was enthused about restoring this gem. She was keen to make sure that the elements between new and old were kept balanced, and support one another.

Before renovation - evidence of art nouveau style decoration in Italian apartment.

As you can see, the pavilion ceilings had garnered some water damage that had come in from the roof, so there was work that needed to be done to fix the walls, as well as giving the room a new lick of paint. Not only was it important during this project to make the home look better, it was the perfect time to make sure it was adapted to energy efficient heating and lighting too. Solar panels have been added to the roof, and windows applied with double glazing. It was a challenge to make sure that any removal of tiles or painting was put back in a way that kept its early authenticity, but with great success it has been achieved.

Striking gold warmth in this mosaic and hand painted apartment |

Now the room is a welcoming spot in the center of the apartment, with gentle gold and blue furniture to match the restored decor of the room. It’s the heart of the home, and Tattoli’s favorite part of the house.


You’ll notice the attention that has also been paid to the chapel room, which has also been restored. It was important to the owner to keep this, as the spiritual nature of the altar gave the whole home a special warmth and protection that he appreciated.

Striking renovation work in 1890s Italian building Casa Puglia |

Located on the second floor of the building, the rooms reach up to the heavens especially where these large circular skylight windows bring in plenty of sun to the spaces below.

Striking mosaics in the dining room of this 1890s Italian apartment |

The owner’s favorite room in the house is the dining room, a perfect setting for elegant dinners with friends. Classical figures and ornamental acanthus leaves were originally painted and are now restored in this room. It’s occupied by a simple designer furniture collection from Cassina that doesn’t overwhelm alongside the decoration.

1890s Italian apartment receives renovation |

You’ll see the bathroom has been completely redone to show a shift in trends and fashions.

Black and gold walls in Casa Puglia, Italian bathroom |

The finish in the bathroom is made from slaked lime, which is breathable and the soft nature of the material is good to use in historic homes as it doesn’t erode at the original bricks, and allows for natural cracks and a bit of movement, unlike cement. The dominant color is gold, a symbol of elegance and luxury, but also full of light and heat. It recalls details of the ancient decorations of the house.

Black and gold walls with contemporary whiteware |
Black and gold walls in the bathroom |
Corridor with frosted glass doors |

One of the things about updating the home was not to ruin the flow too much. A pre-existing dome has been given a bit of a partition to create privacy between the bedrooms and the kitchen.

Kitchen with white walls and mosaic tiles |
Kitchen with white walls and mosaic tiles |

The kitchen is an informal place for the family to eat and hang out. Despite all the modern fittings with a kitchen island, the gadgets, the hob and double door fridge; check out the tiles on that floor!

Kitchen with white walls and mosaic tiles |
Italian bedroom with classic styling |

The high ceilings allow for different ways of playing with the room, such as this high drapery that floats down behind the over-sized cushion headboard. It plays homage to historical styles, with an eclectic mix of decor items too.

Blue bathroom featuring wooden floorboard and walls |

Niches in the walls of the building allow for new ideas, such as the shower area in this bathroom and book cases in the bedroom.

Lit up shelves and bookcase with underlighting |

While the living room areas and rooms which have been ornately painted were quite delicately kept with their old designs, areas like the bedroom have been styled to suit the discerning tastes of the young adults occupying the bedrooms. There is more of a nod towards popular colors and painting accent walls to instill a bit of the extraordinary, and highlight the special architecture of the room.

Blue walls, a home office study area in Italian 1890s building |

Perhaps the ornate paintings do not suit every taste. With so many of our current trends focusing on wood and Scandinavian forms, this marble and gold apartment stands out. But it’s wonderful to see so much depth and detail that has gone into preserving the beauty of the original craftsmanship of this apartment, keeping the history alive for another generation.


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