All the world’s a stage, but not every kitchen. Inside a home that’s kitchen is behind a modern theatre curtain

a kitchen with a bar stool and a bar stool
Milan apartment where the kitchen is a stage Helenio Barbetta/Living Inside

In the refined Pagano neighbourhood, tree-lined streets are flanked by historic buildings adorned with floral motifs and carved animals, typical of the ‘Liberty’ style – Italy’s answer to art nouveau. It’s here, amid the decorative excess, that one modern-day Milanese gentleman chose to make a new home for himself and his two teenage daughters.

‘It’s a place with very masculine traits,’ says Aptitude Studio’s Alessandra Cervia, who, along with her partner in life and work Tommaso Calini, was tasked with creating a family home fit for the setting. ‘It may look serious because the building is austere, but it’s actually a lot of fun,’ she adds.

a dining table with chairs and a window with blinds
Helenio Barbetta/ Living Inside

The playful approach begins in the kitchen. ‘Our client is fond of cooking and entertaining, so the idea was to move the kitchen to a place where it would be the protagonist,’ Alessandra explains. ‘We wanted it to have two sides (one animated, when pots and pans are flying around and cooking’s underway, one hidden when it’s not in use), so we thought, “Why not turn it into a stage with curtains, just like a real theatre?”’ recalls Tommaso.

a living room with a chandelier and a cat sleeping on a round white table
Helenio Barbetta/Living Inside

Sitting beneath lavishly lofty ceilings in an extension off the living room, its nearly four-metre-high blue cabinet doors, delicately brush-painted for added texture, were designed to mimic exactly how fabric falls. ‘You can just imagine how “excited” our carpenter was,’ adds Tommaso, with a wry smile. ‘Fortunately they’re used to turning our eccentric requests into reality!’

With the stage quite literally set, the next task was to illuminate the large space without damaging the ceiling’s elaborate plasterwork. In collaboration with GLab Milano, the designers developed an intricate pendant light that could be suspended from a single fixture. Its spheres traverse the space from above the island to the passageway and the dining table beyond, almost following imaginary lines drawn by the baton of an orchestra conductor.

a sink and a mirror in a room
Helenio Barbetta/Living Inside

This is just one example of the lengths Aptitude Studio went to in preserving the historical details of this home, which also include stuccoes, glass doors and floors made of wood and marble. ‘The way properties change through history is fascinating,’ says Alessandra, explaining how she and Tommaso enjoy peeling back a home’s different eras like the layers of an onion to see what they can discover.

a room with a bed and a couch
Helenio Barbetta/Living Inside

Here, that almost-archaeological attention to the past was rewarded when the duo uncovered speckled seminato (a Venetian form of terrazzo) beneath several layers of flooring in one of the bedrooms that had been the original location of the kitchen. It had a large crack running down its centre, but that was not a problem for this resourceful pair. Inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi, they filled in the fissure with an unexpected salmon-pink grout – a final theatrical flourish that emphasises the passage of time.