Private residence - Novi Ligure (Alessandria)

Living in a former silk mill

A home renovation project in Novi Ligure was carried through in keeping with history
Laura Maggi
Alice Tosonotti
Ilaria Bertelli
Year of completion

A building with more than two centuries of history recently underwent a sensitive conversion project to create a modern home in which details of the original structures were intentionally left exposed. Located in the historical centre of Novi Ligure, a small city in the northern Italian province of Alessandria, the building is one of a number of houses built around an internal courtyard and dating probably from the eighteenth century. The project was assigned to Ilaria Bertelli, an architect who since graduating from Milan Polytechnic has lived and worked in Novi Ligure and has established a reputation for her historically sensitive work in partnership with a number of architecture and design practices in Genoa and Milan. The building has a complex and fascinating history. Initially a post station, in the boom years of the Novi Ligure silk industry in the nineteenth century it was converted into a silk mill. In the early twentieth century it was used as a workshop and carpentry shop and later as a warehouse, a function is retained up until 2010. Completed in 2012, the keywords of the conversion project were practicality, simplicity, technology and energy, creating a three-floor residence that features unexpected interior architecture solutions. The first-floor daytime area consists of a large double-height living room complete with bookcase and home theatre and facing onto the entrance, the open-plan kitchen and the main bathroom. The upper floor hosts the night quarters with the master bedroom, study and a second bathroom. The attic opens onto an external terrace recessed into the roof that offers unexpected views over the entire town of Novi Ligure. In spite of the intention not to radically alter a building that for several centuries has been an integral part of the historical centre of Novi Ligure, substantial work on the structures was required because the complex had remained untouched since the Second World War. The structure and foundations were reinforced using girders and concrete in compliance with current earthquake regulations. One of the two vaults was demolished to create the double-height floor of the bedroom. One of the ground-floor vaults was partially demolished to make space for the new staircase and lift shaft, and all the utility systems were rebuilt, as was the roof which now accommodates the terrace. The interior design project used a narrow palette of non-colours to lend uniformity to the spaces. Tiles from Ceramica Sant’Agostino were used for the interior surface coverings (a total area of around 200 sq.m): Trend Cement for the floors, White/14 from the White Album collection for the walls and Porphir Nero for the exterior. The existing elements left exposed, including the facing brick walls and the profiles of the vaulted ceiling arches, contrast with the white of the walls, broken up by blocks of acid green, the concrete grey of the floors and the black porphyry coloured tiles of the terrace. The open stairway leading up to a sleeping area mezzanine with metal banister discreetly references the former industrial nature of the location, which is evidenced in the wood pattern furnishings (a sophisticated reinterpretation of the variegated timbers of pallets), the details of the industrial wheels of the coffee table and the track-mounted lights that traverse the living space in mid-air. Because every home is and must be a place of memory.

Ceramica Sant'Agostino, Natural Trend and Porphir series
porcelain stoneware
60x60,14x56 cm
Cement and Black
Technical characteristics
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): classe 3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): compliant
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Certifications and awards
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