Monteleone Apartment

WORDS & PHOTOS Mads Morgensen PRODUCTION Martina Hunglinger

An apartment in a 15th-century palazzo has undergone a restoration that is both sympathetic to its past and acknowledges modernity. The result is a wonderfully eclectic and highly original home.

The small and picturesque medieval town of Monteleone D’Orvieto is perched on a hill in Italy’s Umbria region – the green heart of Italy. Immersed in the area’s natural geography of luxuriant woods and olive groves, lively streams and soft countryside, it’s a peaceful paradise tucked away from the tourist hordes. In one of the town’s small alleys, Italian-born and Chicago-based architect Patrizio Fradiani of Studio F Design, and his husband Mark, have restored an apartment in a 15th-century palazzo.

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Abandoned for 40 years, the apartment clearly showed signs of decay, and the entrance had been closed with a heavy metal door. It was as if someone had dined and left right afterwards, leaving everything as it was: the entire apartment, its furniture, tableware, plates and cutlery were covered in a thick layer of dust. “It looked like a 19th-century film set, and it felt truly fascinating, but also really bizarre,” recalls Patrizio, who immediately fell in love with it. “I could not open the shutters because they were falling apart, so I saw the apartment by the light of a torch,” he adds, amused.

restored 15-century Monteleone apartment
One of Monteleone’s three main alleys.

Coming to Monteleone was a journey back to Patrizio’s roots – as a boy, he had spent summer holidays in the family-owned Palazzo Bilancini, where his parents owned an apartment. These days, Patrizio and Mark spend time here in the low season and mid-season, relaxing, reading or taking long hikes with their dogs through olive orchards and woods, loving the peace and the quiet lifestyle.

The apartment origins may go back all the way to the 15th century, but it has undergone a number of changes and significant remodelling over the years. Its brick facade – typical of Umbria houses – and its unpretentious entrance door do not, however, reveal its noble past – it was once home of the Marocchi family, producers of olive oil, and owners of most of the land and olive groves in the area. The entire building was subdivided into apartments for different members of the family; this apartment was the most noble.

“During the restoration work, it was difficult to figure out what to keep and restore, and what to let go of and change,” Patrizio says. Some rooms he left as they were, while others underwent particularly attentive restoration. The entire building had only one bathroom, so three more were added to satisfy the owners’ and their guests’ needs. The original bathroom, built in the late 19th century, featured well-preserved yellow-and-blue tinted glass walls and accents that inspired Patrizio to introduce coloured glass walls throughout the apartment. “We did not add any brick walls, but the division walls we needed were created with tinted glass and screens,” he explains. He chose yellow, white and grey as the colours, because they were missing in the frescoes.

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To further enrich the spaces, he added a green bookshelf and a baroque armchair in pea-green velvet in the living room, a pink armchair in one of the bedrooms, yellow and pea-green dining chairs and myriad colourful artworks. “I like to keep the shell of a house in neutral colours,” he says. “In most of my projects, colour is added only at the end, with objects such as furniture, carpets or cushions, which results in a colourful overall ambience.”

The outcome is a stylish, elegant holiday home that skilfully and eclectically marries the past with the present. (It is also available to rent via Luci Stays.) Patrizio has succeeded in reinventing a building full of history and stories, lovingly bringing life back to its rooms, and adapting them to today’s needs and tastes without compromising their history or charm. It is as though the hushed memories of his childhood guided him to find the thread for yet another story to be lived and told.

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