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Light Takes the Lead Inside This Charming Milan Apartment

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“For the first 20 years of my career, I was never home,” says Alice Carli. “I traveled for work, out of curiosity, and a desire to grow; I traveled to learn about the world and to learn about markets. Then I had to stop, like everyone else, because of the pandemic.”

That is how Carli, who has worked as a CEO, director, and adviser to many leading Italian fashion and luxury goods brands, describes the trajectory of her career and the moment when she, like much of the world, was forced to slow down. Born in Liguria (the Mediterranean region of Italy which borders France) and Milanese by choice, she is now the general manager and member of the board of directors of a company that is developing wearable technology. She is also an executive advisor to Image Regenerative Clinic. 

Those roles and other commitments meant that she was frequently traveling, but when lockdowns began, the apartment (bought and restored in 2018) was ready and waiting for Carli to come home to. It was a place where she knew she wanted to live on her first visit. “And to think that I’m someone who never falls in love: When I make a decision, it’s a rational and thoughtful one. Here, on the other hand, as soon as I set foot inside, it was love at first sight.”

Carli has dark eyes and a determined stance; she has a cosmopolitan air and the dignified confidence and bearing of an elegant Parisian woman. She also has a placid and precise sense of style, which is perfectly reflected in her large apartment that measures roughly 1,900 square feet and is located in a residential and chic area of Milan. It sits amid early 20th-century buildings, beautiful squares, and lots of greenery. The first time Carli saw the apartment she was struck by the light, which even on a gray Milanese morning fills the rooms. She decided at that moment to make an offer and stay. Carli credits her Aquarian nature for leading her to so frequently decide to buy, renovate, furnish, and then sell apartments. She says she is always looking for ways to change her “skin.”

This time, however, Carli may stick around longer. It appears she has found her wonderland, a place where she can stay and where she has found room to express her style. This charming house has a soul, albeit it one expressed in a contemporary way with a clean and fresh allure. “During these lockdowns, I put myself back into the game by studying. I pursued a certificate of specialization in strategy from Harvard Business School. I spent a lot of time videoconferencing—what better setting than this home! This space has become a place for my recent professional, educational, and personal journey. It was also an emotional one too and I learned this house has been waiting for me.”

The search for beauty has always been important to Carli. And this house is living proof of her ability to find it: In the period coffered ceilings; the parquet floor with its precious two-tone workmanship—lovingly restored to its original splendor—and the details such as the stucco and polished marble entrance. Every beautiful detail has been preserved, in an homage to the style and elegance of old Milan, without falling into saccharine nostalgia. Everything here speaks of a harmonious project that is respectful of the identity of the apartment. 

Busnelli Corporate studio and interior designer Martina Menegon were central to the restoration and design of custom pieces. The palette was decided by the owner, who says: “From creative people of all kinds, I have absorbed a passion for color and light. I chose four visual effects or colors. First, transparent and translucent elements like the crystals of the vintage chandeliers and the ribbed-glass panels in some doors that we have kept. Next, wood is seen in the rosewood kitchen and the parquet floors, of course. Burnt orange tones are introduced with the seating in the hall. And, finally, there are the hues of the night, with dusty blues and teal.” These colors are perfectly complimented with brass elements like a profile for the mirrors in the bathroom, and fittings for the closets, in the primary bedroom, and in the walk-in closet—all custom-made by Busnelli. 

The apartment combines a certain sober Milanese elegance with Parisian accents—those come from her paternal grandmother’s house. All the chandeliers feel French, as do the small armchair in the bedroom, with its bone wheels deliberately left looking worn, and a small gilded table with a marble top. Other pieces, such as the table by Gae Aulenti for Fontana Arte, the ceiling-mounted bookcase by Baxter, and the sofas—which Carli had reupholstered with raw linen in an ecru shade sourced in Capri—are thoughtful choices by the owner, who admits to loving evolutions, rather than revolutions, in the field of décor. 

Reflecting Carli’s passion for pieces that evoke memories, the house is littered with gifts from people dear to her, from vases to ashtrays and from ceramics—by Fornasetti, Ginori, Hermés—to photographs. There is a signed image by the photographer Nikola Borisov that portrays Carli in her old house, leaning against the doorframe entering her bedroom. Next to it is an antique silver necklace, framed, which belonged to an Andean queen. It feels fitting that the timelessly beautiful accessory is now in the possession of this contemporary queen of Italian fashion. 

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