Skip past the canals behind the handsome San Cristoforo church in Milan, and you’ll find a surprisingly industrial area overgrown with dense vegetation and greenery. What was once a foundry where Schlumberger manufactured its gas metres is now the home of designer Marc Sadler and his family. 

Rusty train tracks running through the garden allude to the building’s past, when it used to transport loads of goods directly to Porta Genova station. It was this gritty appeal that first won Marc over: he saw potential in the imposing brick building, with its large windows and vast garden. It was in a dilapidated state when he first saw it, but he could envisage a space that was to be a “great family home for five people and a cat.” 

Extensive renovation work had to be carried out, however, and plans were set in motion to make the most of the large space. Cast iron columns were included to divide the massive factory floor into separate, functional rooms that are planned around the home’s key features: the wood-burning fireplace and the floor-to-ceiling windows. The television and reading area was fitted with bookshelves to house the family’s growing collection, and the room was raised a couple of steps onto a platform to distinguish it from the rest of the living space. 

Taking design cues from split-floor loft spaces, Marc was adamant about showcasing the original features of the building, such as the iron pillars, hardwood floors and brick walls, which he painted over in white. If it weren’t for the homely touches, such as the black and white family portraits in the hallway and the playful furniture in fun shapes, the structure could have taken on a cold, imposing feeling. 

Dynamic paintings also bring the space to life. Marc and his wife, Paola, are both avid painters and their works are on display throughout the home. For Marc, the home is a space conducive to entertaining friends in, just as it is a place for his three kids to play in and have fun. And the family can often be found enjoying foosball games.

Up the suspended wood and iron staircase are the second floor bedrooms, bathrooms and a study. The couple’s bedroom walls glow a vivid shade of coral red; it’s the only room in the entire home that is colourful. Colour is Marc’s driving principle in all of his design and paintings, and it takes priority over form. 

Ultimately, it’s the green, leafy outdoor garden that uplifts the home and beckons its homeowners to head outdoors. The family often dines alfresco, even during the height of summer when they enjoy long lunches under the shade of large trees and within the ivy-covered walls of their backyard. It’s hard to imagine that this pretty and peaceful garden was once an extension of a metal factory, but for this lucky family of five, it’s now simply a place they call home.

Photography by Stefania Giorgi | Living Inside

See also: This Sinuous Tourist Office Is Inspired by the Tree it Enwraps


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