An Italian apartment filled with plants and antiques
With their passion for plants and antiques, Annalisa Lo Porto and Francesco Dal Bo’s apartment is an idyllic haven in the heart of the city. Feature Francesca Davoli. Photographs Fabrizio Cicconi/Living Inside
With its high ceilings, generous windows and tables filled with verdant houseplants, the open-plan apartment that Annalisa Lo Porto and Francesco Dal Bo have made their home is an airy oasis in the heart of Bologna. From the moment you step into the main living space it’s clear that plants and nature are central to the way they live and work – Annalisa is a florist and Francesco is an environment designer. Their business, Flò, is a stylish and influential florist’s shop, run from premises below their home.
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Before moving to Bologna, the couple lived in the countryside within a short drive of the city. Their life was one of simple pleasures, explains Annalisa: ‘lighting a fire every evening, tending to our vegetable garden, having friends over for meals in the farmyard on warm summer evenings.’ When work and their children’s activities called for the family to move back to the city, the couple were sad to leave these rituals of rural bliss.
But it was around this time that Francesco and Annalisa came across Bloom, a Dutch lifestyle magazine focusing on nature in relation to interiors and fashion. ‘That was back in 2000,’ Annalisa recalls, ‘when topics such as ecology weren’t part of everyday life, though an awareness was developing.’
Fascinated by the potential she could see for a ‘greener world’, she took the plunge and started Flò, a shop that sells flowers alongside artworks and vintage and antique furniture. ‘Flò has never been just a flower shop, but rather my personal path to create and bring to life something I really believed in. Plus, to me, it’s the most fantastic job.’
The first branch of Flò opened in March 2002, in the very centre of Bologna and, not long after, the couple were thrilled to discover that an apartment above their shop was for sale. It was the perfect opportunity to create a living space that reflected the spirit of their business. ‘Nothing of what you see was the way it is now,’ says Annalisa, explaining that Francesco, whose work in fashion design often involves breathing new life into historic brands, oversaw a complete redesign of the space, hiring specialist craftsmen to install floors and wainscots.
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When it came to decorating the space, there was never any danger the couple would turn to the high street and big brands. Francesco has always preferred buying antiques and vintage pieces, a passion that began when he was a student. ‘I used to buy my clothes from flea markets,’ he says, adding that he would also raid his father and grandfather’s wardrobes. Over the years, his interest in vintage clothing expanded to include old film and advertising posters and, from there, to furniture, art and other curios.
To furnish the house, Francesco and Annalisa trawled antiques shops and flea markets in Bologna, Paris and even the UK. The simple kitchen area is dominated by a cream and turquoise dresser that the couple picked up in Montpellier, while the dining chairs came from a dealer in Sweden.
Annalisa was responsible for the lush vegetation that fills every room, a domestic garden of Eden in which plants sometimes interlace with the furniture and climb the walls. The couple see their home as a place for endless experimentation, regularly tweaking the interior and developing ideas for their shop, such as Substance and Nature, a limited-edition ceramics collection they created.
Although the move to Bologna prompted big changes in the couple’s lives, not least of which was founding Flò, many of their old habits remain unchanged. ‘We still light a fire every night through the winter months,’ says Annalisa, and friends are regularly invited to join them for delicious meals around the large dining table.
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