Decorating Lessons We Learned From a Dreamy Italian Farmhouse
Because who wouldn’t want to wake up in Tuscany?
Published Apr 5, 2019 7:00 AM
“During my first visit to the house, the grounds were in full bloom with fragrant honeysuckle and lavender everywhere, olive trees bursting with fruit, and tomatoes overflowing their beds,” Anna Beeber, principal at Champalimaud, told Domino of her first visit at Casole D’Elsa in the Tuscan countryside. If this sentence alone isn’t enough to convince anyone to stop everything to move to Tuscany and turn a dilapidated farmhouse into a dreamy Italian getaway, we don’t know what is.
Tuscan fantasies aside, this beautiful vacation home wasn’t always so picture-perfect. Before Beeber came along, it was a very old structure, she recalls. The centuries-old traditional Italian stone farmhouse might have been in bad shape, but it was the perfect stepping stone (no pun intended) to create a relaxed country house where the owners—a retired couple with a large extended family—could garden, cook, and enjoy family time in a comfortable environment.
“The landscaping was so lush and light that it felt incredibly romantic,” says Beeber of her first site visit. “This inspired the design direction for the interiors. We wanted to create a home that felt as soulful and warm as the gardens.” The designer faced her fair share of challenges—like having to direct all deliveries to geographical coordinates because the house didn’t have an address. But a simple vision of a carefree life in the middle of a lush, dreamlike Tuscan garden was enough to bring this rundown property back to life (and then some). Ahead, the designer shares her expert secrets of adopting the Italian countryside look, no matter where you live.
Play Up the Natural Light
Inside, Beeber kept an airy and bright color scheme because of the lack of available natural light. “The windows are small, which prohibited the amount of light coming into the house. In order for us to amplify the available light, we needed to employ a bit of design magic to brighten the interiors. So when we chose the materials, we made a concerted effort to only use ones that would have a positive impact on the lighting; a lot of soft natural tones and fresh whites.”
The Lesson: Learn how to work with the light in a dark space. Use light-friendly colors to increase the amount of light that you already have.
Work Around Your Existing Layout
The renovating laws in Italy being strict, the designer had to keep the initial layout of the farmhouse and work around the original stone walls as a blueprint for the vacation retreat. “We were limited in what we could do because by law we were not able to change the floor plan of the home,” explains Beeber. “Still, we were able to make some nice updates to the house.” The designer updated the master bedroom and bathroom—adding much-needed wardrobes for the couple—and added new millwork and plaster throughout the home.
The Lesson: Work with the home, not against it. If you can’t change the floor plan, work clever built-in solutions into the design and play up the Tuscan vibes with millwork and plastered walls.
Create Depth With Materials
“Most of the materials used were highly textured,” says Beeber of the matte plasters, flat-weave carpets, and intricate millwork in the space. “We used a lot of flat-weave carpets and natural fibers to augment the ‘casual country’ feeling we wanted to evoke in the home and added matte plaster over some of the stone walls to soften the interior architecture.” Doors and millwork throughout were painted in Farrow & Ball’s soft Dove Tale gray.
The Lesson: Textures matter. Though the home already had beautiful hardwood floors, stone walls, and wooden ceiling beams, this didn’t stop the designer from adding matte plaster, woven carpets, and beautiful millwork to give the space depth.
Don’t Overdo It
“The style of the home was meant to be warm and inviting,” says Beeber of her ‘casual with a bit of sophistication’ aesthetic. “Keep it simple and don’t overthink the design process. There is a certain calmness and airiness that comes with Tuscan living, and the interiors should be a reflection of that ease.” To achieve this, the designer brought in lots of loungey overstuffed sofas and plenty of antiques and contemporary pieces, ranging from Ralph Pucci light fixtures and Roll & Hill chandeliers to vintage Karre Klint safari chairs and Serena & Lily baskets.
The Lesson: Mix antiques with contemporary pieces. Scour your local antique shops, splurge on a few statement lighting pieces, and accessorize simply with woven baskets. Above all, make sure your upholstered seating is ultra comfortable.
Facilitate Easy Indoor-Outdoor Living
“I really love the garden,” the designer told us of the bucolic scenery that first made her fall head over heels with the home. “It’s perfect and gives you this beautiful moment of pause within what is already the most dreamlike respite in Italy.” To give the farmhouse’s indoor-outdoor feel a certain casual ease, Beeber created multiple outdoor areas, from shaded pergolas for alfresco lunches to sun-soaked clusters of lounge chairs lining the infinity pool.
The Lesson: Use hard-wearing outdoor furniture with covers. This will allow you to be as comfortable as you want with your outdoor furniture worrying about it being too precious.
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