How we Restored our Italian Home
In an extract from our new book, ‘A Prima Vista: Our Journey to Buying & Restoring an Italian Home’, we share some highlights of how we transformed a ruin into a liveable space.
It may sound clichèd, but we fell in love with Le Marche on sight. Not only because there were so many tiny towns and villages to explore, or for the beautiful countryside and golden beaches, but because this relatively undiscovered region of Italy also offers great potential for tourists who want to immerse themselves into an authentic Italian experience.
David is of Italian heritage so we holiday in Italy as much as we can, between breaks from our restoration projects in the UK, which we have been doing for 20 years. We are property restorers and love renovating old Georgian homes in Bath and redesigning the interiors for our clients. Whilst visiting Le Marche for the first time in 2015 for a short break, we were astounded by not only the beauty of the area, but the abundance of run-down, abandoned houses that were for sale, at significantly lower prices than we had previously seen in areas such as Tuscany.
The house that we eventually ended up buying is stone brick built, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms in the hilltop town of Force. Surrounded by astounding Le Marche countryside, we were sad to see that it had been neglected for years. Built just before 1900, the house had once been a family home, its last owner being a priest. He had lived here and worked at the local church, but after he died his sister had lived alone until she moved to the coast to be near her daughters.
Together, we chose the best priced building company to carry out the structural work. The engineer would ensure that the work was being carried out correctly and was fairly priced, and he himself would charge us a fee of 10% of the total cost of the work.
We would stay at the house while the builders did their work (always good to be on site and know exactly everything that is going on) and during that time we would work on the interiors ourselves. Once the scaffolding was erected and the builders began working on the structural repairs, we got to work. Being at the property to project manage was great for us, as we were able to liase with the builders and our engineer should we encounter any difficulties or have any questions.
As this was what was to be phase one of our project, we had a three-month plan in which, aside from the structural repairs, we would tackle the kitchen, living room, hallway, a bedroom and a bathroom. We would make these rooms liveable and would return at a later date to complete the remaining rooms, landings and staircase during phase two. This was to be a project that would be done in stages, and we were up for the challenge!
READ MORE: OUR ITALIAN RENOVATION PROJECT – EXPAT Q&A
RESTORING AN ITALIAN KITCHEN
We both love country kitchens, they have so much character and are usually warm, inviting spaces. This old house needed a country kitchen. After all, it had views of rolling hills, tiny cobbled stone streets and ﬁeld upon ﬁeld of cattle, horses and ﬂowers so it made sense to try to replicate the type of kitchen you would ﬁnd in an old farmhouse.
CREATING A RUSTIC HALLWAY
The ﬁrst time we visited the house, we were struck by the beautiful entry way with its original oak front doors and gorgeous marble tiled staircase.
Unfortunately, years of the house being closed off had taken their toll. The cement work that surrounded the doors was swollen, blown and cracked and the bottom of the doorframe was damp. The doors needed repairing, one had lost a hinge and the bottom sections of both had been eaten by woodworm.
OUR ITALIAN SITTING ROOM: BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN
The sitting room is a large space with two beautiful windows and a very loose ﬂoor. The tiles were cracked, many were loose and when we walked across the ﬂoor the whole room rattled and shook. Years of earthquakes, lack of repairs and no TLC in this room meant that it was crying out to be restored.
The walls were dirty and cracked and swollen cement surrounded the windows. We wondered how it had gotten into this state. Paint and plaster were coming off of the walls, and in damp areas the walls literally seemed to be crumbling away. Neglect and earth tremors had caused this. And with nobody around to maintain the odd earthquake crack or do any replastering work, time had taken its toll.
BEDROOM & EN-SUITE
The master bedroom at the property has an en suite bathroom that luckily was fully functioning so did not need too much attention, apart from a lot of deep cleaning. At this stage we decided to keep the suite and spruce it up, until we had the time to fit a new one. We bought a new cistern and some porcelain spray to colour the suite white, tile paint for the floor and wall tiles and got to work. This gave the room a fresh look and made it useable, and during phase two we will opt for a brand new bathroom suite and tiles when budget and time permits!
An adaptation of this article previously appeared in the Spring issue of ‘A Place in the Sun Magazine’.
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READ MORE: RENOVATING ITALY