First things first: I’m not an interior designer or a stylist, and nor do I pretend or claim to be. I’m a journalist, and I write about all sorts of stuff. I just happen to like making rooms look nice for the fun of it, from re-arranging furniture in my doll’s house when I was little to a full-scale overhaul in our own home.
So when my mother-in-law casually remarked some time last year that the family holiday home in Umbria was in need of a lot of love and attention, I threw out some comment about how I would love to help. At this stage, I hadn’t even seen the place and had no idea just how big a project we were talking. Little did I know then that a throwaway remark would actually become a reality. “You know that thing you said, about redoing the house in Italy? Mum wants to know if you could do it,” said R. “Like, seriously.”
And so, for the last six months, in my spare time I’ve been planning the total revamp of a large, three-bedroom, three-bathroom Umbrian villa in the hills all the way from England. Yesterday, after a frantic few days, we finally finished. Ladies and gents, welcome to Casa Nova.
Casa Nova used to belong to a little old Italian lady, who lived up in the hills surrounded by olive groves all on her own. Her grown-up children had moved away so she decided it was time to sell-up. When my in-laws bought the house a few years ago, the little old Italian lady left all her furniture: big, dark, heavy wooden stuff that felt imposing and dusty and a bit gloomy. Suffice to say, the furniture was the first thing to go.
Out with the old, we got the whole house painted white and with my blank canvas I was ready to go. First up was the bedrooms – sadly, being in the middle of (a very pretty) nowhere meant our choices were slightly limited for some of the furniture (cue a mammoth trip to Ikea in Ancona) *but* a) it’s the nice quality stuff and b) the cottage pieces we picked out go with the feel of the house. But it’s the finishing touches that I’d collected from various places that I like to think make it feel more like a proper, proper home…
…Like the paper heart chain above the bed in the room R & I stay in. The hearts are cut out from an Italian A-Z from Chaxton 38
. When the window is open, they dance against the wall. Pretty.
I’d collected vintage stuff from markets and online to scatter around…
For the small room with two singles, I found some sweet prints of old-school children’s books from the Dot Com Gift Shop
to hang above each bed. I’m hoping to grow the collection! I spent hours going through the Dot Com Gift Shop and sourced a fair few other prints and things like pretty tea light holders from there too (all the vintage-looking silver pots came from there too).
Where there were once bare walls, the living room now has a neat little gallery picture wall, with a couple of Italian-references thrown in on them too (like the Bicicletta print from the English Muffin Shop
I added pots of lavender around the fireplace and a few bits and bobs elsewhere….
Apart from our bedroom, the kitchen is my favourite room, the kind of place you can imagine having big noisy Italian dinners around the table (a lovely worn-in old one which we kept). It’s been totally regutted from what it was and now bright and light and colourful, tied together with Papermash’s
La Dolce Vita banner, a couple of retro milk bottles and these lovely foodie prints from anek
Letting me loose in this house was a little like letting a child loose in a sweetshop (etc). But I tried not to overdo it. It’s not my house after all. But it’s simple, and pretty and, well, as a family we all put a lot of thought into it (we all couldn’t quite believe it when the final nail went into the wall).
The best bit is that we hope other people can enjoy it too – we’re letting Casa Nova out
for holidays (there’s still one week left in August so please do get in touch if you’re interested)… grazie!