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Childhood memories of Italian farmhouses and medieval churches provided the inspiration for the decor of country homestead

Past present

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Falling in love with a country, its people and its architecture can be a consuming passion. But just because your roots are several thousand miles away, shouldn't mean you can't follow your heart when it comes to designing and furnishing your own home.

A childhood in Italy was the catalyst for a life-long love of Italian interiors for one of the owners of this country house. Not surprisingly, when it came to designing a new home for their own family, the original Italian farmhouse style provided the blueprint. But, like those older homes, the interior was not about creating the "right look", they say.

"The key elements are personal belongings we have gathered over the years. Everything is real and functional, and not simply made for effect."

The sense of authenticity is enhanced by the thick concrete walls of the six-year-old house – now covered in ivy – and the addition of antique shutters and doors from Europe. Concrete floors and recycled building materials are further evidence of the owners' desire for the house to look as though it was built centuries ago.

"We wanted the house to have the feel of the old Italian farmhouses, which are very warm, comfortable and practical. We also love the simplicity of the interiors of the medieval churches in Italy, and have tried to bring some of that ambience to this house."

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The small, antique shuttered windows are positioned to frame picturesque views.

"This is also an Italian tradition," says one of the owners. "The windows may be small, but they open to views that are quite vast – the rolling countryside and the sea beyond."

The soaring entrance hall, with its traditional stairway and ceiling fresco leads to a collection of living rooms, all linked by wide door openings. With the help of interior designer Gen Hogg, the owners have created a formal living area to the left of the entrance, with the formal dining room and informal living rooms leading off to the right.

Furnishings have been sourced worldwide – the lanterns in the entrance are French, while many of the light fittings are Venetian. Similarly, rugs, paintings, fabrics and furniture have been bought during travels, or from local antique shops.

Faded old gold velvet curtains from an original Italian farmhouse adorn windows in the formal living room.

"There is nothing elaborate about many of the furnishings," says the owner. "And I don't believe it is necessary for everything to match. With the concrete floors and light-colored walls, all the old pieces work well together."

Balancing areas of light and dark was also important to ensure the mood was consistent throughout the house.

Most of the family living takes place in the farmhouse kitchen and adjacent living room. The latter room features a great sculpted-stone fireplace – another Italian tradition.

With its large, stand-alone furniture and Aga range, the kitchen further enhances the farmhouse look. The main work bench is a recycled shop counter from England. Crockery, cutlery, pots and pans are all on show, stored on an antique Irish dresser, plate racks and a baker's stand, or hanging from the chimney.

"Nothing is precious – everything is used and right at hand," says the owner.

Bedrooms are on the second floor of the house, which also incorporates a separate, self-contained wing for guests.

The main bedroom opens to a tiled loggia and pillars entwined in vines. Like all the bedrooms, it captures dramatic country and sea views – and more than a hint of Italy.

First published date: 17 November 2005

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