Transforming A Chicken House Into A Chic Apartment

Mmm, this was a sentence I never thought I would write. Life throws us some weird challenges and this was mine!

A year or so after we had completed the restoration of Palazzo Scarsini, our home in Petritoli, we were still scratching our heads as how best to use the space on the lower ground floor.

Our home is a five-floor Palazzo dating from the 14th  century, situated in the historic centre of the town and very conveniently placed for the local bars and restaurants.  

Apart from the pigeons taking up residence on the terrace, the house had been abandoned for many years. We live in the top three floors, surrounded by original frescos and murals, which we uncovered during the restoration.

The lower ground floor is the Appassionata HQ, a large open space with brick archways and vaulted ceilings. Light floods in from the windows at the far end, behind the desks, offering wonderful, far reaching views.  I have to be honest and say the views are very distracting and I can often be found staring out of the window, daydreaming when I should be working. I’m sure I had a few school reports saying the exact same thing.

 The floor below the office was once used to house chickens, salami’s, wine and oil. The brickwork and vaulted ceilings are intricate and detailed, although in desperate need of restoration.  The Belle Arte, the Italian National Heritage, informed us the space would be listed, owing to the age and artisan interest and was probably used as a small chapel in its early days.

We pondered for a few months on how to use this wonderful space wisely. The engineering and building costs came in high but this was a space that deserved to be loved and cherished for another 500 years.

The idea of keeping chickens and collecting fresh eggs daily was very appealing, but the thought of them not being out in the open, roaming free just wasn’t right. I didn’t think they would appreciate the beauty and space either.

Over dinner and drinks, always a good time to make a decision, we decided to create an apartment. A separate entrance leading from the cobbled streets would give a sense of total privacy for guests.

The original water well for the house with its beautiful curved, low, brick wall was a lovely feature but was situated right in the middle of ‘the bedroom’!  I really wanted to keep it, line it with copper and create a circular bath. I mentioned this to our amazing housekeeper, Roberta, who along with her team, keeps all the Appassionata properties in tip-top condition. Roberta rolled her eyes and shook her head.  The thought of cleaning all that copper, she likes everything to gleam, was just too much work. I had to agree, practicality had to come before design. This time.

The sandblasting was amazing, but the mess was horrendous and I had to apologise to all the neighbours for the clouds of dust flying out the doors and windows and settling on their freshly laundered sheets.

I also worried about the lighting in the living space.  The high ceiling was crying out for a Murano chandelier, but I also wanted to highlight the newly cleaned and repointed brickwork.  I phoned Fabrizio, our friendly lighting expert. He advised installing tiny LED strips running behind the edge of each recess. We added a dimmer switch and the effect was wonderful, the walls looked like they had awoken from a long slumber.

After much debate, I decided to carefully remove the circular bricks and well and save them for another project.  This space would make the perfect bedroom with an arched window showcasing the view across the hills.

I chose cream coloured travertine floor tiles to complement the warm brickwork and soft furnishings and lamps gave the space a homely, holiday feel.

I am a huge fan of Venetian plaster and use it in all our Appassionata properties.  I wanted to use a stronger shade in the shower area, lavender. A bold, but gentle colour, soothing and relaxing, with its marble finish and subtle swirls.

I integrated the modern amenities of everyday life, wifi, TV, washing machine/drier etc into this historic 14th-century apartment.

It was a joy to watch this dark, dusty space come alive. To bathe in its light and furnish it with love for others to enjoy in the future.

If you are interested in staying in the Palazzo Scarsini apartment please contact me dc@appassionata.com or visit our website https://www.appassionata.com/properties/luxury-rental/

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