The search for our next project came quite out of the blue. We were just contemplating when, where and what type of property we wanted to add to the expanding Appassionata portfolio.
A phone call that afternoon from our local estate agent suggested we should meet up, he had recently come across a few properties that might be of interest to us. Over the years we have become good friends, he knows how fussy I am and patiently drives me around the region and waits for my reaction, sometimes I don’t even get out of the car!
I am like a child on Christmas morning when it comes to looking at property possibilities. I love the thrill and excitement of the search, finding ‘the one’. The place that ticks all the boxes, has the ‘wow’ factor, and most importantly the ‘one’ that just feels right. When I walk through a property for the first time I like to walk alone, in silence, and absorb everything around me.
We viewed a few properties the following morning, a mixture of restored and partially restored farmhouses. All were in great locations, but the quality of the restoration was poor. We didn’t know the engineer or builders who completed the work, which was a concern. Often the extra work involved in redoing shoddy workmanship is very fiddly, time-consuming and expensive on a restored property.
We stopped off for a light lunch and a glass of ‘pick me up’ prosecco to refresh and regroup.
We headed down towards the coast, to Lapedona, a lovely medieval town overlooking the Adriatic Sea. I love Lapedona, famous for its classical music festivals during the summer months and the restaurant Didicus, serving some of Italy’s poshest pizza’s.
We parked up in one of the small Piazza’s in the historic centre of the town, opposite an ancient three-tiered fountain. We took a short walk along the cobbled streets and I glanced up ahead and fixed my eyes on the beautiful detailed brickwork of a Liberty Villa.
The house was previously owned by the former wife of Diego della Valle, the creator of the luxury brands Tods, Hogan and Fay, based here in Le Marche. The house hadn’t been lived in for several years.
The agent opened the door and it was love at first sight. The house had been restored by a highly respected building team, engineer and architect we had worked with before.
The heady height of the ceilings and the winter sunlight dancing across the beautiful floor tiles in the hallway, made me smile and nod my head. Tall elegant doors led into the large, open, living space. The marble fireplace and parquet wooden floor lit up as we threw open the shutters. This definitely had the wow factor and my stomach was performing backflips, the visions were endless, and I had only seen two rooms.
The intricate black wrought iron railings and gentle stone steps lead up to the kitchen, added to the overall elegance of the space. The kitchen was quite small and separate from the living space. It’s a standing joke with our building team….I always find a wall or two to knock down somewhere. Here it was, the wall connecting the kitchen and living area was crying out to be removed. A flowing living, dining and kitchen space, ideal for entertaining, was needed here.
Upstairs, the three bedrooms and two bathrooms were all good sizes, they needed updating, redecorating, a little TLC and some fabulous furnishings.
We opened the French doors leading from the master bedroom onto the first of three terraces.
I made a promise never to become too nonchalant about the views in Le Marche. We are surrounded with the most amazing vistas. This view was stunning, the sea felt so close you could almost reach out and touch it. Rolling hills dotted with olive trees and the air was divine.
The terrace walls needed repointing, and the floor tiles were grubby with moss and dirt. The drainpipe was hanging off the wall and all the windows and shutters needed a good sand and a few coats of paint. I had a strong vision of the finished space, with large terracotta tubs and vases filled with an assortment of brightly coloured cascading plants. A dining table at one end, with a bbq close at hand and a lovely L shaped sofa with comfy cushions to curl up on with and a good book.
The third bedroom also had its own terrace, overlooking the Piazza. This one also needed some TLC, but an ideal space for a bistro table and chairs and red geraniums. I could imagine our owners sitting here and enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning. A delightful spiral staircase led us up to the rooftop terrace. I have seen many, many wonderful views in Le Marche, but even I wasn’t prepared for this one. I can think of many words to describe this vantage point, but I could never do it credit. You have to see it to believe it. 360-degree view of mountains, hills and sea whilst standing on a roof terrace reaching into the sky… in a beautiful medieval town.
A private solarium, ideal for soaking up the rays and leaving behind the stress and worry of daily life. I have never been a fan of the hot tub and this property was so close to the sea, a daily dip in the Adriatic followed by a delicious lunch on the beach would be my choice. But our owners deserve another wow factor and if I could find an elegantly designed spa this would be the ideal place to relax, with a glass of chilled prosecco close at hand.
We headed back downstairs to the entrance hall. There was a strange, custom built bench sitting to the left of another staircase leading down to another floor. I mentally removed this hideous piece of furniture with it’s 80’s floral fabric seats and replaced it with the beautiful iron railings upstairs. Yes, that would work, and the house would flow more easily.
As we walked downstairs, I was holding my breath and crossing my fingers, for windows and natural light, otherwise, this space wouldn’t work. I breathed a sigh of relief, this was a great space, with lots of natural light! Another good size bathroom, a great utility room and a spacious corridor leading into two further rooms, unrestored but with lots of possibilities. Another living room, with TV, desk and sofa bed for extra guests? A games room, pool table? We had recently returned from a family holiday and most evenings we had enjoyed happy hour with a cocktail and a game of pool. A great game for all ages, although it did get rather competitive amongst the male members of the family.
A tall wrought iron gate led off one of the rooms, but it was so dark we couldn’t see anything. We all turned on our torches and waited for our eyes to adjust. The dim spot lights lit up a long narrow cellar with interesting old brickwork and detailed recesses. This was incredible, another wow factor.The area needed lots of work, bricks replaced, walls repointed and a new floor. A carefully thought out lighting design, to make the most of this special space would be key.
I walked back up to the top of the cellar and noticed the light from the other torches washing up the ancient brickwork. This could make a wonderful cantina, wine cellar. Each of our owners could have their own section for their wine. We could start off their collection and gift each owner a selection of wines from the boutique vineyards of Le Marche.
I glanced over my shoulder and noticed some large orange cardboard boxes with the Tods logo neatly inscribed. I slowly lifted the lid of each one, hoping to see a beautiful pair of Tods boots in my size, sadly each box was empty….
The agent asked my thoughts on the property, I nonchalantly replied there was an awful lot of work to do and I would need a few days to think about it!
I just couldn’t believe it, what a find. I had always dreamt of finding and restoring a liberty villa and here it was. The perfect size property with amazing outside space in a lovely town, so close to the beach.
The adventure begins, sleepless nights of visions, colours, furnishings and all things fabulous. I put my heart and soul into all our projects, it’s the only way I can work. I restore each property as if it was my own. I love to watch each room evolve and come back to life, carefully choosing each item to compliment the age of the building.
I hope you will enjoy sharing this unique restoration journey with me over the coming months. The stress and strain, laughter and fun and plenty of wine!