the *unfinished* apartment : citta alta : bergamo

the *unfinished* apartment : citta alta : bergamo

Although we’ve largely finished the renovations of our stone house, I can always find something else that needs to be done. So, effectively, it always “unfinished”. But not on the scale of these properties, which have been designed to be deliberately “unfinished”.

Peeling wallpaper, floors that have been left untreated and hanging cables give character to these interior design projects, which look as though they’ve been abandoned halfway through decorating.

All photographers credited in Dezeen article : https://www.dezeen.com/2022/10/02/unfinished-interiors-residential-homes-lookbooks/

All photographers credited in Dezeen article : https://www.dezeen.com/2022/10/02/unfinished-interiors-residential-homes-lookbooks/

There’s something very appealing about rough-around-the-edges, industrial rawness – combined with softness, through colour palettes and accessories and lighting. We’re lucky that our home lends itself to a certain unfinished look in places. Parts of the internal walls are still original Istrian stone, as opposed to smooth plaster, and so even when painted white, they still look, well, not quite finished. But they are! OK, we could have them plastered, but the stone is a nod to the heritage and history of the house. Renovated mostly in a contemporary style, we made the deliberate decision to keep parts of the house in its original state, and so we have a bit of an interesting mix going on.

However, not as interesting – or as bold – as some of the houses featured in the Dezeen article, or the apartment we found in the heart of Citta Alta, Bergamo.

Stripped back and very minimalist, this upper floor apartment in a very old townhouse, was absolutely beautiful, in its deliberately unfinished state. Exposed beams, highly polished floorboards and the remains of stunning frescoes in the rooms. I think this is a really bold design choice in a tourist apartment – I’d be so worried about damage to the historical features – but I guess people do show respect. The apartment does have modern amenities and facilities – in particular, a very contemporary kitchen is housed behind a sleek, high gloss white partition wall – and so the stay is very comfortable. I have tried to locate this apartment again online, as we would recommend it, but it would seem it’s no longer taking guests, which is a shame.

However, we will be taking inspiration from this apartment and from the properties in the Dezeen article, as we begin a new journey in 2023. After a topsy-turvey house experience last year, when we actually popped a bottle of fizz as we thought we had sold it, we’ve picked ourselves up and are ready to go again. We’ve taken a long, hard look at our home and have decided that we have a few projects to tackle to get it ready to re-market. And, we’ll definitely be definitely going for “unfinished” – but absolutely finished – in certain places, to create a house which has a very different feel and vibe to the one which was up for sale last year.

 

 

 

 

string curtains…

string curtains…

Our bedrooms are not overlooked and so we don’t necessarily need curtains at the windows. But sometimes, curtains – or a simple roller blind – can just finish off a window. We have installed white roller blinds in all of the window recesses, because even though we feel OK about having “naked windows”, visitors may well prefer the feeling of privacy. In our bedroom, we’ve always had sheer muslin drapes, because the double window wall, although painted white, is still natural stone and so the curtains soften the wall. We’ve now added floor length duck egg blue velvet blackout curtains, to each window, as even in the winter, early morning sunlight was wakening us up. Not a problem any longer!

Our third bedroom is the one used the least and it currently has the least pretty view, as although very high up, it does overlook the construction of a neighbour’s small stone cottage. I didn’t want to hang curtains as such in here, as I rarely go into the room, so the hassle of drilling a curtain pole into a thick supporting beam above the window, didn’t seem worth the hassle, as the curtains would hardly ever be closed. But, I still wanted to “finish off” both this window and the room, and obscure the work outside at the times we were in the room. Then, bingo! The solution came to me…

The grey curtain strings (there are four at this window) are usually at the front door in the summer, to keep files out, when it’s open, but during the winter they’re just hung up downstairs, not being used. They’re on a very lightweight rail, so no drilling was needed and they were up in minutes, doing exactly what I’d wanted – transforming the window and the room. Not blocking out the light during the day, but obscuring the view.

These string curtains were purchased from Jysk in Istria. In UK Jysk stores, they’re usually priced at £7.99 per curtain but I’ve just noticed (end of Dec 22) they’re on sale at just £5 per curtain. Bargain!

winter teal

winter teal

The main bedroom in our house is large. Certainly bigger than any bedroom we’ve ever had before – and keeping it warm and cosy in the winter, is something I work on every year. It’s great in the summer – light, spacious and airy. With the windows wide open and a couple of lovely retro fans at the bedside, we are kept cool. But come a drop in temperature, we do have to work at keeping it warm. Sometimes, in the depths of winter, we’ve given in and moved across the landing to one of the smaller bedrooms, closing up the main room. But I don’t like doing this, because it feels we’re shutting up a large part of the house, and I don’t like that feeling of creeping coldness that you get in rooms you don’t use. So, this year, we are staying put, but are ensuring that this potentially cold room, is the cosiest yet. How are we doing this doing?

Well, new curtains have already had a big impact.

We’ve always had the muslin drapes at the windows – even though we don’t actually need any coverage at all, as we’re not overlooked at all – but they soften the window wall, which is the original stone. Then we added long, cream curtains, which are great over the summer but don’t give that feeling of warmth over the winter. Over the weekend, we stayed in a hotel in Treviso, and our room had long, floor length chocolate brown, velvet curtains – and this got me thinking, so a quick trip to IKEA was done. And there were the perfect drapes…

All of our bedroom furniture is painted duck egg blue, and we have a big standing lamp in the same colour, so when teal velvet was spotted, I knew these would work. And with a drop of 3m, the exact length needed.

These curtains are from the Birtna range and each pack contains a pair. We paid €69.99 per pack and needed two, so not cheap – BUT we figured that if they kept the room warm and cosy, we’d be cutting down on using heaters. They are also black-out curtains and worked well this morning – even in the winter, the sun does shine brightly into this bedroom, but they did the trick. So, not the cheapest – but also, not the most expensive – and definitely worth it for what we wanted…

 

 

 

 

hallway reno

hallway reno

Not all renovation projects need to involve demolition and mess and heavy tools and living with dust and dirt. I like to think that’s all kind of behind us – at least for now, but we never say never. These days, our renovation projects are quite small scale, very sedate, quite tidy and always done by us. It’s a nice position to be in, in the journey of our home. I quite like not having to haul the Henry hoover up (or down) three floors to get rid of thick layers of dust and plaster. These days, a bit of a tickle with a damp cloth, seems to be what’s involved in reno clean up.

Our upstairs landing has always been a bit of nothing space. We have tried, over the years, to make it into something, but nothing has ever really felt quite right. Until now, and I think we’ve finally achieved what we’ve always wanted, but not really known that we do. It now ties together the upstairs floor, and rather than just being a space to walk through, it’s almost become a room of its own.

Floating shelving has been fitted in the corner outside the main bedroom. We don’t have a socket in the hallway – something on the “to-do” list – and so we have to think about lighting. The two wooden slatted lamps are perfect as they are battery operated and on timers, meaning we have lovely shadows cast across the landing, when it’s dark. The two copper Moroccan style lanterns were bought a few years ago, and now seem to have found their home, after being fairly nomadic. These lovely little baskets are the perfect storage place for batteries for the lamps and tealights for the the lanterns.

The wooden floors throughout the house are painted a very deep navy, and walls are all white. The ceiling is very high with original beams, which we painted a very soft grey to match the woodwork, so the overall feeling is now of space. Despite there only being one window, it’s a very light and airy part of the house, but we’ve created a more wintery cosy feel with the addition of big, thick mustard coloured rugs. The wall where the window is, is still natural stone, although completely cleaned up and painted white. I’m at that stage with our house, where I’m kind of over the original stone work and depending on how much longer we are here, plans are being made to plaster all walls. However, they’ve not been plastered yet, so in order to hide away the stones, we’ve hung floor length sheer, muslin drapes. These don’t block out any light, but add softness, which I think was originally missing. The addition of a mustard yellow Moroccan leather pouffe adds a little bit more interest – and helps create a little Moorish corner in our home.

 

 

 

 

 

nuvolette : cole & son

nuvolette : cole & son

In a previous post I wrote about our desire to eradicate the parts of internal walls which have not been plastered and are still the original Istrian stone. Some people would love the walls, but as the years have gone on, I have to say my love of exposed stone – albeit now painted white – has waned and I am craving smooth, plastered walls. Some will be painted (probably white again), and for others we are considering pigmented plaster. But for the living room walls, once all is smooth, I am looking back to the beautiful wallpaper we had in our house in West Didsbury, when we renovated it,

This beautiful repeat pattern paper is Nuvolette, by Cole & Son, and is a dramatic cloudy sky mural by the Italian artist Piero Fornasetti. Unless you are an expert at wall paper hanging, I’d recommend that you do what we did, and get in a professional to hang it. The striking design is supplied in a set of two rolls, with the pattern repeat being 80cm. I was informed this mean a straight match between roll A to roll B and a half-drop between roll B to roll A of next set…

See! Told you a professional is your best bet.

The overall effect is absolutely stunning, especially if the wall to be covered is quite a large area. We used it on one feature wall only, with ceramic bulb drop pendants in front of it, and it was very dramatic. I really do miss this wallpaper now that we have moved, but I think it may make a re-appearance, once the walls in the living room are all smooth and plastered. It’s definitely not the cheapest wallpaper, but it’s very strong and sturdy and I think if you love it, there’s little chance you’ll be wanting to change it quickly. I do wonder if it is still hanging in our West Didsbury house…

best purchase of the summer…

best purchase of the summer…

For quite a while now I’ve been longing for one of these chairs. But, the garden has never been quite finished, so the idea of swinging gently, whilst sipping a cocktail, seemed ridiculous. We had far too much else to do, to get the outside areas ship-shape, before I could even contemplate going to look for one. But sometimes, circumstances just happens. Call it serendipity, perhaps…

On a trip to Bauhaus, our equivalent of B&Q, in the spring, I spotted one of these chairs and almost made the purchase. But common sense got the better of me, for once. The colour was wrong – either a tangerine orange (nice, but not right for our garden) or a natural wicker (nice, but with a black frame and the contrast was too much). Plus, it was very squeaky – and although this was the shop model and so that could have contributed to its squeakiness, I figured it wasn’t worth the risk of buying one, and it making annoying noises every time someone sat in it. So, that was it.

Until my next trip to Jysk – I think to buy additional plates to this set. And guess what they had in stock?

No squeaking. All one colour – a perfect colour, to be honest, as it’s not quite black, may well be anthracite? – but the best colour to go with everything else garden wise. And, best of all – reduced. 25% off when we bought it at the beginning of the summer. Really easy to assemble and with proper water-proof cushions – we know because we’ve stupidly left it out in heavy rain – it proved to be the hit of the summer in our garden. It works well along with the sofa so we now have two very comfy options – if you to swing, you can swing. If you want to lie, you can lie.

But now that summer is fading, we’ve had to think about what to do with our garden chair over the winter. To be honest, it’s still warm enough to sit outside at the moment, but all of the sofa cushions are inside, and the sun is lower in the sky, so the egg chair wouldn’t be quite the lounge-fest it is in the height of summer. So, it has a new home – and now has pride of place in our renovated Snug.

Over the winter, we use this room at the bottom of the house a lot, because it’s very cosy, with a big L-shaped sofa and a woodburner and all of the TV channels we could possibly want. Well, this year, I think our winter might have just got better, as with just a tiny swivel, our egg chair, will probably become a coveted seat for TV watching. We are very lucky that we have this renovated space downstairs, providing us with the perfect place to store this summer chair, over the winter. Although, with the addition of a cushion and a velvet throw, it’s kind of become a winter chair. A chair for all seasons, if you like…

six years on…

six years on…

Looking back over photos taken when we came out to view the house in Istria, and stay over as guests of the owners, has been a real experience. I can remember, obviously, what condition the house and garden was in – pretty awful, to be fair! – but as we live in the house full time, and have therefore lived through the whole renovation project, it’s sometimes easy to forget what we have actually achieved. So, this week I’ve been recreating the original photos, so that I have a visual record of what six years on looks like…

We had a vision for the stone house we viewed, for the second time, in October 2016, and this helped us to see through the condition it was in. We knew that this was a fantastic opportunity to take on a new challenge and a new direction, and so we went for it. We think that we have really brought this house back to life – but there’s still more we want to do. And that’s the challenge for the coming months. As much as we’re delighted with what we’ve achieved so far, if we can accomplish our latest vision, this house will really become something else…

 

les jardins de villa maroc : essaouira : morocco

les jardins de villa maroc : essaouira : morocco

It’s always great having friends in-the-know when you travel abroad, as they often give you top tips that you don’t find in guide-books or through internet searches. Because usually you don’t know about these places and so don’t search on them. One of these gems turned up on a trip to Essaouira. Sandra, who runs Riad Remy in the Medina, also manages the apartment we stayed at, and so was on hand throughout our stay. She has a wealth of information about Essaouira, especially on the eating out front, but her stand-out-top-tip was a day trip to Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, located about 15km inland from Essaouira.

This secluded idyll is reached by private transfer, arranged through the sister hotel – Villa Maroc – in Essaouira, and when we visited, the cost was approximately £25pp. (The countryside villa used to be the private home of the owners of Villa Maroc). We met our driver at the hotel for an 11am departure and by 11.30 were around the pool, in the most amazing surroundings imaginable. We were there in January and so the only guests, so literally had the whole pool area and restaurant to ourselves. Lunch was served on the terrace by the pool and it is no exaggeration to say that what was brought to us, could have fed at least six people. Every dish was full of home-grown produce and each dish was cooked there and then. Essaouira has no shortage of brilliant places to eat, but this was something special!

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc has three separate boutique suites and private swimming pool – perfect for families or a group of friends. There is also a beautifully equipped kitchen in the largest suite and the hotel staff, if required, will prepare food here. Design wise, it is the most exquisite complex – and the perfect retreat if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the beach or the medina. It was apparently the first riad in Morocco and is now a hotel, comprising of three suites, dating back to the 18th century, with a full hotel service. Designed with nature in mind and ecologically friendly, using solar heating and solar power it is self-sufficient place. Let us take you on a tour, both external and internal, of the villa…

EXTERIOR

INTERIOR

We cannot recommend this villa highly enough – even for a just a day of rest and relaxation. And if you like your interiors (and exteriors), it’s a visual treat. Very 1970s – you could definitely imagine Pierre Cardin chatting to Brigitte Bardot around the pool, looking super stylish and probably smoking Gitanes…

 

lluna aqua hotel : sóller : mallorca

lluna aqua hotel : sóller : mallorca

When we last visited Mallorca, one of the hotels we booked was the Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller. Housed in a traditional Mallorcan townhouse, which we were told had been empty for over eighty years, the renovation had only recently been completed and the hotel only opened a few months previously. It’s located on the bustling main thoroughfare of Carrer de sa Lluna, but once inside the cool interior, it’s peaceful and restful. The renovation has been beautifully done, with as much of the original interior retained and restored. Original Spanish tiles are very much in evidence, elaborate ceilings and beautiful dark wooden furniture. The main wall behind the reception area has been taken back to the the plaster, which looks lovely – and with the addition of suspended bird cages, full of fluffy clouds…

A lovely touch on arrival greeted us – a welcome Cava, meaning that check-in is a much more leisurely process. The reception staff are just lovely – Catarina especially, gave us lots of information about good places to eat (off the tourist trail). If you stay here, and she recommends places to you – go to them! She’s a mine of priceless local information and every single place we tried, that she recommended, was faultless.

We had a perfect start to our stay as we were advised we’d been upgraded. The room we had originally booked had a problem with the shower and so as well as an upgrade to the only room with a terrace, overlooking the mountains, for our “inconvenience” (!) we were also informed that during our stay the mini bar would be entirely free. A marvellous start to our stay in the Lluna Aqua Hotel. Even the tonic bottles are a class act – obviously now back at home in Istria, filled with flowers.

Our room was a bit of a stunner. It was unusual in that the room you walked into was the dressing room/bathroom which were separated by luscious navy velvet curtains. A big tick here – they were exactly the same as ours at home. Unusually, the bathroom was wallpapered – even inside the huge shower. I’m not sure if this was special wallpaper, or had been treated but during our stay, it all seemed OK when showering.

The bedroom area was just oh-so stylish, with the original tiled floor, navy velvet drapes, cool lighting and doors opening out onto the terrace.

The terrace was a perfect size, with a couple of sun loungers and an ornamental wood-burner. Another tick here as it was very similar to the vintage one we own, which we’ve just sprayed gold. It was a perfect place to pop a glass of cava on, too. And those views! Across the rootops of Sóller to the mountains beyond.

The communal areas of the hotel were again, so well thought out, designed and stylish. Deep, rich colours, metal balustrades, quirky pieces of artwork, tiles, original artefacts repurposed to bring new life to them. Just lovely – a rich source of inspiration for me to bring back to Istria.

We were quite sad to leave Lluna Aqua after two nights, but by another twist of fate – horrible next hotel – we were very lucky to find that they had one room available for the next two nights. And so, hours after checking out, we were checking back in again – and this meant we got to see another room. This room unfortunately didn’t have a terrace, like we’d gotten used to, but it was as cute as a button. Maybe not for those who want absolute privacy though, as only a pair of those lovely navy velvet curtains are there to protect your modesty.

And, again those tiles. And attention to detail. Loved the quirkiness of this place.

When we stayed, because the hotel has only recently opened, they were still in the process of adding the final touches to the breakfast room (which was due to open within the week), so we were given vouchers for breakfast at the beautiful bakery just next door. It’s worth a visit, just for the pastries and coffee – as well as the gorgeous interior.

And, what really caught our attention, was the exposed well – just like ours!

As usual, this is not a sponsored or paid for blog post. It’s just what we thought of a very nice place we found – and maybe it’ll inspire you to check out Lluna Aqua Hotel, too

 

a bit of bling…

a bit of bling…

In the olden days, when I wanted to up-cycle something, out would come the paint pots and brushes. Faffy and fiddly and usually waiting ages for the paint to dry. And because I am ridiculously impatient, I’d try and pick up or move whatever I had painted, too soon, and I’d smudge the paint. I don’t know why spray paint had never occurred to me before, but since we’ve been out, these cans of colour have been my saviour. Nothing pleases me more than spinning the rack in our equivalent of B&Q and going for pops of colour I would normally never choose – hot pink, zingy orange, sunburst yellow and vibrant turquoise, along with the beautiful and much used anthracite, have featured in various places around the house and garden. Nothing escapes the spray paint. The garden tables and chairs and wooden sunbeds have all been sprayed in my beloved anthracite. Wooden crates have been given new leases of life. Three Habitat plastic garden stools, originally black, are sprayed in different summery colours – one is orange, one is yellow and one is turquoise. White IKEA cube shelving has had the spray paint treatment – a great hack.

The metal cover for the well had a make-over, and the deep, deep blue now looks so much better and complements the very soft pale blue exterior woodwork.

Even the microwave hasn’t escaped the spray paint. Our silver microwave was just too silver and shiny for the new kitchen, and not being able to find a reasonably priced dark blue one anywhere, I did the obvious…

But perhaps the colour that I love the best is the gold. It just brings warmth and cosiness and a touch of glamour to our stonehouse. It also works so well against the dark colours we have around the house. A couple of our feature walls are very similar to Railings by Farrow & Ball. The walls and ceiling in the kitchen are Farrow & Ball Hague Blue. Most of the wooden floors – and the original stone floor in the Well Room – as well as the two sets of stairs are a very deep indigo. And the gold just adds a little unexpected something. I’ve upcycled bottles which are now used to display faux blooms and branches. Vintage birdcages have been glammed up with the gold. A big IKEA floor lamp now gives off a golden glow next to my desk. Various candle holders, which were pretty ordinary, now look super glam. And, the best thing of all is our vintage French woodburner. Now, this sounds mad – BUT it was never used. It was originally a beautiful blue ceramic burner, but it’s spent a lot of its life with us, in the garden as an ornament and so was a little bit weather-beaten and the hinges and plate underneath the lid were very rusty. It would have cost a fortune to have it reconditioned – and even if we were inclined to spend the money having this done, we’d have had no idea where to actually get it done. So, I figured a coat of spray paint might just give it a new lease of life. What do you think?

The pink table has also been re-upcycled. This was originally a paint-splattered wooden work table, which went pink to give a bit of colour to the upstairs landing. It’s also had a change of look, and now sits in the living room – the perfect place for lots of candles and twinkling lights in the winter…

I try to do all of the spray painting outside, and especially with larger items, but if they have be done indoors, windows are wide open and masks are worn. But, when aren’t they these days? The thing I love most about using spray-paint is that it’s relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to apply and if I want a change, all it takes is a quick sand down and another colour from the carousel.