How to Restore an Italian Home: On a Budget
Turning an old Italian house into a great vacation home doesn’t have to be the work-inducing, costly exercise that you may think it is.
We recently viewed this Medieval townhouse in the charming hilltop town of Monte Giberto – a quiet borgho (hamlet) where time appears to have stood still. Narrow cobbled streets lined with old stone houses give way to a beautiful piazza that offers sweeping views of Le Marche’s beautiful landscape – mountain ranges that rise above valleys scattered with farmlands and tiny towns, and in the distance, the blue waters of the Adriatic.
These small walled cities are a feature of Italy’s Le Marche, and one of the great things about owning a home in a borgho is that you quickly become embedded into the local community. You are also never more than a 30 minute drive from the beach.
This house is set over two floors, with a large vaulted basement area below that has been converted into a garage. On the roof is a large terrace that affords views over the town – terracotta tiles and Monte Giberto’s grand church tower peaking above the rooftops – what better place to enjoy a morning espresso or evening aperitivo?
In solid condition, it needs no large restoration work – the rooftop terrace needs new waterproof flooring and part of the roof needs new tiles. A gas boiler needs to be installed to provide hot water, but the plumbing fixtures, as well as radiators, are all in place. Heating systems are needed for winter visits, but during the summer, where temperatures can reach to over 30 degrees, an owner will never need to have heating on.
Internally, the house needs updating, so we have laid out some ideas to create a vacation-ready interior design scheme. Kitchens can be sourced inexpensively in Italy, and what better place to find Italian hand-crafted furniture in both contemporary and classic designs. I have also picked up many a bargain at one of the region’s numerous antiques markets – its great to have one of a kind pieces to complement any scheme, usually at a fraction of the price of antiques in other countries.
Houses in Le Marche are rarely staged for sale (although we do work with a progressive local real estate agent and stage some of their properties) so look beyond the owners storage! This is the living room, with three shuttered windows that look out onto the cobbled street below, a GREAT place to sit and people watch. The floors are solid and in excellent condition, as are the walls. If a buyer wanted to fix up this home in stages, then gorgeous Italian floor tiles can be sourced locally. For now though, we have focused on furniture and colour schemes.
Out with the dark furniture, in with a contemporary colour scheme combined with some antique pieces. A similar chair to the one pictured adds a classic touch that blends well with modern pieces. Go as vibrant as you can, a pop of colour draws the eye around the room. A mirror on the far wall facing the windows also enhances natural light.
I’m a big fan of large, leafy plants in living spaces, that create a more exotic feel – this is a vacation home after all. I also love plenty of soft lighting, and wall lamps and chandeliers can be picked up in Italy for a steal.
The kitchen floor and walls are in perfect condition – and this room can be transformed with a modern kitchen. As the room is a smaller space, a whole contemporary kitchen set can be picked up for less than €1,500.
Younger Italians are swaying towards more modern kitchens, while many of the older generations prefer traditional, darker wood. Both are available in Le Marche at both ends of the market, from contemporary lower priced options to higher priced, classic kitchens. Of course, there are a huge range of designer kitchens available too – depending on how much you want to spend. But for a vacation home, a kitchen that offers functionality and style will not break the budget.
For the roof terrace, Italian designers are renowned for offering a wide variety of stone flooring. There are classic ceramics in abundance, cotto floors, stone in a range of colours, depths and durability, plenty of options to suit all tastes and budgets. Our advice would be to save on the terrace flooring and spend more on internal floors. As longs as a rooftop terrace is waterproof, then go for lighter, durable tiles that compliment your outdoor furniture.
You’ll probably be far too busy admiring this view than looking at the floor anyway!
David & Gary are property restorers based in Le Marche, Italy. With over 20 years’ hands-on experience in restoring homes, they assist foreign clients who have purchased Italian homes and oversee all of the works needed.