29 July, from Bramasole
As readers of See You in the Piazza know, Bramasole has been under intense renovation for almost two years. I think it cost me two books. Ed has flown over so often that flight attendants recognize him and even a customs officer at the Rome airport. Serious work! Much of it invisible–insulation, electrical, solar, heating upgrades, all the no-fun stuff. But much is visible. I am posting some photos, hoping that you might get a flash of inspiration from them. The destroyed–completely–garden is looking good. We decided not to replicate what we had but to try a new design. I may go back to some of the old ideas next year. What was the Rose Walk is now rather formal. Our lemon trees line one side and balance the boxwood hedge on the other side. The hedge and five topiary boxwood trees are a remnant of the long lost formal garden from years ago. Trying to reduce grass, we made a river-pebble walk with a mid-point circle for an old olive oil jar. In a fierce wind storm in March, we lost our jasmine arches. For now, we’re leaving the stairs open.
The olive oil centerpoint is easy to accomplish. I built up the soil to raise the jar, then planted a circle of dwarf boxwood, some ivy here and there, and then tucked in low flowers that have bloomed all summer. That’s gaura falling into the picture.
The area we call The Lime Tree Bower used to be grass–scraggly under the linden trees–but always our shady respite in summer. It’s now pebbles, too, with comfortable outdoor furniture and a big stone topped table. My old yellow wooden table finally succumbed to age, and was not helped by a worker spilling a gallon of black creosote on it. I found this old iron table base and had the stone top cut to seat twelve. Handy to have it a bit wide so that two can sit at either end. I picked up the beautiful green wine demijohns beside the trash pick up and cut off the old woven straw basket full of insects and dust. To clean them of dregs and dirt, our gardener told me to put a handful of pebbles inside, add soapy water and whirl it around. Not easy. The globe is big and slippery. I broke one but did okay with the others. They reflect the landscape and cast lovely green shadows. All along the back of this terrace, there’s a stone wall and a hedge of hydrangeas.
The living room floor had to be ripped out because of moisture problems. We also removed a staircase, which gave a little more room. Then the room was replastered and we painted the beams white. We were able to find old cotto bricks to replace the original ones. I had the furniture made by a local craftsman. The room is my museum of treasures gathered over the many years I’ve wandered around antique markets. I contemplated painting the room a light chalky blue but finally decided to leave it white because it reminds me of small Greek churches I saw in the Mani.
Maybe the household gods do reside in the details:
The very best prize of the restoration–a new kitchen! Perfect for two cooks. Ed has his sink and I have mine, both cut from single pieces of marble. The room ends with a glass half-octagon that allows us a view of the hills and valley at all times of day. It’s especially lovely when it’s raining. The new kitchen was the old limonaia at the side and back of the house and we broke through the former kitchen to join it. The pendant lights were made in Murano at Schiavon Vetreria Artistica. The floor (heated underneath) is old brick cotto. The metal table is new but looks as if James Joyce might have sat there sipping absinthe. The antique platters I found in Taormina. For over a decade they lay in a chest of drawers, just waiting for the right moment to be displayed. The Ilve stove is dark, marine blue. We are lucky to have found marble we love and a great marmista who fitted everything beautifully. The new connection:
Here are a couple of detail shots:
We were able to squeeze in a tiny half bath at the back of the kitchen. I couldn’t find a sink for the small space. La marmista to the rescue. I love this little sculptural work of art! Brancusi could wash his hands here. We mounted it on a slab of pietra serena stone.
But isn’t the light switch ugly! Devil in the details!
Many things are the same:
But we are living in a new way in the house we’ve lived in for twenty-five years. Worth the time and money and stress? Yes!
Would love to hear comments and suggestions!
More later on good books of the summer and some great travel recommendations. We have been lots of places with our grandson, who is a super traveler. This year he discovered tasting menus and had many surprises. A very packed summer. Now I’m hoping for a calm August and time, time, time to write.
Hope your summer, too, has been full of good surprises!