I’ve seen a lot of properties in Tuscany and Umbria over the years. Not that I can afford to buy a gorgeous farmhouse in the countryside on a regular basis, but because I’ve planned a lot of vacations (and been on many too), helped a friend set up a vacation rental, and also just enjoy browsing country style magazines and real estate listings! Many of the properties available either for rent or purchase around here are really gorgeous. But one thing I’ve noticed is that there is a prevailing rustic style that draws rather more from tradition than is my taste. When I saw the homes decorated by Rob Landeweerd and Jeroen Macco of rental company Special Umbria, my jaw dropped. What I saw in their properties was my dream home decoration, a mix of modern and antique, in colourful and light-filled settings. I asked them for a few tips to imitate this style and teach us how to decorate a farmhouse should we ever be so lucky to own a place this gorgeous (they do have a few for sale, incidentally).
Let the house sing – if it has a good voice! Many properties in the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside have brilliant, traditional features like wood beams, exposed stone walls, and terracotta floors. If you’ve got the opportunity, restore and reveal these in the best possible light. You’ll give the home character, though you’ll also face a decorating challenge – terracotta tiling in particular is hard to match with a lot of wood furniture.
On the other hand, if you’re starting from scratch – like in the case of a farmhouse ruin but nothing but the shape of its outer walls – it’s interesting to work with smooth, uninterrupted surfaces like resin floors and painted metal i-beams.
What a difference light can make. But even more, a lamp impacts a room. They’re not just there to turn on and provide light in a space, they can be an important accent feature. An awesome modern hanging lamp can set the tone for the whole room, like with a large metal industrial style one hung low over a wooden dining room table. Picture any other lamp, something cheaper or more traditional or with less personality, and the room changes entirely.
Even bedside lamps can really impact how you perceive a simply decorated bedroom – take a look at the fun-filled orange ones, reminiscent of vintage office supply, in a room with two single beds.
Speaking of beds, there are so many great sheets and fabrics available for beds these days. A refreshing summer bed in the countryside calls for rumpled linen-based bet sets in natural colours. You just feel cool looking at them.
But a little colour is called for too – a custom sewn lap blanket made out of unusual fabric and lightly padded with bunting stands out from the end of a bed like this Missoni coverlet paired with colourful throw pillows.
Reuse and charm!
An old wooden door, still with its cracks and faded paint, make a great coffee table! Texture and charm can come from smart reuse of junkyard finds, though you’ll need to combine them with some technical skill. If you’re not a handyman yourself, Italy offers many skilled artisans who enjoy developing custom projects – and you’ll end up with something that feels 100% you!
If you’re interested in further decorating tips, in this case for a very sophisticated 5-star boutique hotel style, see my interview of Jeanette Thottrup, owner of Borgo Santo Pietro, on Perfect Boutique Hotel.