Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

How to decorate a farmhouse in Umbria or Tuscany

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).

Decorate a farmhouse in Tuscany or Umbria

Decorate a farmhouse in Tuscany or Umbria

Bare bones

This country kitchen has all the standard elements of terracotta floors, beams and stone walls - made lighthearted with modern chairs and a simpatico checkered cloth!

This country kitchen has all the standard elements of terracotta floors, beams and stone walls – made lighthearted with modern chairs and a simpatico checkered cloth! Home: L’arco, Lake Trasimeno area

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.

Starting from scratch. The clean lines are warmed up with wood - I am in love with this simple bed.

Starting from scratch. The clean lines are warmed up with wood – I am in love with this simple bed. Home: Villa Vergelle, Montalcino

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.

Modern lamps

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.

This lamp says it all

This lamp says it all. Home: Piazza, Lake Trasimeno area

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.

An otherwise plain room made fun with these vintage style orange bedside lamps

An otherwise plain room made fun with these vintage style orange bedside lamps. Home: L’arco, Lake Trasimeno area

Colourful fabrics

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.

Rumpled linen, cool comfort

Rumpled linen, cool comfort. Home: Posabile, Lake Trasimeno area

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.

Everything in this room feels peaceful and very "countryside", but Missoni brings a touch of city-inspired colour in.

Everything in this room feels peaceful and very “countryside”, but Missoni brings a touch of city-inspired colour in. Home: Pozza, Lake Trasimeno area

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!

These coffee tables out of old shutters are adorable

These coffee tables out of old shutters are adorable. Home: Posabile, Lake Trasimeno area

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.

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • http://www.dolcevia.com/nl Elisabeth | Dolcevia Redactie

    Great post, love your tips.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Thanks! I really want that wooden bed… seems like it would be simple to make, if one had the right wood and the right skills… :D

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hi Steph,
    Thanks! I so agree. I really don’t like typical Italian country style, it’s very heavy. I think the market is swinging in another direction, and in fact the guys who decorated these places are Dutch, so your northern european comment makes sense. You’ve seen my city home – very very minimalist – and we also have a small country home where I painted the beams white like they have done. I think a lot of these tips could be applied there – you don’t have to have an amazing villa to make these things work. I am already looking around to see what I can find, though I might call them up and see about commissioning a bed like that! I also really like the string of lights above the rumpled bed. That would totally work over our couch.
    Baci
    A

  • Nicole

    I love this! We seem to have exactly the same aesthetic. :) I know there is a problem of the loss of the old to make way for the new throughout Italy, so it is great to see a successful example of bridging the two.

  • http://myvintageinspiration.wordpress.com/ Stephanie

    Yes, your place is great! It’s true, too, that there are lots of places starting to use a mixture of styles. It’s not that I don’t like traditional Italian décor; it’s that it doesn’t feel natural to me, coming from a place with cooler light. I like the use of colour in Italy, especially on the outside of buildings, to take advantage of the light that they have.
    My place is pretty haphazard in terms of décor, but it’s pretty consistently white and minimalist with art that I like, a couple of family antiques and that’s it. I could definitely live in the rooms shown above. :) I like the string of lights, too. That would be lovely over a sofa.