Houzz Tour: A Very Unusual Lakeside Home is Restored
A mix of historic materials and modern furnishings have restored this farmhouse while making it fit for the 21st century
For the designer, the project turned into a real architectural adventure, from negotiating Italian bureaucracy to restoring the crumbling masonry.
Who lives here A couple and their children use the house as a holiday home
Location A small town on Lake Garda, northern Italy
Size About 150 sq m
Designer Zhenya Zhdanova
Photos by Francesco Bolis
This neighbourhood is built in traditional 15th-16th century style: one house adjoins another, the walls are made of stone, and the alleys are paved with cobblestones.
Approval for the restoration project took eight months. As it had been listed as a historic property, all decisions had to be coordinated with the provincial and municipal authorities. Due to the property’s dire state, this involved a huge stack of documents.
“A local architect with a special license solved all the problems to do with obtaining the relevant permissions,” designer Zhenya Zhdanova says. In liaising with the council, architect Cristian Avanzi was especially responsible for safety, seismic considerations, and historical features.
The builders first poured the foundation step by step in small sections to prevent the walls from collapsing. Then they integrated vertical metal supports in each area. They even managed to preserve the arched vaulting In one of the rooms on the ground floor. The old shingles were removed to later be re-laid on a new roof structure.
However, as soon as the roof was completely disassembled, there was a crisis: the ageing walls started to lean, causing the walls of the adjoining house to crack. The builders, engineers and representatives of the municipal authority had to call an emergency meeting to make changes to the project. In the end, the frame of the house was reinforced with additional metal supports.
“This ruined the look of the walls to a certain extent,” Zhdanova says. “But we did our very best to put these supports where they wouldn’t be noticed or hide them under plaster.”
The living room is one of the most spacious rooms in the house. Its highlights are the bar and the vaulted ceiling.
“The builders told us that this is where people used to keep horses and cows,” Zhdanova says. “Along one of the walls was a stone ledge that the animals used to eat from. During the renovation, we found bowl-shaped pots and hung them from the ceiling – they would originally have been filled with feed,” she adds.
Zhdanova came up with the idea of installing a glass front door to allow more light into the space.
Based on the designer’s sketch, an artisan from Padua made a cupboard out of old oak. It now stands behind the bar.
“I met [the craftsman] for the first time at the market, and I noticed that, besides antiques, he also sold new furniture made from old wood. The cupboard was made to size with traditional Italian techniques. He didn’t even use modern mechanisms for the sliding doors – they slide along a track sawed into the wood, slicked with fragrant wax. The bar stools are also his work,” Zhdanova says.
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Sofa, Mito Home. Rug, Calma House.
“Most local workshops are family businesses: the younger generation does the billing and documents using modern technology, while the older members do the actual artisanal work, preserving tradition and quality,” Zhdanova says.
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A door to a very compact guest bathroom is hidden between this room and the living room.
The 19th century painted wardrobe has a secret inside: behind one of the drawers lies a hidden compartment that is only visible when the drawer is fully extended.
Lamp, Handle Studio.
This room is fitted with skylights. Both they and their roller blinds can be opened at the push of a button.
All of the doors on this floor were modelled on this antique pair. They were also painted white and aged by a restorer.
Bed, Mito Home.
Speakers have also been built into the walls. They’re all on one network, but it’s possible to listen to different music in different rooms.
“It’s made very cleverly,” Zhdanova says. “The doors can be removed from their hinges and the top is easily separated from the bottom.” A horizontal divide allows the wardrobe to be taken apart into two halves; the join is concealed with decorative moulding. “Such a simple but effective design made it easy to bring it through small doorways,” she adds.
Bed linen, Zara Home.
Bed, Jysk. Bed linen, Zara Home and Sluiz.
The top of the vanity unit is made of travertine, one of the most popular materials in Italy.