Restored Tuscan Family Home

WORDS AND PRODUCTION Laurence Dougier PHOTOS Nicholas Mathéus

An ancient farmhouse in Tuscany is reimagined into a contemporary space for two close families to live together in a way that allows for both separate spaces and communal living that embraces a rustic lifestyle.

In Tuscany, one century seems to blend into the next. Who hasn’t dreamt of lingering in the land of the Renaissance, between cypresses, olive trees and rose gardens? In the off-season, mist-enveloped panoramas dominate the countryside and, standing on the hillside that is home to the Podere Bussolaio estate, you look out at a landscape that’s changed little over the past five centuries.

Nestled among the orchards of Travalle, the original estate was built in the 15th century for the wealthy Strozzi family of Florence. Today, the 700m2 property is the home of two sisters involved in the fashion industry, Elisa and Claudia, and their families.

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This made for an interesting brief to the architects. There’s tight bond between the families, but also a need for independence. And while both shared a desire for a home that combined contemporary design with the rustic architecture, they also wanted each half to have its own distinctive personality.

Podere Bussolaio
The swimming pool is surrounded by loungers and umbrellas in shades of khaki from GandiaBlasco.

Before the sisters bought it, Podere Bussolaio estate had been used as a piazza by the neighbouring villagers. It was the home of theatre performances; there was a vegetable garden; an artist kept his sculptures there, and the butcher stored his artisanal sausages there. This heritage meant the last thing the families wanted was a cold, technological stronghold – creating a space that was all about sharing and community was a key part of the brief. Tasked with the project were architects Alessandro Capellaro and his partner Sabrina Bignami of B-arch, a practice started by Alessandro in 2000. “In 2013, this house was in a bad state,” recalls Alessandro. “The tower was on the verge of collapsing, there was no roof. Our challenge was to keep as much of the original stone as we could. Unfortunately, all the timber structures had to be replaced.”

As a result, the project was a long one: wooden roofs had to be rebuilt from scratch, crumbling masonry structures restored using stone found on site, and plaster surfaces re-created by hand based on traditional techniques. As a contemporary addition to the two existing structures, B-arch designed a minimalist timber box that not only creates a link between the two family homes, but essentially connects the past to the present.

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Casa Elisa and Casa Claudia both share similar architectural foundations and modern, functional, open- plan layouts, with a canvas of soft colours and Albanese stone flooring that binds them. It’s the interior decor that distinguishes the two spaces, giving each a unique personality.

Acknowledging Podere Bussolaio’s heritage, B-arch created a modern rustic aesthetic with an interior that combines natural textures and artificial materials. This constant contrast between rough and smooth surfaces makes for a contemporary space that reflects the identity of both families while allowing their individual tastes to shine through.

Claudia’s home in the old barn features a large, open-plan living area with glazed openings, while Elisa’s contains a large kitchen that’s the focus of the home. Both share a communal outside space, which includes a vast garden, the estate’s ancient orchards and a gym. It’s the pool, though, that is always the natural gathering point for the families, friends and guests who enjoy lazy Sunday lunches at its outdoor cooking area.

As an architectural study, Podere Bussolaio has remained true to its Tuscan roots, and is a beautiful balance between old and new, and traditional and modern. More than that, it is also a wonderful home for two close families, where they can enjoy each other’s company and raise their children.

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