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I’ve read about La Bandita, a country house near Pienza and have seen photos of it in various shelter magazines/design articles.

A little over a year ago, John Voigtmann and his wife Ondine Cohane opened La Bandita Townhouse converting a former convent in center of Pienza into a 12-room boutique hotel.

My friend Gillian and husband stayed there recently.  She told me I had to see it in person.  Gillian knows my taste and said I would love it.

She was correct.  I know people are sick and tired of decorators using words like swoon! obsessed! and dying! when describing interiors.  However, let me say, I swooned when I saw my room. I was obsessed with the design of the kitchen and was dying over the views.

I’ve written before about the mix.  It’s something you see frequently in French and Italian interiors.  It’s not easy to pull off.  Sometimes the space is too modern for the architecture and it feels cold.  Or the design is so faithful to the past, it’s dated.

Working with Florence based architects, Arianna Pieri and Ernesto Bartolini of DA.Studio, John and Ondine have created a lovely space. In a hotel, all the beauty in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the service is awful. It was fantastic and I will write about a post about that and Pienza soon.

I absolutely adore this type of décor.  The same architects worked on Monteverdi with interiors by Ilaria Miani.

i found out that one of the main resources for La Bandita Townhouse was the store Barthel.  No wonder it spoke to me as we sourced most of the items for the bathrooms in our Tuscany project from Barthel.

This was my room, number 12.  I arrived late afternoon.  The amount of light during the day is unreal.  I love that they retained the stone wall.  The view from the tub was sick.  The Ortigia products were a nice touch, as were the free water and soda in the mini-bar.

In my next apartment I would like a canopy bed. The colors, the lighting, the bed linens, I really didn’t want to leave this room after two days.

I have to ask if they have a room with a desk, because La Bandita is a perfect spot for writers.

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Tears of happiness when i saw this huge shower stall.  I really need to move.

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Gorgeous.  The main hallway is the first thing you see when you walk thru the door. The convent dates from the 1400s.

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Again, stone walls.  A lot of natural materials with pops of orange throughout.

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This kitchen is everything.  In the States open-plan kitchens are preferred but not in Italy (or the Caribbean).  Notice the overhead window over the bar?  It drops down.  Once you close the door on the left of the bar, you have a closed kitchen that lets in light.   A friend of mine, who lives in a loft in Rome, did something very similar.  It’s a brilliant idea.

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An old map of Italy in the library/lounge.

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I was very excited to see so many classic LPs in different genres. I could’ve stayed up all night listening to music.  I still have some vinyl and for my next apartment (I know, I know) I will buy a turntable.

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You know how I feel about books and magazines.  It was freezing outside.  It was nice to curl up on the sofa and just chill.

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John is former music industry executive.  Some of his gold records sit on top of the bookcase.

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Aperitivi time!

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John has said he and Ondine wanted to create a beautiful, comfortable hotel where people could come to relax and enjoy Tuscany. They have. La Bandita is a special place. I cannot wait to return during warmer weather so I can eat outside on their fantastic terrace.

Photos: (except for the one of the kitchen and of the bookcase) me and my iPhone.

Click HERE to see more from La Bandita’s great photo gallery.

La Bandita Townhouse

Corso Il Rossellino, 111
Pienza (SI) 53026
Toscana, Italia
Tel +39 0578 749 005
info@la-bandita.com

 

And what a view it is.

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One of my friends just returned to Rome from visiting the States and she kindly picked up a copy of VERANDA magazine for me.  It’s not an easy magazine to find in Rome (in Milan, yes).

Brooke Giannetti’s Velvet & Linen blog is fantastic.  She has a very large following and has posted a few photos in the past of the home she is building in Ojai, California with her architect husband Steve.

It’s so interesting to me that this a new build, yet their home has the warmth and vibe of a house that has been in a family for generations.  You can read more about Brooke and Steve’s Patina Farm journey, here.

One day I would love to have a tub/shower like this.   Love it.  Of course it’s only possible if there are no neighbors close by.  A friend here has an outdoor shower on his terrace.  He lives in Trastevere and the upper floors of a church and another palazzo are right across the narrow street.  The man has no screens.  Yeah, no.

To see more photos, go to VERANDA’s website.

 

Recently AWAR (The American Women’s Association of Rome) had the privilege of taking a small (only twenty members) private tour of Bulgari’s Heritage Collection.

I RSVPed the minute I read the invitation.

I haven’t been inside the store since the Peter Marino renovation.  One morning, when I was jogging up Via Condotti on my way to Villa Borghese Park, I’m positive I saw the architect walking out of the store.  Who else would be wearing that outfit at 8:30 in the morning, in Rome?

Bulgari was founded by Sotirios Bulgaris in Rome one hundred and thirty years ago. The Heritage Collection is a celebration of this history.  There are over six hundred unique pieces.  The jewelery, watches, accessories, and drawings were curated during years of research and archival work.  Bulgari has been buying back importance pieces from auctions and private collections.

While Bulgari is part of the French high-end global powerhouse LVMH, the DNA of the company is Roman.

DOMUS means home in Latin and that space (located on the second floor) is where you will find pieces from the Heritage Collection.

The store is gorgeous.  Marino, inspired by the Pantheon and other Roman masterpieces, modernized the flagship store without stripping it of its history and charm.

The foyer on the first floor. Nods to the Pantheon in this circular space.

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The back stairs that lead to Domus.  That pattern.

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This floor and that table.  No words.

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Here’s a picture I took of the floor so you can see the intricate tiling.  Stunning.  I gasped when I saw it.

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Caterina Riccardi, Bulgari Brand Heritage Special Projects, explains the connection between the Heritage Collection and the Eternal City. Ms. Riccardi was the Via Condotti store manager for over thirty years.  Her tour was excellent, informative and entertaining.

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This sapphire necklace was bought from a private collector in the States.  Be still, my beating heart.

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Richard Burton once said, “The only Italian word Elizabeth knows is Bulgari.”   Burton gave Taylor this sapphire and diamond necklace  and ring for her fortieth birthday.  Actress Jessica Chastin wore the iconic necklace at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  She was the first person to wear it since Taylor.

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From 1960, a gold watch bracelet with diamonds and rubies.  I do not like snakes but I’d make an exception for this one.

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This is just a little taste of the incredible pieces in this collection.   I was inspired by the colors, the designs, and the craftsmanship.

By appointment only. To reserve a visit, contact: DOMVScondotti.visits@bulgari.com or +39 06 688101

First three photos: Bulgari.

Other photos:  Me and my iPhone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps I’m naive but I believe good design incorporates a space that functions well.

This is why I completely disagree with the finale (SPOILERS ahead) of the NBC show “American Dream Builders”.  Looking at their Facebook page, I’m not the only one.

Earlier, I wrote about why I enjoyed the show.

They should change the name of the show because there was nothing about Lukas’s beach house that worked for the clients.

The job of a decorator/interior designer is to address the needs of the client.  He did not do that.   All Lukas talked about was his vision. He is talented but Jay should have won.

On what planet is it a good idea to paint a beach house in SOUTHERN California black?  It’s not edgy.  A black shingled house in Maine, or Martha’s Vineyard, that could be cool.  Does Lukas know that that the light is different in New England compared to the Southern Californian  Coast? One of the judges said the house looked like it had been in a fire.

Also, Lukas did not deal with any of the design flaws of his house.  That kitchen was awkward.

This a beach house for a multigenerational family.  Their reaction at the reveal was priceless.  I adore mid-century design and would use it in a beach house but would mix it up.

Nate kept saying Lukas was forward-thinking.  Has Nate ever been to IKEA? I know he has traveled to Europe.  This beach house would work for a single person with no kids who never entertains.

Nate raved about Lukas’s $30 chandelier.   Again, this is in a beach house.  I go to a beach house to relax.   Who’s going to clean it and replace the light bulbs?  It’s not functional.

This room.  Where are the young children going to hang out?

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Nice to look at.  Wouldn’t want to sit there for a long meal.   What is that statue about in the corner?

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Not relaxing.  These chairs would be fab in a loft apartment, not at the beach.

View More: http://americandreambuilders.pass.us/adbif the Neighborhood Council voted for the finale winner, Jay would’ve won hands down.    Elaine was eliminated for her red family room because it didn’t fit the décor of the rest of the house, but Lukas can win the whole competition for this house?  Please.

If they didn’t want a home builder to win, don’t put them in the competition.

I don’t know if the series has been renewed for a second season.  It’s a shame that the finale was such a disappointment but I enjoyed the earlier episodes.

 

 

 

The American series AMERICAN DREAM BUILDERS started airing this week in Italy on the channel LEI.

Hosted by Nate Berkus, it’s a mash up between EXTREME MAKEOVERS and TOP DESIGN.  I have always wondered about the reality of the former.  They do a lot of structural changes.  How well was the construction, plumbing, and electrical work executed when they have only a week to demolish and rebuild?  Could the owners afford the increase in property taxes?  So many questions.

One thing I really like about this show is that two teams work on two houses from a similar era and/or style.  It’s compelling to see how the teams agree (or not) on an overall aesthetic for their house and then how the individual designers design their rooms.

There is a mix of designers, contractors, and landscape architects.  Of course, there are some strong personalities.  Reality TV would be boring without them.

We are three episodes in and so far it’s fantastic.  The show is entertaining and educational.  Décor is very subjective but it’s interesting to hear the judges explain why they believe a room doesn’t work.  Sometimes it’s a design issue.  For example, the team did not address the layout issues.  Other times, it’s about the décor.  Those debates get heated.

I cannot wait to see who wins.  There are some very talented designers on this show.

Anguilla is quite the A-list celebrity/VIP destination these days.  However, the small island has managed to retain it’s relaxed, quiet charm.

My most recent piece for FATHOM Magazine went live today.

 

ANGUILLA – I wish I could say I have always appreciated this beautiful island. That would be untrue.

When my family moved from New York City to the leafy suburbs of Verona, New Jersey, I knew I had to become a true American teenager. I was hampered by my parents’ insistence on raising their children as if we were a family living in the Caribbean.

My parents are from St. Martin (totally different from the Dutch side, St. Maarten) and both my grandmothers were Anguillian. Whenever we went to St. Martin to stay with my paternal grandparents, we ferried over to Anguilla to visit family and friends. When I was a child it, was fun to hang out with my cousins, go the beaches, and stuff ourselves on Johnnycakes, rice and peas, and salt fish cakes. But as for the stunning white beaches of the island, they were lost on me when I was older. I mean, I was a teenager. Visiting relative after relative while sitting on their verandas for hours drinking Ting was boring.

The final anti-island straw happened one night when I was walking back to my aunt’s house and a mongoose ran across my foot. I was done. I thought, “I could be chilling at the Short Hills Mall with my friends instead of being stuck on this tiny island.”

It wasn’t until my parents moved to back to St. Martin after retirement and I moved to Rome that I began to understand why those trips back home were so important.

To read the rest and see more pictures, click HERE.

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The beach at Cap Juluca with the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten in the background.

Photo: Me and my iPHone

Why do I miss Sicily?   There are Sicilian restaurants in Rome.

Perhaps this is only an infatuation.  My first trip to Sicily was just last year, which I wrote about in FATHOM.  Maybe the island will lose its hold on me after a few more trips, or years.  We’ll see.

Like the cuisine, the art and architecture of Sicily has been influenced by the diverse cultures of its various rulers.

Every day I stopped by to see the Burial of Santa Lucia, painted by Caravaggio in 1608, located in the Santa Lucia alla Badia church. There is something very special about seeing art in the context that it was created for.

In the early 2000’s many architects and interior designers started to buy and renovate houses in the area.  I kept getting lost in little courtyards and side streets.  There was inspiration all around me and design elements that gave me some ideas for my Caribbean beach house project.

Below are a few of my favorite things:

How pretty is this packaging? I received a gift from this store on my birthday.  Erica’s daughter picked it out.  That five year-old has excellent taste.

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Photo: ortigiasicily.com

As someone who was raised Methodist, I’m still thrown by some of the more intense art in Catholic churches.  My childhood church had stained glass with images of things like Jesus chilling with some shepherds.

Here is the patron saint of Siracusa, Santa Lucia.

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Clever use of a satellite dish.

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Spiderman on the side of the Municipal Building representing the heroic spirit of the people. I’m trying to find out who the artist is and when the work was installed.

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Cool planter outside a house that faces the sea.

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Rome-based artist UNO and his latest installation.

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Also from Rome, Alice Pasquini.  Erica and I went to see her and UNO work on their murals. This is a school in Siracusa.

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The new and the old.

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I saw these fishing baskets all over my neighborhood.

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Love the door.

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And this gate.

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This alley showing a sliver of the sea was up the street.

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I’m thinking about my next trip. Maybe I should go to Palermo or Cefalù, or both.

Photos, unless noted otherwise, are by me and my iPhone.

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