Italy Houzz Tour: A Ruined Farmhouse Gets a Sustainable New Life
In the Tuscan countryside, the ruins of a 19th-century farmhouse are rebuilt with sustainable materials and techniques
Who lives here: A young family with children
Location: Monsanto district near Florence, Italy
Architects: Ora Architetti
Size: About 220 square metres
Price: Approximately AUD$570,000
The guiding idea behind this ambitious project was respect for nature and the region. This was expressed through the choice of local natural materials – timber and stone – and through building techniques that minimised the home’s impact on the environment, both during and after construction.
As this photo shows, the old farmhouse was in a precarious state and very little could be saved. It needed structural intervention and renovations throughout. After proposing a full redesign in 2016, renovations took place in 2017.
“We didn’t want to restore the structure and try to make it look falsely historical. Instead, we wanted to highlight the main building with its earlier brick texture by making the annex different.”
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“The wood finish is larch, which will mature to the perfect colour in a few years,” says Bonsignore. “We didn’t want to paint it, since we believe that the discolouration we’re aiming for can only be reached with time. In two to three years, once both the stone grout and the wood have been affected by weathering, we will get the final hues we planned on – greyish and therefore in harmony with the surrounding undergrowth.”
“The wood seems thicker here, and it ‘frames’ the views well,” says Martini. “We have impressive views of Volterra and San Gimignano [nearby towns], so we designed the windows to be angled in those directions.”
So how did this sustainability focus come about? “It was a mutual decision,” says Martini. “We proposed this approach to the client and, in this case, got a positive response. He, too, had envisioned something like a passive house, to the point of wanting an independent, autonomous wood-heating system.”
In the updated architectural drawings, pictured here, the architects spread the rooms across the upper and lower parts of the original building. The open-plan spaces are divided by the stairs connecting the different levels.
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Craving another dose of international design? Read this UK Houzz Tour: A Bright, Fearless Revamp for a Small, Dingy Home