Inspirations…

A Blog Fan stopped by Il Poggiolo. She wanted to get a look at that blue. Once surrounded by Our Blue-blue-blue, her reaction was Sure IS blue. I said Yep. And that Yellow in the Kitchen? You says it attacks bugs. Oh, Look! He’s right. They’re so many on the ceiling. Do they bite? No, only hoping for any residual when I deem to cook. You’re so funny! May I see the Sage-green too?  Sure. Don’t disturb the bugs. Well, before I go may I ask what was your inspiration? Oh, just some books. The tour ended. I make a terrible salesman for the fruits of My Labours.

Alone and a bit morally bereft, I thought back to Inspiration. You & I had collected quite a library of books, mostly, on architecture, renovation, stone houses, decorating, accessorising, stuffing a house in the country, even before we had laid eyes on Il Poggiolo.

You would come home from some conference, say in Paris, where he had found and bought a magnificent coffee table book Living in ArgentinaArgentine interiorsBegged the question What does Argentina have to do with an Italian farm-house? No reply other than Take a look. I’ve put post-its on what I like. Don’t mix them up, please. I loved every single page!!!

Perhaps, in a bid for retaliation, I’d  surf  amazon.com’s website late at night seeking some super delicious big picture book on what all one can do with stone and 10-14 days later arrived on Our Doorstep in Genoa, New Stone Architecture. New Stone ArchitectureThe thing costs a bloody fortune today. Nearly $1,000!!! Used too. Not when I had bought it though in 2004. My turn with the post-its. Mine were day-glo pink.

And, a friend lugged from NYC a book she thought You & I might like. Axel Vervoordt: Timeless Interiors. Axel Vervoordt Timeless InteriorsIt was a birthday gift for me. I have to say, I am an unstinting fan of Belgium design. To see wide oak planks oiled to a weird greyedgold forces me to take an extra heart-medication as I flip through the book’s enormous pages.

None of what can be seen in these publications has arrived copied per se at Il Poggiolo. Don’t think that’s the point. Inspiration does not mean to copy. It’s more the shot of permission for you to go out there and through the process of discovery create something your own. On that score, Living in Argentina, New Stone Architecture and Timeless Interiors did the trick and marvellously too. And, you have the proper answer now to that Fan’s querie. Gads.

http://www.amazon.com    http://www.amazon.it    http://www.amazon.co.uk

 

Going, going, gone…

On September 7, 1920, there was an earthquake which was centered in the Garfagnana region, the Colorado-like mountainous area sharing the northwest corner of Tuscany with the Lunigiana. The extent of destruction was immense… from the Big City of Aulla past all the towns & villages climbing along the Aulella River Valley to the Carpinelli Pass and all of the towns & villages of the Garfagnana to nearly Lucca. Much of Codiponte was destroyed. Il Poggiolo was a different looking farm-house on evening of September 6th… for instance, there was a high stone wall surrounding what was the vineyard, the Loggia and the terrace to L’Appartamento Azzurro were rooms of La Casa Grande, there were many more windows on the vineyard-side of the house and a good bit of Il Poggiolo was stucco-ed. We know because we have photocopies of photographs taken in 1916 of Il Poggiolo. All gone after 5:55AM on September 7th.

Most folk had little money to re-build. Earthquake chains were a known item, and at the time, any old iron forge could make & install them fairly cheaply. Roof cordoli, sub-floorings, low-center-of-gravity bricks or picking & re-stucco-ing the stone walls of a house were either too expensive or yet-to-be-specified. Most just patched up walls, dismantled & modified sections of houses & out-buildings and what was not tumble-down piles of rubble was re-plastered & painted, as quickly and as inexpensively as possible to erase the traces of the tragedy. The tell-tale signs of structural damage from the earthquake were often ignored… covered-over & forgotten.

I used to be an interior designer. I even taught it. One item of My Personal Design Philosophy with which I tried to inspire clients & students alike was this… often, humble means can bear more creative fruit than all the gold, glass & Glory of say, a Versailles. Unavoidably, many still yearned for what could be had by a Louis XIV… or any other rich person about. An irresistible & expensive look of early 20th Century Italian interiors was flocked wallpaper. I love the idea of such wall-covering… or, carta da parati, but who today would want to feel they are living inside a lined box? Not back then. Responding to the market… in grotesque americanese… painters of the day concocted huge rollers with stencil patterns chiseled on them. And, off they rolled simulated flocking…

IMG_3942Ecco… of the Florentine symbol, Fleur de lis, in an innocent Copenhagen Blue. And a what? IMG_3938A lotus seed pod in sepia. Such quaint & recognizable designs sprouted across umpteen quickly plastered interior walls in the houses of the earthquake struck area. The above examples are from a house just off the Piazza Civico in Codiponte belonging to a couple… two of the sweetest folk in town… tackling the job themselves with its reconstruction. They had inherited the sins of the previous owners… fast & clever plaster & paint job disguising gaping seismic cracks in the house’s stone walls from the 1920 earthquake… when they were revealed by falling plaster from the 2013 one. I had caught them loading up a tractor at the bottom of the stairs to the re-do filled with shards of the now demolished stencil work. I said how sorry I was that this vestige had to be sacrificed to structure but, they were justified in doing so. I suggest they leave at least a portrait painting size panel to commemorate the house’s history. They said they had already thought to do so. Good. They gave me a few shards as a souvenir.

I may be guilty of the pot calling the kettle black but, not really. Though L’Appartamento Azzurro had broad boarders of applied stencils where the walls met the ceilings and around doors & windows in a nearly French tri-color flag combo of red, white & blue, there was little to save. All had practically faded away from salvation after 25+ years of abandonment to the elements of wind, rain & sun through long shattered windows & doors. Not such a big shame this loss of a bit of Il Poggiolo’s history. Too late. For the couple it is. Gone. Really gone some of the best examples of decorative stenciling I have laid eyes upon. Ever. Gads.

Antiprima to Serendipity…

I took this shot of the Sottopassaggio at il Poggiolo while lugging Our Guests’ luggage to their appointed sleeping quarters this past weekend, You’s Family Weekend in Codiponte. Handy that I had the camera in my back pocket. The passageway is a sort of an inside AND outside sloped hallway leading up to the hard turn on to the aia of il Poggiolo.

A clever person, surveying the ascent, happily suggested we might want to put in string lights & pipe in some music. This person has not been seen since. You has forbidden it.

I rather like its rustic simplicity… the oiled wood-beamed roof, the grey gate, the lanterns You & I bought at La Rinascente in Milan. Bump right into them in the store’s basement. A massive emporium of high-end design… from flat-wear to furniture with lighting in between. Convenient the three lanterns in two sizes were already painted in Our Signature Rusty Brown.

The climb asks a methodical gait to manage the stones, going up or down. Cows, donkeys & pigs clogged through in years past. Reach the top, signal a right and… open space!!!

You & I came home to rest Our Weary Bones & Spirits from a three-day overdose of too many relatives. As I entered Our Apartment, I discovered a similar interior arrangement… one I had never noticed… a long hallway to a hard right…
That fellow-on-a-pedestal is Herman. It has taken You nearly 10 years not to be offended. It was his purchase. You takes his Roman copies seriously. The bust is of Lucio Vero, the Roman Emperor after Commodus. Ever see the movie Gladiator? Well, Lucio Vero was Commodus’s nephew in the movie… AND son, they say in life, from an incestuous relationship with his sister, Lucilla. She had beautiful frocks in the movie.
The History Books confirm Commodus as one mean mama-jama. He got his Just Desserts from a bevy spears thrust though his armor to his evil heart by his Praetorian Guards. They were fed up with the endless Fun & Games in the Colosseum, while Rome soured from social ills & decrepit plumbing. Lucio is Our Apartment’s Patron…? Patron…? Directional signal!!!
Make that right again and what awaits? Open space…
How curious to have duplicate layouts in such difference locales & ambiance. Serendipity? Probably not. Unless I can put another frigging emperor in the Sottopassaggio.  I wonder what You would say, if I were to move ol’ Julius Caesar to a new home? Gads.

Coming attractions…

Internet innovations & novelty are on their way at forrestspears.com

First off… Italian House IS NOT DISAPPEARING from the blogosphere. At ease, everyone. There is much more to write about il Poggiolo. Do you want to miss thrilling escapades such as, raking dead grass, building fences or planning a swimming pool? So please, check in from time to time.

Secondly… My Amazing Cyber-tech Person… a fine English fellow, who lives in the Big Town of Gragnola, and who, besides not laughing at My Ignorance of Cyber-things, is also full of Good & Practical Advice… has devised a New Game Plan for forrestspears.com. Punching in the site’s address & double-clicking will ILS-you onto what will aptly be called A Landing Page. Below its header of a stunningly altered… and, we hope for the better… photo of moi will be the sub-addresses of all My Blogs & Stuff… the key ones are below…

Italian House…  continued stories of living in a not-quite-completely renovated farm house & garden in the little known corner of Tuscany, the Lunigiana. But, you all knew that already…

il Poggiolo a Codiponte… has details… mostly about how many beds there are… & rates on weekly rentals of one, two or the whole kit-and-kabuttle which make up il Poggiolo in Codiponte… La Casetta, La Casa Grande and the Appartamento Azzurro. We hope to place the Esseccatoio on the list as an additional Guest House…

il Poggiolo Guest Guide… is a sight-seeing/restaurant/services guide to Codiponte, the Lunigiana and the surrounding regions of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna & Ligurie…

and Serendipity… which will be a NEW! NEW!! NEW!!! blog dedicated to the unexpectedly delightful found in Italy. Topics might galavant from food to art & architecture and back to a trattoria… I mean, we ARE in Italy, after all… history, landscapes & gardens to just plain living on the Italian peninsula. There will be a post after this as a taster… a tester, more like… for Serendipity on the Italian House blog to get things rolling.

So, that’s a brief run-down of Our Coming Attractions. Don’t forget the pop-corn. Gads.

Design or decoration… again

What I have learned in designing…

I was a footwear designer for several years. When I began, My Design Method was to make a base drawing of a particular shoe form. Then, I’d overlay pieces of paper on top and carefully draw-out ideas, options, developments. I thought this would save time. I needed to arrive at a shoe factory with a set of clear & accurate final designs. I was working like a robot and found the process to be dry, lifeless, though many of the designs were made into very commercial shoes. After a couple of seasons, as my confidence grew, I abandoned this process for free-hand drawing. I had a natural flair, once I trusted my hand. The creations were visually more exciting, the ideas more original, creative. The shoe designs simply grew from the pencil sliding across the paper. I could feel them out. And, I discovered I could save time and still present readable, do-able designs. Happily, the results were vastly more fashionable & successful.

Creating the interiors of il Poggiolo involved the same process… feeling, inventing, improvising, finding serendipity along the way. Perhaps, 5 % was sitting & thinking or sitting & drawing/planning. For example, in La Casetta, You & I knew we did not want white on the walls. We talked & talked about other options… beige, light grey, even shades of blue later used for the Appartamento Azzurro, etc. I would go with a fan deck, buy liter cans of a few colors, paint them on boards and place them in the spaces of La Casetta to see how each looked. One color, a light grey which, in the store appeared to be a light warm grey, took on a subtle Sage color in the apartment. We liked it but felt the color needed to be a bit more solidly Sage. And later, from leafing through art books to walking through palazzi with Sage… or, Salvia… on the walls, we were confirmed that oranges, blues, gold & silver… & black even!!!… practically anything looked good against it. We returned to picking various samples of a Sage… more neutral, a bit of yellow, more blue… to find what turned out to be the ideal Sage for La Casetta. The process just needed a bit of patience, time & trust to allow for those happy accidents… or, what I call Serendipity. And, the bigger surprise is the journey is a lot more fun. Gads?

 

 

 

 

Design or decoration…

Putting M’s S Episode well behind, allow me to turn to a more informative topic… a lecture, perhaps… on how You & I pulled off il Poggiolo Project. Sounds so American. Its interiors, then. So many of Our Genoese Guests at il Poggiolo Party 2012, who had ONLY heard brief communiques of Our Three-year Shebang , asked to know of Our Design Philosophy. Philosophy, yes. Design, no. I HATE the word.

In today’s world of interiors, the obsession of evidencing design has created only boredom… to me & You. So dull it’s akin to the worried question… Have folk forgotten how to read? Certainly numbed in how to look, with so much thanks to the dictatorship of the photo. But, I digress.

The other day, I bought You a copy of ELLE DECOR, the Italian Minimalist’s Bible. I must confess… I too can oooo & awww over slabs of rough-textured concrete interrupted by some nearly obscene piece of dripping abstract art. I can drool too. Conformity is a dreadful drug. Attached was a sort of catalogue of the latest in design from the big Milan Furniture Fair of last spring. Because I look at magazines from the back to front, I arrived first at a block-buster packed round-up of the Top In Kitchens. Lord! They all looked the same. The only differences from one to the other were material changes, strictly optioned. Pages of sharp, severely volumed cabinets & counters overlaying enormous empty spaces below. Yes, perfect for a 25,000 square foot loft with 1/4 dedicated to a kitchen. Everyone lives in one, don’t you know? By the way, You HATES to see kitchens. Prefers to have them hidden away in some corner of the house, as if to isolate the Guests from My Screams of Torture while I’m cooking up another dinner for six.

I don’t want to have design yelled at me, without any escape. I like to look & feel & smell other things. Off-beat color choices, funky furniture fashions, an unexpected array of accessories & artwork. If I must succumbe to design, then, let it be to decide where & what size door ought to go between one part of the house and the other, the arrangements of the bathroom fixtures so there isn’t a LA expressway lay-out below the terra-cotta tiles and/or to have a reasonable answer to The Question… Can we get two 200 x 100 cm sofas in there? After that, I want design to disappear. You does too. Is one party to the drawings underneath, a Michelangelo fresco? CERTAINLY NOT!!! Ditto for interiors. Design is for figuring out the practicalities of structures, assemblages, arrangements. Then… Bow out, please. Let’s move on to the Fun Stuff.

I found the word Our Philosophy in the Apple Dictionary… serendipity. Yep. That captures it for You & me. But more on that in another blog. You weren’t thinking I was going to divulge all in one shot, were you? Silly notion. Gads.