It must be summer because I can’t seem to get enough of houses that embrace the outdoors. Last week I featured Jill Bent’s Cape Ann cottage with its many windows and stunning views of the marsh. This time, we travel half way (well almost) around the world to a traditional farm house in Umbria, Italy.
This rustic stone and stucco home belongs to Wendy, an English expat, who bought the house with her husband decades ago, long before it was cool. I almost don’t want to say anything more about the place and let the pictures paint a thousand words. So lovely is the landscape and the way in which the house settles into it, that I feel my scribblings are superfulous at best. So for those of you who wish to just sit back and enjoy the view, (this time) I forgive you. You may stop reading.
For those of you (Mom) who hang on my every word, I will write a few more lines. Suffice to say I love how the house so effortlessly mixes British and Italian themes, English farmhouse rustic with large Italian pieces, tea pots and terra cotta. But mostly, I love how in terms of both design and function, Wendy’s home so seamlessly integrates inside and out.
As anyone who has ever visited Italy knows, it is so breathtakingly beautiful that one could quite happily live in a cave and simply glaze out the mouth onto the countryside below. Fortunately for Wendy, her home has a few more modern conveniences and creature comforts, but it still takes every opportunity to relate to the outside. There are plenty of windows and doors that open onto the yard, and the stone floors seem to continue right out the door. Once one is past the threshold, the outside itself is also full of “mini-rooms,” with furniture for lounging under a roof of leaves and sky. The materials for the house – stone, earth and beams – are taken from and echo the landscape outside. Even the inside palette is informed by the exterior. The cool silvers and sages of the lavender and olive leaves, the pale purples of the flowers, and the warm wood and stones from outside are carried into the fabric of the cushions and paint of the woodwork inside the house.
Many a morning Wendy makes her coffee and continues right out into her garden to work, still in her nightgown. This is how seamless is the relationship between Wendy’s inside and outside life. There is not need to don shoes or even clothes! A meal can be consumed just as easily inside as out.
Certainly modern advances have improved the quality of human life since the age of cavemen. But it seems to me that in loosing this easy flow between inside and out, we have also sacrificed something of our healthy relationship with nature. Whether it be walls or all the trappings of modern life, something still holds us apart. But I can feel a shift. As more of us realize that in terms of design the greatest guru is Mother Nature herself, I can feel us working to bring her back in, and ourselves back out.
All photos by Sheila Narusawa.