This whimsical Italian farmhouse has belonged to Tricia Guild OBE, the founder and creative director of Designers Guild, for 25 years. She talks to InsideOut about falling in love with Le Contesse at first sight and what inspires her fanciful romantic fabric and furniture designs.
How did you find this house, and what did you like about it?
It was the first and only property we saw. A ruined farmhouse isn’t always a thing of beauty, but we could see its potential. The land around it was greatly overgrown, but its setting on a hillside surrounded by ancient oaks and olive trees was beautiful. It is entirely private, yet we could see the marvellous views of Lake Trasimeno and the valley below and immediately knew it was special.
The house is in rural Italy, what appealed to you about its countryside setting?
It is on the side of a mountain halfway between Rome and Florence on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. The area is incredibly unspoilt and, of course, the landscape is a rural idyll. The pace of life is slow and centuries old, with traditions and customs playing their part in day-to-day life, which we loved.
How often do you visit?
We visit at least once a month, and in the summer spend five weeks there.
What was the property like when you first bought it and what have you changed over time?
When we first found the property it was a very old, slightly crumbling farmhouse, but even in its slightly dilapidated state, we fell in love at first sight, and over the past 25 years it has become our cherished retreat. The main footprint of the house has not changed dramatically from its farmhouse origins; it is still a two-storey, four-bedroom villa, but we have lovingly restored and improved it using traditional and local methods and materials.
The farmhouse was practically rebuilt to become our home, but we kept the wonderful thick walls, which are so cool in summer and warm in winter, and some of the floor tiles. Otherwise, everything is an improvement!
How would you describe the style of the interior furniture and furnishings you have chosen?
Naturally, I have used Designers Guild throughout the home, but in a very different way to our London home. I have used a different palette and the fabrics and furnishings focus more on linen, soft cotton and translucent voiles. The style is relaxed; I would call it ‘modern country’.
Where did you buy most of the furniture and accessories?
Nearly everything came from our store in London over the years, but we have found many beautiful things locally too, so it is a real mix.
What is your favourite room in the house and why?
It’s so hard to choose – I love all of our rooms, but if I had to choose one, it would be our bedroom and its wonderful hyacinth blue walls.
What is your own personal style and how did you decide which collections and colours to use in this house?
I tend to be very instinctive and decisive when I am decorating and as you might expect, choosing colours and textures is an absolute pleasure for me. To me, an empty house is like a blank canvas. Within it, I am able to create my own kind of painting.
What are you inspired by, and how do you decide on the themes and colours for each new Designers Guild collection?
Inspiration can come from many different sources and you never really know when something is going to grip you. I am a firm believer that you are what you see, and it is having your eyes open to everything around you that allows your own creativity to take hold. It could be art, fashion, the landscape, flowers, gardens or the theatre.
Everything has the potential to inspire if you choose to see it in that way. You should go with your instinct. Be confident and remember that your home is a reflection of you and your family. Our new collections are inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites and their love of beauty and nature; the art of detail.
What do you love best about what you do?
Being able to be creative. It is a constant joy.