Let There Be Light: Breaking With Tradition At Home In Tuscany

Think “English Manor House” and what do you see? A riot of pattern, cluttered tabletops and rugs that have seen better days. Classic Paris apartment? High ceilings, herringbone floors and marble mantelpieces. Dream of a home in Tuscany and warmly hued stucco, terra-cotta tiles and wrought iron no doubt come to mind. But just as not every Italian kitchen has a black-clad nonna keeping watch at the stove, not every Tuscan home follows the same decorative formula.

Situated in Prato, where textile production has long driven the local economy, the apartment of Caterina Ugolini and her family is a bright white affair, a sleek, clean space that would not be out of place in Milan. Fashioned in collaboration with architect Sabrina Bignami, the 860-square-foot unit was transformed from a 80s-era time capsule to a home so expertly understated that it will not be dated anytime soon. “Every time I start a project in an historical context,” notes Bignami, “I try to ‘listen’ to the building and I try to introduce contemporary life into it without erasing traces of the past.”

With lime-washed walls and white floors, these interiors are an engaging study in neutrality – as much about space and light as they are containers for necessities and creature comforts. While an unmistakable sense of functionality pervades the home, this is no machine for living. There is an expressiveness to the minimalism at play here, from the timbered ceiling in the kitchen to the arrangement of the cherished objects that populate the space.

Reflective of Ugolini’s passion for visiting interesting shops and markets to discover vintage treasures, the home exudes a truly eclectic vibe. There are 70s-era floor lamps that once stood in a German hotel, a Dutch armchair from the 1950s acquired on eBay and a panoply of boxes in the living room that came from a Belgian wool factory. Some pieces get a freshening up; others are re-purposed. French bistro lamps from the 1930s are reborn with a coat of black paint. A workbench now does duty as a kitchen table. And while the apartment boasts its share of marquee pieces – including a Zettel’z 6 chandelier by Ingo Maurer – the master bed is a simple, mattress-topped base elevated with a quality duvet.

“Some objects bewitch me,” shares Ugolini. “Whether I found them in a flea market or they are examples of high design, it doesn’t matter. I buy them on impulse and take them with me.” One of her favorite pieces is the giant resin cactus that sits in a corner of the kitchen. “It was in my bedroom in the family country house and I have a strong affection for it,” she states. “The material, shape and color give me a sense of cheerfulness and well-being.”

With its muted palette, walls nearly devoid of adornment, and just enough furniture to make a house a home, this Tuscan residence possesses a quiet repose that expresses the personality of the homeowner, a serene orderliness that lies deeper than any picture-perfect aesthetic. Brava!

Photography by Michele Biancucci.

For more like this Tuscany home, be sure to check out the monochromatic interiors of this loft apartment

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