The fourth of in our series of DIY tips for restoring property in Italy looks at renovating a modern house in a rustic style. Many foreign property buyers are looking for a traditional farmhouse which is large enough to accommodate both their own extended family and guests, as well as having some additional space for some bed and breakfast rooms, but are thwarted by budget limitations. An interesting solution is to choose a newer property in a good location that needs only superficial touches to transform it into a beautiful house rather than an older property requiring extensive and expensive restoration.
DIY Tip No.4 – Renovating a modern house in a rustic style
Anybody who has been on a property hunting trip to Italy has probably viewed countless 1950s plain concrete farmhouses. Astute investors with imagination and a flair for renovation have been snapping these comparatively cheaper properties up for some time now, however, and turning them into stylish homes with a warm rustic feel with just a few simple tricks.
External plaster or intonacco
One of the first things foreign buyers seem to want to do to a property in Italy is strip off the plaster to discover whether under that plain exterior there's a rural farmhouse hidden somewhere! Beware of falling into the trap of stripping off all the plaster, however, and then being tied to an extremely expensive pointing job over your entire house. Instead, why not embrace the idea of plastered houses?! Re-plaster the outside of the property with special tinted plaster (or alternatively paint the plaster) and use one of the now readily available “old fashioned” colours such as antique rose or ochre, picking out the architraves above the windows or the window openings themselves, in a different colour. Be inspired by traditional use of colour - as long as those garish 1970s acidic greens are avoided your house can achieve that rustic effect with the right colour choice alone.
Traditional terracotta pan tiles on roof
Changing modern flat roof tiles for rounded pan tiles or coppi will instantly age the look of the house, as will the use of traditional terracotta floor tiles on window ledges.
External wooden window shutters
An enormous advantage of a more modern farmhouse is in the size of the windows which tend to be considerably larger than in traditional stone farmhouses. Depending on the age of the property however, you may well find that each window has an unreliable and semi-automatized roller blind. Replacement of these modern embellishments with more traditional slatted wooden window shutters is a must if you want to lend a more rustic feel to your property.
What? No wooden ceiling beams!
Most modern farmhouses have reinforced concrete floors and ceilings with ne'er a beam in sight! If you feel that ceiling beams are absolutely essential in your renovations then they can actually be easily added as a decorative extra, although an alternative solution is to compensate for the lack of wood in the ceilings by choosing traditional wooden furniture throughout the home or even parquet floors in less busy rooms such as the bedrooms. Concrete ceilings also mean concrete floors. If your property is in good structural shape it's often possible to simply tile over any existing flooring. Depending on he age of the property you may be lucky enough to find some rooms with either red brick or terracotta floor tiles already in situ. Also - don't undervalue those modern granolithic or marble effect floor tiles – polished and waxed they can look stunning and are a very traditional element in Italian homes